As an ancient folk remedy, Apple cider vinegar has been used over centuries for various household chores, as a preservative and in cooking. Today, it is the most popular vinegar in the natural health community, which promotes many of its benefits. A few find some support in research, including weight loss, reduced cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels and improved symptoms of diabetes.
Below are 9 health benefits of apple cider vinegar supported by scientific study.
1. Boasts Potent Biological Effects
Apple cider vinegar is made in a two-step process related to how alcohol is made. In French, the word “vinegar” actually means “sour wine.” The first step exposes crushed apples (or apple cider) to yeast, which ferment the sugars and turn them into alcohol. In the second step, bacteria are added to the alcohol solution, further fermenting the alcohol turning it into acetic acid — the main active compound in vinegar.
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (like Bragg’s) also contains “mother” – strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance. Some people believe the “mother” is responsible for most of the health benefits, although there are few published studies to support this.
Apple cider vinegar only contains about three calories per tablespoon, which is very low. There are not many vitamins or minerals in it, but it does contain a small amount of potassium. Quality apple cider vinegar also contains some amino acids and antioxidants.
2. Kills Many Types of Harmful Bacteria
Vinegar can help kill pathogens, including bacteria. It has traditionally been used for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts and ear infections.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar for wound cleaning over two thousand years ago. Vinegar has also been used as a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria (like E. coli) from growing in food and spoiling it. If you’re looking for a natural way to preserve your food, apple cider vinegar could be highly useful.
There have also been anecdotal reports of diluted apple cider vinegar helping with acne when applied to the skin, but there is not strong research to confirm this. The main substance in vinegar, acetic acid, can kill harmful bacteria or prevent them from multiplying. It has a history of use as a disinfectant and natural preservative.
3. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Fights Diabetes
By far, the most successful application of vinegar to date is in patients with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels, either because of insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin. Also, high blood sugar can also be a problem in people who don’t have diabetes. It is believed to be a major cause of aging and various chronic diseases.
Pretty much everyone should benefit from keeping their blood sugar levels in the normal range. The most effective (and healthiest) way to do that is to avoid refined carbs and sugar, but apple cider vinegar can also have a powerful effect.
Vinegar has been shown to have numerous benefits for blood sugar and insulin levels:
- Improves insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by 19–34% and significantly lowers blood sugar and insulin responses.
- Reduces blood sugar by 34% after eating 50 grams of white bread.
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime can reduce fasting blood sugar in the morning by 4%.
- Numerous other studies in humans show that vinegar can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels after meals.
Apple cider vinegar may also increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the blood to the tissues where it can be used as fuel. Sustaining elevated levels of insulin can cause insulin resistance, which reduces its effectiveness and leads to high blood sugar and diabetes. A study in Diabetes Care showed that vinegar ingestion helped significantly improve insulin sensitivity by up to 34 percent in those with either type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. (1)
To keep blood sugar levels stable, try diluting one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water and consuming before meals. Additionally, be sure to moderate carbohydrate intake, increase your consumption of fiber and protein foods and get in plenty of regular physical activity to drop blood sugar levels even more.
For these reasons, vinegar can be useful for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those who want to keep their blood sugar levels low for other reasons. If you’re currently taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, check with your doctor before increasing your intake of any type of vinegar.
4. Helps You Lose Weight and Reduces Belly Fat
Surprisingly, studies also show that vinegar can help you lose weight. Several human studies demonstrate vinegar can increase satiety, help you eat fewer calories and lead to actual pounds lost on the scale. For example, when people take vinegar along with a high-carb meal, they get increased feelings of fullness and end up eating 200–275 fewer calories for the rest of the day.
A study in 175 people with obesity showed that daily apple cider vinegar consumption led to reduced belly fat and weight loss:
- 15 mL (1 tablespoon): Lost 2.6 pounds, or 1.2 kilograms.
- 30 mL (2 tablespoons): Lost 3.7 pounds, or 1.7 kilograms.
However, keep in mind that this study went on for 3 months, so the true effects on body weight seem to be rather modest. Just adding or subtracting single foods or ingredients rarely has a noticeable effect on weight. It’s an entire diet and improved lifestyle that matters; you may need to combine several effective changes to see results.
Overall, it seems like apple cider vinegar is useful as a weight loss aid, mainly by promoting satiety and lowering blood sugar and insulin levels. While it won’t work any miracles on its own, studies suggest vinegar can increase feelings of fullness and help people eat fewer calories, which leads to weight loss.
5. Lowers Cholesterol and Improves Heart Health
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. High blood cholesterol puts a strain on your heart, forcing it to work harder to push blood throughout the body.
Heart disease is currently the world’s most common cause of premature death. It is known that several biological factors are linked to either a decreased or increased risk of heart disease. Several of these “risk factors” may be improved by vinegar consumption, but many of the supporting studies were done in animals.
These animal studies suggest that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, along with several other heart disease risk factors. There are also some studies showing that vinegar reduces blood pressure in rats, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and kidney problems.
The only human evidence so far is an observational study from Harvard showing women who ate salad dressings with vinegar had a reduced risk of heart disease. However, this type of study can only show an association – it cannot prove that the vinegar caused anything.
As mentioned above, human studies also show that apple cider vinegar can lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and help fight diabetes. These factors should also lead to reduced risk of heart disease.
Besides including a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar in your diet each day, other ways to lower cholesterol fast include minimizing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, including a good variety of healthy fats in your diet and eating a few servings of fish per week.
6. May Have Protective Effects Against Cancer
Cancer is a terrible disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. There is a lot of hype online about the anti-cancer effects of apple cider vinegar. In fact, numerous studies have shown that various types of vinegar can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. However, all of the studies on this were done in isolated cells in test tubes, or rats, which proves nothing about what happens in a living, breathing human.
That said, some observational studies in humans have shown that vinegar consumption is linked to decreased esophageal cancer in China, but increased bladder cancer in Serbia. It is possible that consuming apple cider vinegar may help prevent cancer, but this needs to be researched more before any recommendations can be made.
7. Improves Skin Health
Apple cider vinegar doesn’t just benefit your internal health; it has also been shown to treat acne and reduce scarring. Certain strains of bacteria often contribute to the development of acne. Vinegar is well-known for its antibacterial properties and has been shown to be effective against many strains of harmful bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar also contains specific components like acetic acid, lactic acid, succinic acid and citric acid, all of which have been shown to inhibit the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, the specific strain of bacteria responsible for causing acne.
These beneficial components may also reduce scarring. A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology showed that treating acne scars with lactic acid for three months led to improvements in the texture, pigmentation and appearance of treated skin as well as a lightening of scars. Adding some probiotic foods into your diet, using healing masks and toners and keeping your skin well-moisturized are some other effective home remedies for acne as well.
8. Reduces Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It forces the heart to work harder, causing the heart muscle to weaken and deteriorate over time.
Apple cider vinegar benefits your blood pressure levels, helping to keep your heart healthy and strong. An animal study in Japan showed that giving rats acetic acid, the main component in vinegar, resulted in reduced levels of blood pressure. Another animal study had similar findings, demonstrating that vinegar effectively blocked the actions of a specific enzyme that raises blood pressure.
Other natural ways to lower blood pressure include increasing your intake of magnesium and potassium, upping your fiber intake and swapping the salt and processed foods for whole foods.
9. Relieves Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, is a condition characterized by acid backflow from the stomach up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, belching and nausea. Acid reflux is often a result of having low levels of stomach acid. If this is the case for you, drinking apple cider vinegar may help provide relief from acid reflux symptoms by introducing more acid into the digestive tract to prevent acid backflow.
For best results, dilute one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in an 8-ounce glass of water and drink just before eating. Additionally, remember to follow an acid reflux diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats and fermented foods to slash symptoms even more.
Dosage and How to Use
The best way to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet is to use it in your cooking — for salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise and that sort of thing.
Some people also like to dilute it in water and drink it as a beverage. Common dosages range from 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) to 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) per day, mixed in a large glass of water.
It’s best to start with small doses and avoid taking large amounts – too much vinegar may have harmful side effects. It is recommended to use organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the “mother.”
The Bottom Line
There are a number of likely over-inflated claims about apple cider vinegar. Some say it can increase energy levels and deliver all sorts of beneficial effects on health. Unfortunately, many of these claims are not supported by science. Of course, absence of proof does not invalidate that something is happening, and anecdotes often end up becoming supported by science down the line.
Apple cider vinegar also has various other non-health related uses like hair conditioning, deoderant, dental care, pet use and as a cleaning agent (to name a few). These can be highly useful for people who like to keep things as natural and chemical-free as possible.
From the little evidence available, it appears apple cider vinegar may be useful and is definitely a viable candidate for some experimentation if you’re interested and your physician agrees. At the very least, apple cider vinegar seems to be safe as long as you don’t go overboard and take excessive amounts.
While apple cider vinegar appears to be very healthy, it is not a “miracle” or a “cure-all” like so many seem to believe. It does clearly have some important health benefits, especially in lowering blood sugar and aiding in weight control. Still, it should not be viewed as a quick fix when it comes to your health. Instead, it should be paired with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle for best possible results.
Although apple cider vinegar is healthy and safe for most people, consuming large amounts may lead to some negative effects on health. Apple cider vinegar side effects include erosion of tooth enamel, burning of the throat or skin and decreased levels of potassium.
Be sure to always dilute apple cider vinegar in water instead of drinking it straight to prevent negative side effects. You should also start with a low dose and work your way up to assess your tolerance, and always consult with a physician.
If you’re taking blood sugar medications, talk to your doctor before using apple cider vinegar. Because apple cider vinegar may help reduce blood sugar levels, you may need to modify your dosage of diabetes medications to prevent hypoglycemia symptoms.
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- Johnston CS, et al. Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004 Jan;27(1):281-2.