Apple cider vinegar and thermogenic supplements are effective for rapid weight loss
Inadequate support: Research about the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight loss is limited to a few studies in animals and small trials in humans. The modest effects observed after consuming apple cider vinegar and thermogenic supplements are unlikely to cause significant weight loss.
KEY TAKE AWAY
There are few studies examining the effect of apple vinegar consumption on weight control and these tend to be small and focused only on very specific situations or segments of the population, such as diabetic patients. As such, the results aren’t generalizable to everybody. Studies on the effect of thermogenic supplements are also scarce but don’t show that these products lead to a large and rapid weight loss. People who lose weight gradually and steadily through a healthy diet and regular physical activity are more successful at keeping weight off in the long term compared to those who experience rapid weight changes.
FULL CLAIM: Apple cider vinegar and thermogenic supplements are effective for rapid weight loss
Posts promoting a weight loss beverage went viral on Facebook in May 2022. Multiple Facebook pages shared similar video clips of a cup containing a dark tea in which someone poured a spoon of apple cider vinegar and a spoon of an unidentified white powder, maybe a supplement. All the videos showed exactly the same glass and dosing spoons and seemed recorded at the same location. Many also contained the same text claiming to have lost 45 kilograms without diet and exercise after a simple “10 second liquid hack”.
The pages that published the clip appeared related to a variety of topics, including wellness, sports, vehicles, and pets. Clicking on the “Learn More” button on these pages led to several different websites registered to Internet service providers in Japan and Vietnam. All the domains were registered in May 2022, and their only content was a testimonial from a woman claiming to have lost an incredible amount of weight.
The websites ran an Amazon ad for a dietary supplement containing caffeine, green tea, and the amino acid derivative L-carnitine. These ingredients are thermogenic—they produce heat—and are claimed to burn fat by boosting metabolism.
As we explain below, the claims that thermogenic supplements and apple cider vinegar are effective for losing weight are widespread but unsubstantiated by scientific evidence. These deceptive claims, together with the misleading use of Facebook pages for advertising products are signs of dishonest marketing tactics and suggest that these posts might be part of a viral scam.
Thermogenic ingredients like caffeine might have a small effect on metabolism but no evidence indicates that they cause a significant weight loss[1,2]. Furthermore, supplements aren’t subject to the same strict regulations for safety and efficacy as medicines. Some might contain questionable ingredients, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found many of them to be downright dangerous due to the presence of hidden active ingredients.
Vinegar is a sour condiment that results from a two-step fermentation process. First, yeast converts the natural sugar present in some foods, like rice or fruits, into alcohol. A bacterium, generally from the genus Acetobacter, is then used to convert this alcohol into acetic acid.
Vinegar has been historically used to flavor foods, as a preservative, and as a home remedy. In recent years, apple cider vinegar has been widely promoted as a “detox” ingredient and a health booster, either on its own or combined with other ingredients such as baking soda and L-carnitine. Claims about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar go from making you lose weight to treating diabetes and even curing cancer.
However, there is little scientific support for most of these claims. There is no research on the effect of apple cider vinegar mixed with supplements or baking soda on weight loss. A few small studies have evaluated the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight loss, but evidence supporting a benefit is weak.
Not all research designs provide the same quality of evidence. Large-scale, double-blind, randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard for evaluating the efficacy of a treatment. Such design allows researchers to reduce biases and control for confounding factors, such as differences in demographics or physical activity, which could otherwise be wrongly associated with the treatment. However, many of the studies on apple cider vinegar lack blinding, don’t include an adequate control group, or are limited to specific groups of people. In addition, the small number of participants involved in these studies is unlikely to produce conclusive results.
In 2009, researchers in Japan administered none, one, or two daily tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the regular diet of 155 obese adults. After three months, the researchers observed that the groups consuming vinegar had lost one to two kilograms and had a slightly lower blood triglyceride level and fat mass. These results suggest that, at most, apple cider vinegar might have a modest effect on weight loss. But the study is still too small to be conclusive. It is also unclear whether these results would apply to other populations with diets that are very different from that in Japan, both in terms of calorie intake and type of foods.
In 2018, another small trial studied the effect of apple cider vinegar combined with a low-calorie diet on body weight and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels in 39 obese volunteers. After three months, all the participants lost weight, but the group consuming apple cider vinegar lost about one kilogram more compared to those who didn’t.
Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that vinegar makes you lose weight by reducing appetite and insulin levels. The authors of the 2018 trial did observe that the group consuming vinegar showed less appetite compared to those who didn’t consume vinegar. A 2013 randomized controlled trial in the U.K. testing palatable and unpalatable vinegar found that the effect of vinegar on appetite control was related to the feelings of nausea caused by drinking vinegar. However, it is unclear whether the slightly sweet apple cider vinegar produces the same effect.
There is some evidence suggesting that apple cider vinegar might lower after-meal blood sugar levels in healthy people and in type 2 diabetic patients[7,8]. However, these are small studies that only showed temporary, modest effects on blood sugar level. And in general, these studies detected effects from vinegar only after consumption of high-glycemic level meals, that is, meals that tend to raise your blood sugar to a high level quickly. This effect didn’t occur in the case of low-glycemic index meals.
Overall, these results suggest that while there might be some benefits to consuming apple cider vinegar, these are modest and unlikely to produce the miraculous levels of rapid weight loss that these Facebook posts claimed apple cider vinegar can produce. The benefit observed in these studies was also limited to certain situations, such as in diabetic patients, and therefore not generalizable to everybody. Furthermore, the quality of evidence is low, and drawing a definite conclusion requires larger and well-controlled clinical studies. A systematic review published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2020 analyzed the effect of apple cider vinegar on body weight and metabolism from 12 previous studies in animals and 13 in humans. The study concluded:
“Due to inadequate research of high quality, the evidence for the health effects of AV is insufficient. Therefore, more large-scale, long-term clinical studies with a low risk of bias are needed before definitive conclusions can be made.”
Consuming large amounts of apple cider vinegar can also have side effects and contraindications due to its high acidity. For example, vinegar can erode the tooth enamel, irritate the throat, and interact with certain medications, including diuretics and insulin.
In short, apple cider vinegar may be a healthy addition to the diet. While more research is needed to better assess the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight loss, consuming vinegar alone is unlikely to have a significant impact on weight. There is also no compelling scientific evidence suggesting that thermogenic ingredients are highly effective for weight loss, contrary to claims on social media.
To date, there is no known weight control method that produces significant weight loss within a short time without requiring a person to reduce their caloric intake or increase their physical activity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that lifestyle changes, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity, are more effective at keeping weight off in the long term.