While an apple a day might not actually keep the doctor away, apple cider vinegar is rich in many nutrients of its own. The fermented juice that comes from apples has an active ingredient that experts say may marginally help with weight loss, and the product has some other health benefits, too.
But apple cider vinegar is not the magic weight loss answer some promote it to be, and some medical professionals have soured on overpromoting its benefits while research is ongoing. Still, there are at least a few known advantages of occasionally including the vinegar in one’s diet, and almost no known harms.
What is apple cider vinegar?
As its name suggests, apple cider vinegar is literally vinegar made from apples. It’s produced by pressing apples into apple juice, then allowing it to ferment.
The yeast and water blend is often mixed with sugar and has become a popular ingredient in foods such as pickles, salad dressings, and marinades. It’s sometimes sold in pill, gummy, or powder form, but is most commonly purchased in grocery stores as a pasteurized, clear, and filtered product.
An unfiltered form of the liquid is also available. This type includes a thick, cloudy layer of probiotic bacteria on the surface of the vinegar known as “the mother.”
What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
“The mother” layer of apple cider vinegar contains probiotics that are promoted as being good for gut health, but supporting research is sparse. Acetic acid is the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar (and in other types of vinegar) and has been associated with positive health outcomes such as reducing some risk factors associated with heart disease.
Josh Redd, NMD, author of “The Truth About Low Thyroid,” says additional research shows consuming apple cider vinegar may also help lower cholesterol, “particularly in people with Type 2 diabetes.” The vinegar is also rich in magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium, which are essential minerals for health and proper organ function. And apple cider vinegar is packed with antioxidants that scavenge free radicals from one’s blood cells to prevent or reduce illness or disease.
Can apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?
Apple cider vinegar has also been connected with aiding weight loss. Such assertions usually include a small study that found that consuming the vinegar could prevent obesity by improving metabolism and inflammation issues. Lisa Young, PhD, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” says the vinegar has also been shown to “increase feelings of fullness which in turn can decrease appetite.” She says the suggested amount of apple cider vinegar to take daily should be no more than 1-2 tablespoons.
“Consuming apple cider vinegar with meals may also help reduce blood sugar spikes and improve insulin sensitivity, which can help promote weight loss,” explains Redd, but adds that such research is ongoing. Until more conclusive results come in, he says one can still glean some of the other health benefits of the product safely so long as doses remain small. Even then, “because of its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can erode tooth enamel over time and should be diluted with water,” he suggests.
Barbara Olendzki, RD, associate professor of population and quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School, agrees that diluting the product is wise and says that while the vinegar is “no magic bullet” against obesity, there is some ongoing research that suggests it may beneficially help one’s gut microbiome. “And that is very important in losing weight,” she says.
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