What does apple cider vinegar actually do?
Acetic acid is ACV’s primary active component, thought to be responsible for most of its purported health benefits, from lowering blood triglycerides to stabilising blood sugar levels.
There does seem to be a grain of truth in this. A 2016 Singapore study concluded that vinegar, albeit not specifically ACV, may help to produce hormones involved in glucose regulation, improve insulin sensitivity and even increase blood flow to tissues.
Where ACV may have the edge health-wise over other vinegars is through its gut health benefits. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains a substance called “the mother” (made up of proteins, enzymes, and gut-friendly bacteria), which is responsible for its cloudy appearance. Better gut health has been linked to a lower risk of many chronic diseases, from metabolic disease to gastrointestinal disorders and colorectal cancer. So there may be a case for drinking a little ACV daily – for overall health rather than specifically for weight loss.
Does apple cider vinegar help you to lose weight?
The weight loss claims for ACV centre on the idea that the acetic acid produced during the fermentation process can help to burn fat. A couple of studies do seem to support this view, including one from 2018 in which 39 participants were randomly assigned to follow a restricted-calorie diet, with or without apple cider vinegar, for 12 weeks. While both groups lost weight, the apple cider vinegar group did lose a bit more, by around 4lb.
Having studied the evidence however, Crowe isn’t convinced this proves ACV has a direct fat-burning effect.
“There have been several taste studies done that found that drinking vinegar in general can induce a slight feeling of nausea and a lessening of appetite. That does not negate that apple cider vinegar may have a small benefit on weight loss, but the mechanism here is that the ACV is probably making the person feel a little ill and reducing their appetite.”
Added to that, the study failed to account for other factors that impact weight loss, such as overall diet quality or exercise levels. Indeed, a 2020 review of studies looking at body weight and metabolic benefits concluded that “due to inadequate research of high quality, the evidence for the health effects of ACV is insufficient.”
Does apple cider vinegar help to stabilise blood sugar levels?
Perhaps more promising are the claims that ACV can help to control blood sugar levels. A summary of findings from a range of studies revealed a significant reduction in blood glucose and insulin in people who consumed vinegar compared with a control group. Again, it’s worth noting that this was vinegar in general, not specifically ACV, so it’s likely due to the acetic acid content rather than any special ACV magic.
Most of the research in this area has involved healthy volunteers, but there have been some small studies in people with type 2 diabetes that suggest that a shot of vinegar can be an effective way to reduce blood sugar following starchy carbs. So, does this mean everyone should be drinking vinegar shots with their meals? Crowe has this advice,
“No. If you don’t have diabetes, then your blood glucose is being regulated just fine.” Crowe goes on to advise that simply having a shot of vinegar wouldn’t be enough to counteract Type 2 diabetes.