Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
At least once a week a client will ask me my opinion of apple cider vinegar (ACV). Does it really lower blood sugar? What about promoting weight loss? If you believe what you read in the internet, it seems apple cider vinegar is the cure all for every ailment. Since I like to make evidence-based recommendations, I turned to nutrition student and “researcher extraordinaire” Shonali Soans to do a little digging around and find us the FACTS. Read her guest blog post with tons of references!
Vinegar has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, reportedly used vinegar for wound healing back in 5000 BC. Writings of health practitioners dating back to the 18th century showed the use of vinegar for many ailments from stomach aches to diabetes. Recently, vinegar has made a notable comeback, with health experts tooting over 25 health benefits, from eczema to lowering cholesterol. Whether all these claims are true or not is debatable as they’re not all backed by scientific research. Like many age-old remedies, that may possess numerous benefits, clinical trials are warranted. Until then, let’s look at a few benefits of ACV that are scientifically backed.
Blood sugar control
Several studies have found that consumption of vinegar along with a carbohydrate rich meal helps lower post meal glucose levels (1-3). Another study found that consuming two tablespoons of ACV at bedtime resulted in lower fasting glucose the next morning (4). Researchers suggest that the acetic acid in vinegar slows down carbohydrate absorption (5), improves insulin sensitivity (6), and possibly decreases glucose production by the liver(7, 8)
A study done on mice showed that, mice fed acetic acid along with their high fat diet showed a 10% weight reduction compared to controls. This was attributed to acetic acid’s affect on specific genes involved in body and liver fat accumulation (9). A human trial conducted in Japan corroborates these findings- BMI, waist circumference, and blood triglyceride levels were found to be significantly lower in the groups that consumed vinegar compared to a placebo (10). The scientists concluded that daily intake of vinegar may be useful for reducing obesity. Furthermore, ACV may an effect on appetite control- a study found that subjects who consumed vinegar reported higher satiation (feeling of fullness) which could be helpful for weight loss (6). However, it is important to note that consuming vinegar in lieu of following a healthy diet and regular exercise will not result in achieving your weight loss goals. (pic credit) (ummm … not saying you’ll lose 10 lbs in 2 weeks!)
Oxidative stress has been shown to affect DNA, accelerate aging, cancer and have brain degenerative effects(11, 12). However, antioxidants present in foods as the name suggest, have been shown to be protective against this oxidative damage. Apple cider vinegar contains several antioxidants in the form of polyphenolic compounds Such as Gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and p-coumaric acid (13).
Possible cancer protection
As mentioned above, ACV has several phenolic compounds. Studies have shown that consuming polyphenols increases antioxidant protection and reduces cancer risk in humans (14). Besides the antioxidant properties, vinegar may have antitumor effects. Kurosu vinegar, a Japanese rice vinegar has been studied for anti-cancer effects and was found to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in several tested carcinomas(15). Whether this result can be translated to all vinegars including ACV is debatable. Research on ACV specifically and cancer is lacking.
ACV is a fermented food, so it is not surprising that it comprises of bacteria, particularly the acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter and Komagataeibacter) and lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus and Oenococcus)(16). It is becoming increasingly well known that the gut microbiota plays an important role in human health from synthesizing vitamins to maintaining immunity (17). A dysbiotic gut has been linked to many diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancers and autoimmune diseases. While trials have not yet been done to prove this, the bacteria present in ACV may be helpful in establishing a healthy gut flora. A study done on mice, found that vinegar may be helpful in treating ulcerative colitis (a chronic gut inflammatory disease) possibly due to acetic acids ability to reduce inflammation and the beneficial bacteria present in vinegar (18). Furthermore, polyphenols have the ability to control the gut microbial composition by inhibiting certain bacterial populations and stimulating others (19, 20). Again, more studies are needed to confirm whether the bacteria, polyphenols and their amounts present in ACV are sufficient to have significant beneficial effects.
While research for some health claims is stronger than others, it appears apple cider vinegar may do a body good! So how much is needed for the potential health benefits? There’s no standardized recommendation for an appropriate dosage for ACV intake. Experts recommended purchasing the unrefined ACV with ‘the mother’ (beneficial bacteria) and suggest mixing a couple tablespoons in a glass of water with meals. It is important to exercise caution as ACV is highly acidic and can erode tooth enamel, therefore it must be diluted. Too much ACV can also cause decreased potassium levels, which could be dangerous. As always, consult with a health professional if you are planning to add ACV into your daily routine especially if you are on any medications due to possible harmful interactions. But you can easily add AVC to a good oil for a delicious salad dressing! (pic credit )
*Note, several animal studies showed cholesterol lowering effects and anti-hypertensive effects, but these aren’t included in this post as no human trials were done. (21) ACV may also increase mineral absorption in animal studies. (22) (23)
I’d like to thank Shonali Soans for her HIGHLY researched blog post. Stay tuned for more of her posts!
Shonali is an international MS student and dietetic intern at Brooklyn College School of Health and Nutrition Science. She is an aspiring functional/integrative RDN with experience working in various environments, from impoverished communities in urban India to a nutrition clinic at Brooklyn College. Her own diagnosis of PCOS planted her growing passion in the field, particularly in endocrine health, GI health, diabetes, cancer and sustainable agriculture as nutrition begins from the soil.
Do you use apple cider vinegar? Any positive effect?
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