We’re going to hazard a guess that ‘apple cider vinegar benefits’ has been something you’ve typed into Google a time or two, trying to unpick exactly why your best wellness mate has said you just have to try it. And, while adding in a dose of brown acid to your diet everyday may seem bizarre, there are a lot of purported silver linings, including the very popular idea of using apple cider vinegar for weight loss.
You won’t be alone if you’re shotting the vin-stuff: Early adopter Victoria Beckham has long been all about those purported apple cider vinegar benefits and banks her two tablespoons first thing; former Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie prefers downing a shot; and, pop sensation Katy Perry credits her ACV habit for never having had to cancel a live performance.
If all this vinegar talk has you scratching your head – you can also use it there, y’know – in confusion, then stick with us and we’ll walk you through exactly why so many are hyped about something so kitchen cupboard-y and what the best way to take it is according to the experts.
Why do people drink apple cider vinegar?
As wellness trends go, drinking vinegar seems a little difficult to stomach – but, the idea of it as a digestive tonic has graduated from insider trick to mainstream territory in recent years.
‘The idea of drinking vinegar for its medicinal properties isn’t new,’ says Kay Ali, registered nutritional therapist and senior associate member of The Royal Society of Medicine. ‘In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed vinegar mixed with honey for a variety of symptoms, including coughs and colds.’
And, actually, the word vinegar comes from the Latin words vinum (wine) and acer (sour) and, in essence, vinegar is just that: sour wine.
‘During the fermentation process, sugars are broken down by bacteria and yeasts into alcohol and, if you carry on fermenting further, you get vinegar,’ explains Ali. ‘You can make vinegar from many things – fruits, vegetables and grains – but ACV is the most popular choice because apples contain the most acetic acid – a key component in vinegar’s medicinal properties.’
As we’re starting to understand more about the effect fermented foods have on the gut and how important gut flora a.k.a microbiome is to a whole range of processes in the body, drinking vinegars have returned to the spotlight.
Does apple cider vinegar work for weight loss?
One Japanese study found obese participants who drank a daily dose of ACV lost more weight than the placebo group – although the amount lost was modest.
‘It’s thought that the acetic acid in vinegar might slow the breakdown of starches into sugars or increase the body’s sensitivity to glucose,’ explains Ali. ‘Fluctuating blood sugar affects how hungry you feel, so stabilising it could lead to feelings of satiety.’
However, a daily dose of ACV will not cancel our an unhealthy diet or days spent mostly sat or lying around. For long-lasting weight loss – and the benefits associated with this – you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
7 Apple cider vinegar benefits
1. Good for digestive health
There is no robust clinical evidence to say that ACV is a fix to your gut health woes. However, whether you’re suffering from constipation, the symptoms of IBS or even just overeating, the fermentation process of vinegar, which gives it healthy prebiotics, may help
to encourage digestive health by supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
2. Aids the immune system
‘The antimicrobial properties in the acetic acid, lactic acid, ascorbic acid and malic acid in vinegar break down the cell membranes of unhelpful bacteria, which is why drinking vinegar has been found to be good at combating bugs like E. coli,’ explains Ali.
‘If you’ve got a salmonella infection, a little bit of organic vinegar in a glass of water can ease an upset stomach, or if you’re suffering from a sore throat, gargling with vinegar can help kill any bad bacteria.’
3. Balances blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
Acetic acid in particular has been linked to balancing blood sugar. A study from the American Diabetes Association, which tested insulin-resistant individuals, showed a 19–34% improvement in insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal after drinking apple cider (20ml in 40ml water).
Even if you’re not diabetic, you’re still on to a winner. ‘You might have high blood sugar issues, which manifest as low energy or weight gain around the middle,’ says Ali.
‘The available evidence suggests that drinking a little vinegar can help offset those symptoms – I’d recommend drinking a tablespoon of ACV diluted with warm water either just before or during a meal to prime the gut.’
4. Improves symptoms of PCOS
The apple cider vinegar benefits of lowering blood sugar also explains why it’s been posited as a natural treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
‘Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of circulating insulin,’ says Ali. ‘As a result, their tissue cells become less responsive to luteinising hormone, which controls ovulation. Recent research found that women with PCOS are four times as likely to develop diabetes, so that might be why PCOS sufferers report a more regular cycle after drinking vinegar.’
5. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
‘There is also a small amount of evidence suggesting that ACV could improve cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind) and triglycerides, two types of fats shown to lead to a fatty build-up in the arteries and the development of heart disease,’ explains Shorter.
‘It’s also been suggested that acetic acid can lower blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease.’
6. Cures a hangover
Though it might be the last thing you feel like after a night on the sauce, a spoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water can help cleanse the liver, stabilise blood sugar and target fluid-retention. Needed.
7. Increases feelings of fullness
Studies have suggested ACV increases satiety, making one feel full for longer whilst also curbing cravings: Studies have shown people who took vinegar with their meal decreased their daily calories by 200-275. Other studies, albeit small, showed that ACV could cut belly fat — though it works best as an aid to regulate blood sugar.
What are the side effects of apple cider vinegar?
Drinking a dose of ACV straight (no added warm water) can cause a burning sensation in the throat, which is normal but there’s no harm in dilution. Ali warns that by drinking the stuff without water risks doing damage to your mouth, throat or oesophagus. So, dilute with some warm water, perhaps add some honey Hippocrates-style and a little lemon and sip away.
Which type of apple cider vinegar is best?
To get the real health benefits of drinking vinegar, ‘it needs to be raw, unpasteurised and organic, with a rich amber colour,’ says nutritionist Gemma Shorter.
‘Its distinct appearance is down to a cloudy substance known as ‘the mother’. It’s the name given to the colony of beneficial bacteria, similar to the ‘scoby’ in kombucha, and it’s partly these probiotic bacteria that make vinegar so good for digestion.’
Can I drink apple cider vinegar everyday and what’s the right amount?
Long-term excessive use could also lower your potassium levels, which in turn could end up weakening your bones. ‘One tablespoon a day, diluted in water, is plenty,’ adds Ali. ‘And if you’re taking medication for diabetes, blood sugar or digestive issues, then speak to your GP before you start drinking any vinegars as they can have a powerful effect.’
A study has also linked daily vinegar downing to tooth erosion so, as well as diluting it, you should rinse out your mouth afterwards or drink it through a straw.
If you don’t fancy dropping acid on the daily, you can still get the benefits by swapping your regular table vinegar, the kind you add to salad dressings and marinades, for ACV.
When should you drink apple cider vinegar?
It should be drunk diluted in water before a meal to maximise the health benefits and aid the body in processing the food. Adversely, having it after eating can delay digestion.
And, when it comes to night time doses, should you drink apple cider vinegar before bed? In short, no. Make sure you have it at least 30 minutes before you hit the hay to avoid the risk of it coming back up the oesophagus.
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