Apple cider vinegar is one of the more common types of vinegar produced worldwide. It is touted as a natural health cure, with a number of suggested health benefits. Some of these health claims have potential, with small studies to back them up. Others, however, have little to no evidence of their validity.
In this article, we investigate the claim that consuming apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss.
Evidence and studies
Can drinking apple cider vinegar help someone lose weight? The answer might be yes, but it is not proven.
The weight loss claims surrounding apple cider vinegar may stem from several small studies, mostly on animals. Nonetheless, these studies do show some possible benefits of apple cider vinegar and could open the door to further research.
Body fat reduction
Apple cider vinegar is a popular natural health treatment, and is thought to aid weight loss.
Acetic acid, a compound found in apple cider vinegar, has been cited in some studies as the active ingredient that helps with weight loss.
A study in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that mice who were given acetic acid were less likely to gain body fat.
The mice that were given the acetic acid had higher energy expenditure, oxygen intake, and burned more fat for energy than those given just water. The authors state that this suggests acetic acid could help suppress body fat buildup.
A similar article in the same journal found that consuming vinegar did help reduce body fat, though the reduction was small. This study used 155 people who were considered obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 25–30.
Over 12 weeks, three groups were given either 15 milliliters (ml) of vinegar, 30 ml of vinegar, or a placebo. Overall, those who consumed 15 or 30 ml of vinegar had a lower body weight, smaller waist, and less abdominal fat than those who did not have the vinegar.
Twelve people were given three different levels of vinegar with acetic acid after eating a portion of white bread. Another group was given bread with no vinegar.
The authors found that the people who received the highest dose of acetic acid had lower blood sugar and insulin after eating the bread than the other groups. They also found that the higher the dose of acetic acid, the fuller the participants felt.
The authors suggest that fermented and pickled products that contain vinegar with acetic acid may help people feel fuller and lower blood sugar responses after a meal.
Lower body weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol
A study in the Annals of Cardiology and Angiology found that apple cider vinegar showed "anti-obesity" effects in rats.
Two groups of rats were fed a high-fat diet, but one group was given apple cider vinegar daily while the other received no vinegar.
Those that were given a daily dose of apple cider vinegar ate less overall and weighed less than those who were not given the apple cider vinegar. The mice fed the apple cider vinegar also showed lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
Questions about appetite-suppressing effects
Apple cider vinegar has not been shown to have appetite-suppressing effects.
There is at least one study that has questioned whether apple cider vinegar is a good way to help people eat less.
A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that vinegar did suppress appetite in the sample of people studied. But the authors state this appetite-suppressing effect was largely because people felt nauseous after consuming the vinegar.
As such, the authors of this study do not feel that vinegar is an appropriate way to help control appetite.
Other health benefits of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may have other health benefits beyond weight loss. However, the studies to date on its health effects have been small and limited.
Some possible benefits of apple cider vinegar include:
- Lower insulin levels after eating: A study in Diabetes Care suggests that drinking apple cider vinegar before a high-carbohydrate meal may lower blood sugar levels and insulin response afterward.
- Lower blood sugar: People with well-controlled type 2 diabetes had lower waking blood sugar levels when they consumed apple cider vinegar with a high-protein snack at bedtime, according to another study in Diabetes Care. The participants continued using their regular diabetes medications while taking the vinegar.
- Lower cholesterol: Apple cider vinegar lowered cholesterol in mice who were fed a high-cholesterol diet, according to a study in The Journal of Membrane Biology.
- Improvement in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): A study in the Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine found that women who consumed apple cider vinegar daily showed improvement of PCOS symptoms after 110 days. This may be due to its suspected insulin-lowering effect, as PCOS is linked to insulin resistance.
- Antibacterial ability: A study in the Journal of Advanced Pharmacy Education & Research found apple cider vinegar was able to kill two types of bacteria.
- Reduction in stretch marks: A study in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found that massaging apple cider vinegar into stretch marks from pregnancy reduced their size and appearance.
How to use apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may be used as a preservative, for soaking foods, in a marinade, or as a dressing.
Apple cider vinegar works well as a flavoring for food, and a preservative for canned items, such as pickles. Vinegar also works well with meat marinades.
It has a strong, sour flavor that works well when balanced with other ingredients.
A tablespoon of vinegar can add the right hint of tang to a pork and bean dish or a pulled pork roast, for example. But, its tartness is best paired with plain apple cider or a sweet barbecue sauce.
One of the easiest and healthiest ways to consume apple cider vinegar is to add it to a healthy oil, such as olive oil, and use it as a salad dressing. Most of the studies found that just 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar are enough to reap its health benefits.
Apple cider vinegar is not for everyone, however. People who have stomach ulcers or acid reflux may find that apple cider vinegar makes their conditions worse.
On the other hand, for some people with heartburn, resulting from reduced stomach acid, apple cider vinegar may improve heartburn or acid reflux symptoms. These people should discuss using apple cider vinegar with a doctor before trying it.
It should be remembered that the acidity of apple cider vinegar means that it could damage tooth enamel if used too frequently.
Some small studies show encouraging results for apple cider vinegar's weight loss benefits. However, it cannot take the place of proven weight loss methods.
Evidence-based weight loss plans encourage people to:
- cut back or avoid processed foods and added sugars
- focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthful fats
- exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
Though it may help with some weight loss and health conditions, apple cider vinegar should not be used in place of medical treatment.
Before using apple cider vinegar, people should discuss its potential benefits and risks with their doctor.