Apple Cider Vinegar: what the science says
Author: Hope Foley.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a staple of the health and wellness industry with a reputation as a home-remedy cure-all. To assess this reputation, a thorough review of the available evidence revealed some interesting findings.
There is fairly good evidence to suggest that ACV may be beneficial in general cardiovascular health by supporting healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and reducing risk factors for heart attack.
It may also be a beneficial addition to a balanced diet for managing blood glucose levels in those with non-insulin dependent Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic insulin resistance (but not so great for those with insulin-dependent or Type 1 diabetes).
Evidence for the use of ACV in digestive complaints, weight loss and immune support during colds and flu is lacking, but this is due to a paucity of research, so it remains possible that ACV may be useful here and future research may confirm this.
Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol:
Several animal studies and a small-scale but well-conducted human trial showed improvements in blood lipid profiles and blood pressure, reduced atherosclerosis and protection of blood vessels, liver and kidneys from high cholesterol diets.
This means that consuming ACV – 30mL, twice per day to be exact – may assist in general heart health.
Blood Sugar Levels and Diabetes:
A mix of animal and human trials combined show some evidence that ACV may encourage healthy blood glucose levels, improve insulin activity and enhance glycogen repletion in muscle and in the liver. Glycogen is the body’s way of storing sugar as energy for later use.
This means that ACV may support overall glucose metabolism, but because part of the mechanism of this action is thought to be delayed gastric emptying (food sits in your stomach for longer, causing sugar to be released from the intestines more slowly), it may not be appropriate for those with Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes.
The evidence here is lacking, due to lack of published research.
It is said that acetic acid and bacteria found in ACV are beneficial for good colonic bacteria.
It has also been asserted that ACV enhances digestive secretions, but I have been unable to find literature supporting this idea. It is possible delayed gastric emptying leads to longer exposure to digestive secretions, which could improve digestion, and many people do feel their digestion runs more smoothly when they have ACV in water each morning.
The research on ACV for weight loss shows very little in the way of results. However, as mentioned above, delayed gastric emptying could conceivably result in food being more thoroughly digested as well as a quicker feeling of fullness, resulting in fewer calories being eaten. For some people, ACV causes nausea, which may reduce appetite, albeit in an unpleasant manner.
Colds and Flu:
There is no research to support the use of ACV for colds and flu, but it is known to break down mucous when applied directly, so it is possible that there is some affect on clearing up a stuffy head or chest.
How to use ACV
It is thought that the benefits of ACV come from the acetic acid and polyphenolic compounds it contains. Although all vinegar contains acetic acid, the polyphenolic compounds are found in highest concentrations in unfiltered, unprocessed apple cider vinegar containing the “mother”, which should be indicated on the label when you buy it. Cooking will reduce some of these compounds, so it is best used raw.
It is best to dilute ACV in some water (15-30mL ACV to 100-200mL water) before drinking as the vinegar can be quite corrosive to mucous membranes such as those in your mouth and throat.
It is usually taken first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.
ACV is also said to be useful for several non-health related purposes, including:
as a cleaning product, alternative to hair conditioner (makes hair shiny), alternative to skin toner (diluted to avoid burning the skin), mouthwash/teeth whitener due to being a gentle anti-bacterial, and as a remedy for hiccups.
ACV may not be suitable for those on a low tyramine or low histamine diet, for those who suffer gout or people taking MAOI medications (a particular class of anti-depressants).
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Budak et al. 2011 ‘Effects of apple cider vinegars produced with different techniques on blood lipids in high-cholesterol-fed rats’, Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, vol. 59, iss. 12.
Darzi et al. 2014, ‘Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake’, International journal of obesity, iss. 38
Fushimi et al. 2001, ‘Acetic acid feeding enhances glycogen repletion in liver and skeletal muscle of rats’, The American society for nutritional sciences, vol. 131, no. 7
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Gonella and Gonella 2015, ‘Use of vinegar to relieve persistent hiccups in an advanced cancer patient’, Journal of palliative medicine, vol. 18, iss. 5
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Setorki et al. 2010, ‘Acute effects of apple cider vinegar intake on some biochemical risk factors of atherosclerosis in rabbits fed with a high-cholesterol diet’, QoM university of medical sciences journal, vol. 3, iss. 4
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