What you should know about apple cider vinegar
Do a quick internet search on apple cider vinegar and you’ll find a slew of health benefits—everything from improving digestion and aiding heartburn to killing bacteria to burning belly fat to lowering blood sugar levels. You’ve probably heard anecdotes from friends and family, too. So, what is this so-called magical stuff and can it really help that much?
Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples and then adding bacteria and yeast to cause fermentation. During this process, the sugars are converted to ethanol, and the ethanol is then converted to acetic acid. It’s the acetic acid that has been show in some studies to provide health benefits.
Also produced during fermentation is a stringy mass often referred to as “the mother”. The mother contains small amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron, as well as phenolic acids, a type of antioxidant. Bottled vinegars will list if “the mother” is present.
Studies show that there are some modest health benefits to consuming apple cider vinegar regularly. The three main benefits are:
- Slowing and reducing the increase in blood sugar levels after eating. It may also increase the sense of fullness or satiety after eating, which could lead to less snacking.
- May modestly help with weight loss when part of a calorie-reduced diet. Studies show an additional 2-3 pounds lost over 3 to 6 months with 1-2 tablespoons per day of apple cider vinegar when compared to placebo.
- Reducing cancer-causing compounds in grilled meats by 66-82% when used in marinades before grilling. All vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, are effective.
However, apple cider vinegar is not quite the miracle-worker that some people claim it is. Studies haven’t found apple cider vinegar helpful in reducing heartburn—in fact, in some cases, it increased heartburn. Also be cautious when using it as a topical aid, as the acid can be irritating to skin. Regular use of apple cider vinegar can also erode tooth enamel and very large amounts consumed daily can cause potassium excretion and lead to low blood levels of potassium. Lastly, while apple cider vinegar contains anti-bacterial properties, there’s no clinical evidence showing it reduces the risk for colds, flu, sore throats or Covid-19.
While there may be some slight benefits to apple cider vinegar, it isn’t a “miracle” substance and should be used with caution. If you’d like to use apple cider vinegar, here are some helpful tips.
- Aim for 1 Tablespoon diluted in 6-8 ounces of water twice per day after breakfast and dinner.
- To reduce tooth enamel erosion, do not let the vinegar linger in your mouth. Always rinse your mouth with water after swallowing.
- Avoid apple cider vinegar tablets and pills. Studies show them to be ineffective and sometimes harmful.
- Incorporate apple cider vinegars and other vinegars into salad dressings and marinades.
About the Author
Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.