Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss: What You Need To Know

You’ve probably heard of the apple cider vinegar weight loss diet. In fact, it was Google’s most searched health topic in 2017, as reported by Harvard Health.¹ Its popularity reached its peak in that year, but the benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) actually extend back much further than a few years ago. In fact, it goes back centuries.

According to WVU, the trend dates back to 5,000 BC when Babylonians used the fruit of a date palm to make vinegar, and 400 BC when the father of modern medicine in Ancient Greece started prescribing apple cider for common cough and colds.²

Skip ahead to the 21st century, and studies show there are still many benefits to the trend. Here's everything you need to know about drinking apple cider vinegar for weight loss today and the additional health benefits it's known to bring to those who consume it. 

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What apple cider vinegar is

Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice. Apples are crushed until the juice comes out and combined with yeast until the sugars in the juice turn into alcohol (or ethanol). The juice is then fermented by the bacteria that convert the alcohol to acetic acid.³ The acetic acid is what gives apple cider vinegar its strong smell and sour taste.

After the fermentation process, cloudy strands of 'mother' form. These are the yeast and bacteria that separated, and although they may be removed and used for the next batch of vinegar, there have been claims of additional health benefits when consumed. However, those claims have yet to be backed by research.

Vinegar has been traditionally used as a flavoring for food, like salad dressing, and even as a common medicine in many cultures. In the United States, it has become particularly popular today for its success in weight loss and other health benefits.

The three most popular ways people consume apple cider vinegar to enjoy its health and weight loss benefits include:

  1. Drinking the vinegar

  2. Taking capsules (pill form)

  3. Eating gummies

It’s important to know that ACV’s nutritional value includes pectin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, biotin, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, polyphenols, and amino acids.⁴ 

Apple cider vinegar does help with weight loss

While more studies need to be done, a couple of studies support the theory that apple cider vinegar is beneficial for weight loss.

Among the most well-known research is a 2009 study (published online in 2014), which evaluated 155 participants divided into groups. One group took one tablespoon of vinegar a day, the second took two tablespoons of vinegar a day, and the last group did not take any vinegar. The groups that took vinegar lost an average of two to four pounds compared to no weight loss among those who did not.⁵

An additional 2018 study gathered 39 participants for a 12-week investigation on the results of a restricted-calorie diet with apple cider vinegar versus a restricted-calorie diet without apple cider vinegar. Due to the diet, both groups lost weight. However, the group that also took apple cider vinegar saw better results than those without.⁶

While these studies suggest that apple cider vinegar may be effective for weight loss, the amount of weight loss is not substantial. You should still consult your doctor about developing a healthy and safe routine that combines exercise, a healthy diet, and apple cider vinegar for more ideal results.

Additional health benefits associated with ACV

Weight loss isn't the only benefit associated with apple cider vinegar. There are many claims of ACV being useful in medicinal and health-related treatments. However, they're not all confirmed.

Some of the associated benefits that have been supported by research include:

Boosts antioxidant protection

It has been shown that vinegar as a dietary source boosts antioxidant protection.⁷ However, further research is needed.

Lowers bad cholesterol 

Due to its antioxidants, ACV may also help reduce 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels.⁸ However, it's important to note that this has only been tested on animals, so it also needs more research for confirmation.

Manages blood sugar levels

ACV can also be beneficial for managing blood sugar levels if incorporated into your meal plans.⁹

Improves skin health

By killing bacteria and preventing infections on the skin, ACV can also improve skin health.⁴ However, if used incorrectly or applied directly to the skin, it can cause chemical burns.¹⁰

How much apple cider vinegar you should drink

Before taking ACV, you should consult a doctor because the dosage can vary by age, health, and condition. It is safer to wait to continue until your doctor gives you the okay.

No matter what dosage your doctor recommends, you should always dilute apple cider vinegar before taking it. The concentration is very acidic, so there is potential damage or irritation to your stomach and esophagus if taken straight.¹¹ It is advised that you do not take a shot of ACV and then chase it with food or liquids. Instead, mix a small amount into a glass of water before drinking.

A sufficient amount of apple cider vinegar needed to receive its full benefits is one to two spoonfuls before your meal or at bedtime.¹² To dilute it, you should combine a large glass of water with one to two tablespoons of ACV.

Taking apple cider vinegar with meals may also be beneficial compared to not taking it at all.¹³ While there aren't any studies to further support whether it's better to take ACV with or without food, Elizabeth Abel, a licensed functional nutritionist, does say that a little bit of ACV before eating can help you digest your food more easily.¹¹

Two tablespoons of ACV at bedtime can also improve the glucose levels of those generally healthy or have good control over their blood sugar levels.¹⁴

What you need to know beforehand

While apple cider vinegar is safe and even beneficial for many people, there are some side effects you should be aware of before taking it for weight management. Like with anything you consume, there is such a thing as too much.

Here are some signs you may have consumed too much apple cider vinegar, or what you can expect when you excessively add it to your diet:

Tooth decay and cavities

Since apple cider vinegar is acidic, consuming too much of it can cause your tooth enamel to be damaged and weakened over time.¹⁵ This can lead to sensitivities to sweets and hot/cold temperatures, and sometimes procedures for repairs and fillings.

Low potassium

According to Dr. Robert H. Shmerling at Harvard Health Publishing, there have been reports of ACV worsening or causing low potassium levels.¹ He adds that this can be particularly problematic when combined with other medications known to lower potassium levels.

Worsened acid reflux

People need to be careful about overly acidic foods like apple cider vinegar because too much can negatively worsen the burning sensations of heartburn and acid reflux.¹⁶

Interactions with other drugs

ACV may have a negative impact on certain medical conditions and medications when used simultaneously.¹⁷ Before adding it to your diet plan, discuss with your doctor the potential risks it carries associated with your conditions and medications.

Since there hasn't been a significant amount of research focused on apple cider vinegar, there can be more side effects that have yet to be identified and studied. Always consult your doctor before starting and with any concerns you may have.

Myths about ACV

There have been many claims about apple cider vinegar over the years, and while some have held up in studies, some have been debunked by research. Among those that have been debunked are the claims that ACV can:

Get rid of lice

ACV was believed to get rid of lice, but researchers proved this to be the least useful treatment strategy for both killing the lice and stopping the hatching of eggs.⁷

Treat hemorrhoids

Although there are people who claim that apple cider vinegar relieves symptoms associated with hemorrhoids, Cleveland Clinic advises that you do not use ACV for your hemorrhoids.¹⁸ The problem is that it can burn your skin if overused, and it also has the potential to worsen your symptoms rather than relieve them.

Cure ear infections

Although diluted vinegar can be effective in treating ear infections, apple cider vinegar should not be used because it can irritate inflamed skin and harm your cochlear outer hair cells.⁷ It is much safer, and therefore advised, that you consult your doctor instead. 

The lowdown

With all things considered, apple cider vinegar is safe to consume. Still, there isn't any substantial research to back its claims of fast and easy weight loss. The studies that have been done suggest a slight boost in weight loss, with additional health benefits like antioxidant protection, lowered bad cholesterol, skin health, and reduced blood sugar levels that make it an ideal supplement for adults.

Before participating in the popular weight-loss trend, however, you should also consider the common myths and side effects of taking ACV regularly.

ACV has not been proven to treat lice, hemorrhoids, and ear infections. If you are struggling with any of these conditions, consult your doctor. Be aware that side effects of taking ACV may include tooth enamel decay and cavities, low potassium, chemical burns, worsened acid reflux symptoms, and potential interruptions with other medications.

More research is needed to confirm benefits and explore additional side effects.

  1. Apple cider vinegar diet: Does it really work? | Harvard Health Publishing

  2. Apple cider vinegar myths & facts | Extension Service

  3. Apple cider vinegar | Nourish by WebMD

  4. 20 Benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar | MedicineNet

  5. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects (2014)

  6. Beneficial effects of apple cider vinegar on weight management, visceral adiposity index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial (2018)

  7. Vinegar: Medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect (2006)

  8. Beneficial effects of apple vinegar on hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia in hypercaloric-fed rats (2020)

  9. Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses; a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials (2017)

  10. Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar (2012)

  11. 8 Things you should never do while taking apple cider vinegar | The Healthy

  12. How should people take apple cider vinegar? | Medical News Today

  13. Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses; a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials (2017)

  14. Vinegar ingestion at bedtime moderates waking glucose concentrations in adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes (2007)

  15. In vitro study on dental erosion caused by different vinegar varieties using an electron microprobe (2014)

  16. 14 Apple cider vinegar side effects to know about if you drink it all the time | Women’s Health

  17. Apple cider vinegar | Drugs.com

  18. 5 Best and worst home remedies for your hemorrhoids | Cleveland Clinic

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