Apple cider vinegar has gained popularity over the past few years as a health supplement. Market research firms like Mordor Intelligence expect the global market for it to grow at a 5.4 percent rate through 2024.
Online influencers and media outlets promote apple cider vinegar as a solution for a myriad of issues, including weight loss, digestive ailments, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Is this simple substance really that powerful? Read on to separate the truth from the hype.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made from apples. They are fermented with yeast and sugar to create an acidic vinegar with a sour taste and strong smell.
During the fermentation process, the sugar in the apples is turned into alcohol. During a second fermentation process, that alcohol is turned into acetic acid. Raw ACV is a good source of acetic acid and other acids like lactic, citric, and malic acids. These are believed to provide several health benefits.
The vinegar also contains natural probiotics (friendly gut bacteria) and protective antioxidants.
7 Myths Related to Apple Cider Vinegar
1. Apple Cider Vinegar Will Help You Lose Weight
Perhaps the most popular claim related to ACV, weight loss, is a powerful one. After all, about one-third of the American population is overweight or obese. So the idea that a natural substance like vinegar could help is attractive.
Proponents claim that ACV will flush away fat and help you slim down quickly.
There are a couple of studies suggesting that ACV can help promote modest weight loss (less than 5 pounds). When you look at all the studies we have so far, however, you see that they don’t consistently show these benefits. Some of the studies show no weight loss at all.
In a 2009 trial of 175 people, those consuming a drink containing a couple of tablespoons of vinegar each day were found to achieve a modest level of weight loss—2-4 pounds over 3 months or 1/3 pound per week. They also lowered their blood triglyceride levels.
Another study found that the vinegar helped keep people from feeling hungry, but this was because it made people feel nauseated. There is also some evidence that acetic acid may suppress body fat accumulation, but these studies have only been performed in animals.
The Truth: Apple cider vinegar may help you lose a couple of pounds over several months. Other diets are likely to be more effective.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar is Natural and Has No Downsides
Like other natural remedies, ACV is often touted as being completely safe to ingest. Consumers are rarely warned about any potential risks or intake limits, so they may believe that they can drink as much as they want whenever they want. Worse, they may believe that “more is better.”
Yet ACV is very acidic. That means that it can irritate your teeth, throat, and stomach if you drink it without diluting it, or if you drink large amounts. The acid may weaken tooth enamel and lead to tooth decay and sensitivity.
ACV is known to reduce the rate at which food leaves the stomach, which could induce bloating, heartburn, and nausea. And if you take it consistently over long periods, it may lower your potassium levels.
The Truth: Apple cider vinegar—particularly when taken in large doses or for long periods—can create unwanted side effects.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help Prevent and Treat Diabetes
ACV has been found in some studies to help lower blood sugar levels, which may help prevent or treat diabetes.
In a small 2007 study of 4 men and 7 women who had type 2 diabetes, those who ingested a vinegar drink at bedtime had lower blood sugar levels when they woke up than those who didn’t. The scientists noted that acetic acid has an anti glycemic effect, reducing the digestion of starches and slowing digestion overall.
Research from 2004 also showed that taking 20 mL of ACV diluted in 40 mL of water after a meal could help lower blood sugar levels. This study was small as well, including only 29 participants. In an analysis of six studies with 317 patients, researchers also found that ACV had beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
The Truth: Apple cider vinegar may help provide modest decreases in blood sugar levels, though it won’t cure or prevent diabetes on its own.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar Will Lower Your Blood Pressure Levels
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of the adults in the United States have high blood pressure. It’s no wonder, then, that we’re looking for solutions.
There is one small animal study showing that ACV may have positive effects on blood sugar. Scientists found that subjects who consumed ACV over the long term reduced their blood pressure levels more than those given no vinegar.
So far, we have no human studies showing this benefit.
The Truth: There is not enough data to suggest that ACV will lower your blood pressure levels. Choose more effective methods instead.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar Helps Lower Cholesterol Levels
Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world right now—and because high cholesterol levels have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease—scientists are eager to find ways to keep cholesterol levels under control.
As to whether ACV may be a solution, we don't know yet. Some small animal studies suggest that it can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood. In 2008, scientists found that diabetic rats who were fed standard animal food containing ACV for 4 weeks improved their HbA1C profiles, which is a measurement of blood sugar levels. They did not, by the way, improve their blood sugar levels.
In a 2018 human study, ACV helped reduce triglycerides and increased HDL “good” cholesterol.
The Truth: Apple cider vinegar may help produce modest reductions in blood cholesterol levels but should not be relied upon to avoid heart disease.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar is Good for Your Gut
Because ACV is a probiotic-rich food, it is believed to be good for your gut. Inside your digestive system is a community of microorganisms, including friendly and not-so-friendly bacteria. Probiotics populate the good bacteria and have been linked to a better immune system, improved mood, and smoother digestion.
Again, we have mostly animal studies on this subject. In one, researchers found that after 90 days, ACV decreased body mass index (BMI) in rats. This was believed to be because it decreased levels of a damaging type of bacteria in the gut.
Other than that, we have limited scientific evidence that ACV is good for your stomach or your digestion. It is naturally acidic, so for those with low stomach acid (older people in general), it may help raise stomach acid levels to aid in digestion. ACV is also an antimicrobial substance, so it could help to kill bad bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
Keep in mind, however, that regularly consuming ACV can slow gastric emptying and cause digestive upset, particularly nausea and bloating.
The Truth: There are better substances for gut health that are rich in probiotics, including Greek yogurt, miso, kefir, tempeh, and kimchi.
7. Apple Cider Vinegar is Good for Your Skin
People who have irritating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis often turn to ACV for help. That’s probably because ACV does have a reputation for helping to heal infections and wounds, from sunburn to acne to rashes and dryness.
Acetic acid is known to have antifungal and antimicrobial properties. If you rub it (always diluted) on your skin, it can help clear bacteria that may be causing skin infections like acne. It’s important to be careful, though. If you have sensitive skin, avoid using ACV as the acids may cause more irritations and redness.
Still, we don’t have studies showing that ACV is a good idea for curing skin problems. In 2019, researchers reported that people with eczema who soaked one forearm in diluted ACV and the other in water daily for 14 days saw no improvement. Worse, most said the ACV solution was irritating to the skin.
The Truth: Because ACV is acidic and may cause irritation, it’s best to use other solutions to treat skin conditions. There is one exception: dandruff and scalp psoriasis. Lightly spritzing an ACV/water solution onto the scalp may help combat flaking, itching, and irritation.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar
There is no standard dosage of ACV, and suggestions for how much you should take vary. In general, drinking diluted ACV with meals—1 to 2 teaspoons diluted in water—is thought to be safe. If you’re using it as a supplement, you can increase it to 1 to 2 tablespoons (diluted) at a time. Of course, you can always use ACV on your salads and as a veggie dip without worrying about side effects.
Learn even more about apple cider vinegar with our informative e-book. Click here for your copy!