Wellness Tips: Can a shot of apple-cider vinegar a day keep the doctor away?

I’ve read that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, digestion, and other health concerns. Should I be drinking it daily?

From curing hiccups and acne to promoting weight loss and stabilizing blood sugar, results from a quick internet search may make apple cider vinegar sound like the newfound silver bullet. Could this pantry staple truly be a magical elixir in disguise? If model Candice Huffine uses it on her scalp and skin, and “chugs” it with her Super Bowl snacks, there must be truth to these claims, right?

First, let’s clarify that most of the claims surrounding apple cider vinegar are about the unfiltered, unpasteurized variety made by fermenting apples and leaving the “mother” of the apple, or a cobweb-like substance (similar to a scoby in kombucha) that is removed in pasteurized products. It’s thought that the “mother” is rich in enzymes and antibacterial properties. In addition, the acidic nature from the acetic acid is said to play a role in some of the purported benefits.

If the headlines have gotten your hopes up about a new tool to speed up weight loss, we’re sorry to disappoint you. One small study among Japanese men did show that those who drank 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar diluted with water before a meal lost 2 pounds over 12 weeks — not exactly a life-changing amount. Research has shown stronger links to blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes. Drinking two tablespoons of vinegar (diluted with water) either before bed or before a meal showed some benefit, but not enough to warrant a change in medication. It should also be noted that one of the studies only resulted in better control when eaten with complex carbohydrates — vegetables and whole grains — which are already known to help control blood sugar spikes on their own. Even less supported by research are the claims that it reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, which are based on studies among rats, not humans.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help clear up acne or other skin conditions, likely related to the acid content, though there is no clinical evidence to support these claims. Similarly, some people believe that it can heal digestive woes, particularly among those with low stomach acid, but research does not support this either.

If you decide to try this natural remedy (whether you’re drinking it or applying it to your skin), be sure to dilute the vinegar with a good amount of water: the suggested ratio is about 1 tablespoon of vinegar per 8 ounces of water. There have been some reports of skin burns, primarily among children, so check with your doctor before using.

Apple cider vinegar is likely a low-return remedy, but it’s also low risk. Drinking vinegar water is not exactly thirst quenching, but apple cider vinegar can easily be used to make a tasty homemade salad dressing, a marinade for meat, or to add a splash of flavor to roasted vegetables for very few calories.

 

At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about. That’s why we have a team of registered dietitian nutritionists ready to answer your nutrition questions about which food choices will help you avoid unwanted pounds, work or study (and sleep!) better, and form long-lasting healthy eating habits. Email your questions and feedback to nutrition@cafebonappetit.com