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Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits: Are They Fact or Fiction?

Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits: Are They Fact or Fiction?

You've probably heard from a close friend, or read a magazine or article that insists apple cider works wonders for weight loss amongst other health benefits. But what is apple cider vinegar (ACV) anyways? ACV is essentially made from apples and water, but it undergoes a fermentation process that turns it into acetic acid, which gives vinegar its strong smell and sour taste. ACV has 5% acidity, like most other vinegars. There are two common types of ACV that you probably have seen on the shelf of your local grocery store. There's a distilled version that looks clear in the bottle, and there's a raw, unfiltered version that is yellowish in color and contains a cloudy substance that floats around. The benefits of apple cider vinegar you've heard about come from the raw and unfiltered  ACV  due to it containing a cloud of yeast and bacteria (the cloudy substance you see floating around or at the bottom of the bottle) which are probiotics. And if you don't already know, fermented foods and probiotics are an excellent way to improve your digestion and gut health! This is why so many people started looking into incorporating ACV into their diets, but what most don't know is that it's been around for thousands of years and used as a home remedy for countless things!

Although it's been around for centuries (literally), this basic pantry staple has exploded with popularity in the fitness and diet world within the last few years, but are the reasons legit? Is the buzz surrounding the benefits of apple cider vinegar actually true? Stick with us, we have all the facts for you so you can decide for yourself if it's worth the hype or not!

What does apple cider vinegar do?

Apple cider vinegar has been used as a home remedy for a number of medicinal uses like mixing it with honey to fight a cold or relieve a sore throat. But as of late, it's garnered a superfood status that claims to help with a number of things like reducing appetite, helping to lower cholesterol, improve digestion, boost the immune system and so much more! To get the most out of it, it requires making a cocktail using 1-2 tablespoon of unfiltered ACV (it contains the good stuff: enzymes, minerals, and probiotics) and a cup of warm water. You can also add lemon juice, honey, or ginger to make it tastier. Doing this is said to help unleash the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, the question is, are these claims real or just anecdotal? Let's so whether the studies support these popular claims, or not.

Aids in weight loss

Many in the health and wellness world believe that apple cider vinegar helps with reducing belly fat and overall body weight. Sorry to break it to you, but doing this every morning will do very little to actually change your body composition or weight. First, there is no way to spot reduce fat so ACV isn't your ticket to getting rid of pesky belly fat - which is natural to have, might we add! Second, to actually lose weight and change your body composition you need to follow a healthy diet and incorporate strength training or other forms of training. Apple cider vinegar isn't going to make much of a difference if you're not implementing other weight loss strategies into your daily life.

What do the studies say?

There's not much scientific support behind ACV aiding in weight loss. A 2014 study found that vinegar can help with weight loss in people with obesity. [1] Another study in 2014 looked at the effects of apple cider vinegar consumption on people's blood sugar, insulin, and satiety. The study found that it can help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels while also increase feelings of fullness. But keep in mind, that both were relatively small studies with small sample sizes. Generally, the weight loss benefits ACV is said to have require more research to see if the effects come from vinegar consumption or outside factors.

However, this doesn't mean ACV is harmful to your weight loss goals. Just don't rely on the apple cider vinegar detox to be your one weight loss solution.

Boost skin health

ACV is sometimes regarded as a natural remedy for certain skin conditions when diluted with water or in a toner. These claims came to be because the skin is naturally slightly acidic, and some believe that ACV can help rebalance the natural pH of the skin and improve the protective skin barrier given its antibacterial properties.

What do the studies say?

There are studies that researched the effects of ACV on certain skin conditions like eczema. An animal study published in 2016 found that treating the skin of mice with eczema with acidic creams, including a vinegar-based cream, resulted in fewer flares and improved hydration. [2] However, another small study tested ACV soaks on 22 people with eczema, and those people reported that it did not improve skin barrier and caused skin irritation. [3]

These studies had mixed results that showed ACV can help reduce symptoms and help encourage healing, but there is more research needed to conclude that it does in fact help boost skin health. Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure to dilute ACV properly, undiluted vinegar can cause burning and irritation on the skin. And as with any natural remedies, talk to your dermatologist or healthcare provider before considering using ACV as a topical solution - the studies are mixed and not worth taking risks on your skin!

Can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels

This is another popular health benefits ACV claims to have! Taking ACV daily in the morning or after consuming a carb-rich meal has been said to help lower blood sugar levels, insulin response, and even cholesterol levels.

What do the studies say?

In terms of cholesterol, there is some research that suggests it's beneficial for heart health, but most studies were conducted on animals. For example, this animal study showed that obese rats who took ACV daily had a reduction in total LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, take this information with a grain of salt since it was concluded on animals, not humans. [4] The studies are a little more promising for blood sugar...

High blood sugar levels are caused by insulin resistance and can cause aging, and various heart diseases including type 2 diabetes. The best way to regular blood sugar levels is by reducing the amount of sugar and refined carbs consumed, but ACV seems to also have a beneficial effect. One particular study showed that vinegar improved insulin sensitivity by 19-24% during a high carb meal, thus significantly lowering blood sugar and insulin response. [5] Another small study conducted on people with diabetes reported that those that consumed 2 tablespoons of ACV with a glass of water before bed had reduced fasting glucose levels by 4% the following morning. [6] 

There are numerous studies with similar conclusions, but as always, research is mixed. As you can see, it has helped in terms of blood sugar, but cholesterol studies require more research. 

Reduced inflammation

Inflammation in the boy is usually the sign of an inflammatory condition or bad gut health. Unfortunately, there are no studies that explore ACV as a way to reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. But ACV may be useful for those with gastrointestinal symptoms from bad gut health.

What do the studies say?

Taking ACV in the morning can help improve gut bacteria which affects inflammation in the body. Apple cider vinegar contains a variety of nutrients that helps the body to reduce inflammation. It has an alkaline pH, helps reduce insulin levels (previously discussed), contains antioxidants, and vitamin C, and B which in turn help reduce inflammation, stress, and contribute to a healthy immune system. There are not many studies that link ACV to reduced inflammation, but a mouse study in 2004 found that it was effective with chronic pain and inflammation due to the presence of nutrients like vitamin B. [7]

Despite studies being mixed, many people (generally those that follow a healthy diet) swear by ACV. Is it a magic weight-loss tool that does it all? No, but it is a fermented product that contains probiotics that are known to improve gut health, and for those that don't know, gut health is linked to so many wonderful health benefits! But before you buy into the hype there are some side effects you should consider...

Are there any risks or side effects?

Apple cider vinegar is generally safe to consume, that is when consumed in moderation. However, there's no agreed-upon dosage. Most people stick to 1-2 tablespoons of ACV with 8 oz of water in the morning. Harvard University recommends diluting it even further and stick to 1 to 2 tsp prior to or during meals. [8] Try to stick to this range to be safe, the side effects aren't extremely dangerous, but it's best to avoid symptoms if you can!

So, what are the possible side effects?

  • Decrease potassium levels - This can be dangerous for those with high blood pressure.
  • It can cause low blood pressure when combined with certain medications (including diuretics and insulin) - As always, seek medical advice from your doctor before trying ACV or any products, especially if you are taking prescribed medication.
  • It can cause tooth enamel to erode - To avoid this limit the amount you consume and always dilute it with plenty of water. If you can, rinse out your mouth with water after consumption.
  • It can irritate the throat and stomach - ACV is an acetic acid, aka it's very acidic, so it can irritate the throat, and cause an upset stomach if taken without a meal. To avoid this, dilute it with plenty of water and consume it with or after a meal.

Apple cider vinegar uses

As you can see now, apple cider vinegar is not the magic weight loss cure everyone claims it to be. But it doesn't make it bad either, it's just not the superfood you thought it was! However, it does contain so many great nutrients like vitamin B, C, magnesium, and probiotics that are essential for many important processes in the body. It's an ingredient that can help you manage your blood sugar levels, promote good bacteria, and better gut health, as long it's paired with a healthy diet and exercise. So, if you want to see what the hype is about give it a shot - after consulting with your doctor.

There are many ways to incorporate this ingredient aside from drinking it with warm water and lemon. Although this method is the most popular, it's not the best-tasting one. Instead, incorporate it in your foods, it is vinegar after all! ACV can be used in cooking as a marinade and salad dressings. Use it to add a tangy flavor to your coleslaw, barbecued beef, and as suggested by Bragg (popular ACV brand) sprinkle it over popcorn!

In summary, don't believe every trend or fad in the diet and fitness world. Most of the time these trends are simply anecdotal reports that are not always backed by research. Apple cider vinegar may not be as great as it seems, but it's still a very good ingredient to incorporate into your everyday life. Just remember, that when it comes to weight loss or achieving any fitness goal, it all comes down to your nutrition and physical activity!