Vinegar is water and a percentage of acetic acid—the latter the conversion of ethanol and oxygen, or fermentation. Humans have been using vinegar for thousands of years as a medicine, to preserve foods, to disinfect or clean, and for cooking. Modern science isn’t so sure about the benefits for wound healing or infection fighting, but it is known that vinegar may help regulate glucose; and there’s some evidence it can help with appetite control—more specifically it can help you feel full.
Cooking with vinegar is another story. It’s widely known that vinegars—especially flavored vinegars—are a culinary basic, even a treasure, for pickling, flavoring, marinating, condiments, dressings, sauces, and myriad other uses in cuisines globally. Vinegar comes in various forms and flavors; some are everyday and others are rare and expensive.
But let’s talk about apple cider vinegar—specifically raw (unfiltered, unrefined) apple cider vinegar—that maintains ‘the Mother:’ the so-called Mother good-for-you living bacteria culture (though I don’t know how alive and well it is by the time it gets to your gut).
Some claim apple cider vinegar is more elixir than pantry staple and will not only provide good health, but aid in weight loss. Let’s see.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet Claims
There is no one trademarked “apple cider vinegar diet,” but there are no shortage of apple cider vinegar weight loss products: from apple cider vinegar books to apple cider vinegar supplements, and of course, apple cider vinegar itself. They all claim to do the same thing; aid in weight loss and fat burning.
In a nutshell, the near-century-old health food store Bragg is the maker of its certified Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized, and 5 percent acidity with the “Mother,” which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules. This cider vinegar is the basis for the Bragg book and “miracle health system.”
You’ll soon see what users have to say about Bragg vinegar; but is it a miracle? Bragg claims its vinegar can “increase your energy, help fight diabetes, improve heart health and support fat burning and weight loss,” as per the video of an endorsement by “Dr. Axe” (viewed on YouTube nearly 800,000 times) on the Bragg homepage alerts.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diets Ingredients
There are a slew of apple cider vinegar supplement pills on the market for people that don’t want to swallow apple cider vinegar. The pills—capsules or compressed tablets—are allegedly made from a powder form of apple cider vinegar (more in a moment). Different brands have different strengths, from 100 to 500 milligrams. The latter may be equal to two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar—twice the often-suggested daily serving—diluted with water before drinking.
An article published in the July 2005 Journal of the American Dietetic Association characterized “apple cider vinegar products advertised in the popular press and over the Internet for treatment of a variety of conditions,” but found some troubling facts about the pills/capsules. One person suffered a permanent burn of the esophagus after consuming them, and that incident led researchers to test eight different apple cider vinegar tablets. The results:
Considerable variability was found between the brands in tablet size, pH, component acid content, and label claims. Doubt remains as to whether apple cider vinegar was in fact an ingredient in the evaluated products. The inconsistency and inaccuracy in labeling, recommended dosages, and unsubstantiated health claims make it easy to question the quality of the products. (emphasis added)
In other words, so-called apple cider vinegar pills are, at best, inconsistent, and at worst fraudulent and dangerous. Full stop. Do not take these pills.
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind Apple Cider Vinegar Diets
Arizona State University professor and researcher Carol Johnston knows quite a bit about the science of vinegar and its medicinal uses. Her co-authored study, published in the 2006 Medscape General Medicine journal, found that swallowing vinegar “reduces the glucose response to a carbohydrate load in healthy adults and in individuals with diabetes.”
So, potential for pre-diabetics and helpful as an anti-glycemic when consumed with starches (carbs). And, it may aid in satiety. Johnston’s study sums it up like this:
Vinegar is widely available; it is affordable; and, as a remedy, it is appealing. But whether vinegar is a useful adjunct therapy for individuals with diabetes or prediabetes has yet to be determined.
And as far as weight loss goes, I found just one human study on vinegar and weight loss. One, published in the August 2009 Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. And of the 175 subjects studied in Japan, the weight they lost was not significant. The subjects were also on a calorie and carb-restricted diet, so who’s to know?
And WebMD says there is insufficient evidence for any and all claims. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for what some allege it does; it simply means there’s no solid scientific evidence to back up those claims.
Word on the Street about Apple Cider Vinegar Diets
It’s honestly hard to understand how science says that apple cider vinegar may have some limited health benefits, but users insist that this is a life-changing food bordering on miraculous. I have no doubt apple cider vinegar—or any vinegar—is a good food. And it may help regulate blood sugar, possibly help satiate, and be an effective if somewhat smelly household cleanser. But beyond that, I don’t know. But these users seem to know, very well. Not sure what I am missing.
“CYA” had immediate positive effects:
“Brenda Stearns” says Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (referenced as ACV) will “make your life better.” And, you’ll lose weight. She says she did.
And “PositveCurvyFitness” says apple cider vinegar helps her with everything:
But there were skeptics.
One recent Amazon purchaser who bought the ebook called it “Outdated or quackery.”
“Jill Bemis” goes on to say:
The Bragg system aside, what about an actual “apple cider vinegar diet” review?
A fairly recent review from “Tom Carter” advises us to “read this.”
Hmm. Math. So, around 2 pounds a week give or take an ounce or two. Me, my weight fluctuates by up to 3 or 4 pounds on any given day, so I would have no way of being this precise.
There are also lots of actual apple cider vinegar brands for sale, and they and their ratings vary. But then there’s the pills. The Amazon “best seller” is a brand called Herbal Secrets. For $10 you get 120 capsules.
Of 470 user ratings, this supplement earned a 4-star average. It’s allegedly apple cider vinegar powder, but it turns out, many people who bought it also bought a potent Garcinia Cambogia and Green Tea supplement as a companion.
Recent user “Michael J.” says “Go for it!”
I’m pretty sure that’s not what raw, organic ‘Mother’-infused apple cider vinegar had in mind.
The Bottom Line: Are Apple Cider Vinegar Diets Worth a Try?
Depends. It can’t hurt.
Well, let me qualify that: because of the acid, it can mess with your belly and can burn your throat or worse. And, for some diabetics, it can mess with blood sugar.
That said, for people at risk for diabetes it may do a fairly good job of keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel—and, the higher the acidity, the better the sugar control. And it may make you feel full longer, if you have a starchy food dressed with apple cider vinegar. Plus, it’s an antioxidant so there’s that.
Consuming it in a culinary way makes sense. Maybe a marinade ingredient, or on a salad with olive oil and a few sprinkles of dried—or even better, fresh—herbs in your spice rack like some oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, or sage.
Otherwise, I’m not buying into the claim that if you drink apple cider vinegar every day it will help you lose weight, even if it is 5,000 years old.
Also, I have used it as a cleaning solution. I am not a fan. Not because it doesn’t work, but because there’s a lot better options for a lovely smelling natural cleanser, like lemon. Vinegar? Nah.