In recent years, apple cider vinegar has enjoyed a boom in popularity due to its potential as a home remedy for various health problems.
While some people support the use of apple cider vinegar to help treat cancer, there is no direct evidence that it is effective. In this article, we look at the claims and consider what the research says.
What are the claims about apple cider vinegar and cancer?
Some people believe that apple cider vinegar aids cancer treatment.
Many of the claims about apple cider vinegar and cancer originated from the work of scientist and Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg.
Warburg believed that cancer was a nutritional problem and that it could not develop in people who ate a correct, natural diet. As a result, he claimed that 80 percent of cancer cases were avoidable.
Warburg also suggested that high levels of acidity and low levels of oxygen in the body caused cancer. He based this hypothesis on the fact that cancer cells produce acid as they grow, even in environments that are not usually acidic.
This hypothesis caused some controversy in the scientific community, but it was not a popular theory.
People who do believe Warburg's theory think that making the body less acidic will kill cancer cells. The proponents of this thought say that regularly ingesting apple cider vinegar can make the body's overall pH more alkaline. However, the body's ability to manage its pH balance is excellent, so ingesting apple cider vinegar is unlikely to have much effect on it.
What the research says
There is limited research to support the claim that apple cider vinegar can help treat cancer or to confirm the role of alkalinity or acidity in cancer in general.
An older study from 1996 found that cancer grows and spreads more quickly in slightly acidic environments. However, the experiment took place in vitro rather than in humans.
As the American Institute for Cancer Research point out, the body regulates its pH levels naturally, and the foods that a person eats have little effect.
For this reason, at-home pH tests that use urine samples are ineffective. The kidneys are partly responsible for keeping the body's pH in check, and they ensure that anything that could significantly raise or lower it leaves the body in the urine.
As a result, the pH of a person's urine is likely to reflect what the kidneys are sending out of the body, rather than the actual pH of the body.
However, some research does suggest that acetic acid, the main compound in apple cider vinegar, helps kill tumor cells.
A 2014 study found that tumor cells died on exposure to acetic acid. However, the research took place in a laboratory, and it is not possible to expose a real tumor to acetic acid, so it is unlikely to have the same results in a human body.
The researchers did note that finding ways to deliver acetic acid directly to tumor tissue may be helpful and that further research could explore the possible ways to do this.
A systematic review found no evidence for or against the use of an alkaline diet or alkaline water to treat cancer. The authors stated that there is no reason to promote an alkaline diet for cancer prevention or treatment.
Overall, other than anecdotal evidence, there is very little to verify that an alkaline environment will prevent cancer from growing.
Other possible benefits
While the research on apple cider vinegar and cancer is inconclusive, there do appear to be some other benefits to using apple cider vinegar.
These benefits include the following:
Fighting free radicals
Apple cider vinegar and other types of vinegar appear to be good sources of antioxidants, which may help keep the body healthy and fight off free radicals, which damage cells.
As a 2014 review notes, apple cider vinegar contains several helpful antioxidants in the form of phenols, including catechin and caffeic acid.
Balancing blood sugar
A review in the Journal of Food Science noted that vinegar could be beneficial for people with diabetes. In both rats and humans, taking vinegar with a meal may improve markers of diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels or improving insulin sensitivity.
Protecting against bacteria
The acidity of apple cider vinegar may also make it a helpful antimicrobial substance, as many bacteria cannot live in an acidic environment.
Cooks often use vinegar to help preserve food and prevent bacteria from growing on it.
The acetic acid in vinegar may also directly kill certain bacteria, which could make apple cider vinegar a good supplement for overall health.
Promoting weight loss
Some research shows that apple cider vinegar may help with weight loss. A 2018 study separated participants into two groups. Both groups ate 250 fewer calories per day, but one group also consumed 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily.
The participants who took apple cider vinegar lost significantly more weight than the control group.
The same study also found that the group of people who took apple cider vinegar each day in addition to eating fewer calories had improved cholesterol levels compared with the control group. They had lower overall cholesterol levels but higher levels of HDL cholesterol, which people refer to as "good cholesterol."
Side effects and risks
Apple cider vinegar can cause a burning sensation in the throat.
Apple cider vinegar is a strong acid, which may erode the enamel of a person's teeth. People who take apple cider vinegar orally should take care to rinse out their mouth with water afterward.
Apple cider vinegar may also cause adverse effects in people with kidney disease. Affected kidneys may struggle to process acid, so additional acid in the form of apple cider vinegar could cause problems.
Apple cider vinegar may also not be suitable for people with low potassium or those taking medications to amend their potassium levels.
Some people find that drinking apple cider vinegar causes acid reflux or makes existing acid reflux symptoms worse.
Other possible side effects may include:
- burning throat
- bad breath
- allergic reactions
- low blood sugar
Apple cider vinegar is a safe product that may be a beneficial supplement to a healthful diet. However, it is not a replacement for cancer treatment or any other serious medical treatment.
The theory that creating an alkaline environment in the body can prevent cancer is hard to prove. The body can adjust its pH in many ways, and it continually does so without any external help.
Anyone who has cancer or is going through cancer treatment should talk to their doctor about all the possible treatment options.