You may have read about the magic of apple cider vinegar or know people who swear it’s a cure-all. It has a long history of use as a home remedy for everything from dandruff and weight loss to infections. But is there any research to support its use?
It turns out that apple cider vinegar isn’t exactly a magical elixir. Still, it might have benefits for some people. Here’s a look at the research on the potential benefits of apple cider vinegar and the best ways to take it.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is basically fermented apple juice. It starts with apples, water, and a little bit of sugar. As the mixture sits, the sugar in the juice ferments and turns into alcohol.
The cloudy sediment you see in raw apple cider vinegar, called “the mother,” is a byproduct of yeast and bacteria. After a few weeks, friendly bacteria in the mixture turn the alcohol into acetic acid, the main component in vinegar. Acetic acid is what gives apple cider vinegar its sour taste.
A tablespoon serving of apple cider vinegar has no calories, carbohydrates, fat, or protein. But raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains antioxidants and live probiotic bacteria. These might account for some of its benefits, but the power is likely in the acetic acid.
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What Are the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
It’s important to note that there is little research on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. The human studies that do exist are on small groups. Still, many of these studies suggest that drinking a small amount of apple cider vinegar daily might benefit some people.
One of its most significant health claims is blood sugar management in people with diabetes. It may lower fasting blood sugar but not A1C levels. The A1C test measures average blood sugar over the past three months.
There is also evidence that taking apple cider vinegar with a meal lowers postprandial (after a meal) blood sugar. Researchers think it works by helping your insulin work better and slowing the rate at which your stomach empties.
Apple cider vinegar may also reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These blood sugar and cholesterol benefits appear strongest in people with diabetes. It’s also more effective when you take it regularly for an extended period.
“Apple cider vinegar may provide a good nutritional support in controlling blood sugar and cholesterol in addition to the medical management recommended by your doctor,” says Hande Atalay, MD, of White Oak Primary Care-UPMC.
Other Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar or other types of vinegar can reduce certain types of bacteria in food. You can use it to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. Fill your sink with water, add 1 cup of apple cider or white vinegar, and let your produce soak for 15 minutes.
But the acetic acid in vinegar isn’t strong enough to treat wounds or infections. You should get proper medical care for those. It’s also not nearly as effective as bleach or other disinfectants in killing germs around your house.
Some people dilute apple cider vinegar with water and use it as a skin cleanser, toner, or acne treatment. There’s no research to show how well it works. But there are some reports of skin burns from people who don’t dilute the vinegar before applying it.
How to Take Apple Cider Vinegar
If you want to try apple cider vinegar, stick to no more than one tablespoon diluted in a cup of water. If you use a larger serving or don’t dilute it, the acetic acid can erode your tooth enamel over time. And too much apple cider vinegar may irritate your esophagus or worsen reflux symptoms.
You can also try apple cider vinegar gummies or pills. There isn’t a standardized dose, so follow the directions on the label. It’s considered safe for most people but check with your doctor to ensure it won’t interact with medications or a health condition.
The best way to use apple cider vinegar is with food. Combine it with olive oil, a little mustard, and some honey if desired, and use it as a salad dressing. You’ll get the possible benefits of vinegar — plus the proven benefits of more vegetables in your diet.
The bottom line is that apple cider vinegar may have some health benefits. But don’t expect it alone to improve your blood sugar, cholesterol, or anything else. For the best results, add it to other healthy foods, like a big salad.
Medscape General Medicine. Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect. LINK
BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. The Effect of Apple Cider Vinegar on Lipid Profiles and Glycemic Parameters: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. LINK
Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. Vinegar Consumption Can Attenuate Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. LINK
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Nutrition is vital for maintaining your overall health. UPMC Nutrition Services offers comprehensive diet and nutrition counseling on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, weight management, and heart disease. Our team provides medical nutrition therapy for chronic conditions such as celiac disease, cancer, and diabetes. UPMC’s network of registered dietitians is available to help guide all patients toward a healthier life.