What is the apple cider vinegar diet, specifically? Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries, and now it’s touted for weight loss. Find out if it works.
Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples, then distilling and fermenting them. The resulting vinegar has a distinctive taste and is used in preparation of various foods and in salad dressings. Vinegar has also been used medicinally for thousands of years and, over the past decade, a few studies have found one health benefit of vinegar could be weight loss.
Countless websites and dozens of books have latched onto this idea, promoting consuming apple cider vinegar to quickly drop excess pounds. Some proponents of the so-called apple cider vinegar diet even call it a “miracle cure” for those who are overweight or obese.
But what is the apple cider vinegar diet, specifically? Compared to many weight loss regimes, the main tenet of the diet is simple. Instead of restricting certain foods, the diet primarily relies on drinking about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, usually in water before a meal. The vinegar drink can be taken once or twice a day.
But does apple cider vinegar have research to back it up as a weight loss aid? Here’s what studies say so far.
Is the apple cider vinegar diet useful?
A review of the historic uses of vinegar by Arizona State University researchers notes the Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, treated wounds with vinegar in 420 BC to avoid infections. By the late 18th century, many ailments, ranging from poison ivy, croup and stomach ache, were treated with vinegar. Moreover, vinegar “teas” were commonly prescribed for diabetics before insulin was available.
In recent years, scientists have backed up some of these traditional uses for vinegar. For example, researchers at Middlesex University in London found apple cider vinegar has significant antibacterial effects on many infectious agents, including the potentially serious infections staph and E. coli. A small study published by the American Diabetes Association found apple cider vinegar might be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. The research subjects had improved insulin sensitivity after incorporating about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily into their daily diet.
What’s more, findings from several additional studies suggest the vinegar could have a positive impact on glucose metabolism and help with weight loss, too.
That may sound like there’s proof the apple cider vinegar diet works. But there’s a catch: Most of this research has been conducted primarily with animals, mainly in rodents. For example, a study that found acetic acid, a component of vinegar, suppressed body fat accumulation and improved metabolism in rats fed a high fat diet.
Unfortunately, animal studies don’t always translate into similar results when it comes to people, and human research on the apple cider vinegar diet and weight loss has been relatively scant, so far.
One study of 175 obese men, published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, did report small weight losses resulting from apple vinegar (a clear form of vinegar made from apples that contains most of the same chemical make-up as apple cider vinegar).
A third of the research subjects consumed a drink with no apple vinegar while the other participants were served drinks containing one or two tablespoons of apple vinegar a day. After three months, the study volunteers who consumed the vinegar drinks lost a modest amount of weight, about two to four pounds.
Another small study, published in the Journal of Functional Food, randomly divided 39 research participants into two groups. One group consumed two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar once a day with a meal while the rest of the volunteers did not receive a vinegar-containing drink. All the research subjects were put on meal plans that cut about 250 calories out of their usual diets, too.
At the end of 12 weeks, those who had consumed the vinegar lost almost nine pounds. Those who did not consume the vinegar also lost weight, but they lost about four fewer pounds than the vinegar drinking group.
Bottom line? Apple cider vinegar may promote weight loss
There simply isn’t enough evidence to conclude adding apple cider vinegar to your diet is a sure-fire way to lose weight. However, there are few downsides to giving it a try.
The apple cider vinegar diet involves such a small amount of vinegar, it likely has few health risks (of course, always discuss weight-loss plans with your doctor, especially if you have chronic health problems or are significantly overweight).
However, while consuming apple cider vinegar is considered safe, there are some possible side effects to be aware of if you try the apple cider vinegar diet, according to University of Chicago gastroenterologist Edwin K. McDonald IV, MD:
- Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can erode tooth enamel. So, it makes sense to rinse your mouth with water after drinking it.
- If you have chronic kidney disease, the extra acid in apple cider vinegar could worsen your condition.
- Some people with acid reflux report that apple cider vinegar worsens their heartburn.
Your best bet when it comes to getting weight under control is to eat a healthy diet, avoid excess calories, and get regular exercise, whether or not you opt to try the apple cider vinegar diet.
December 12, 2019
Janet O’Dell, RN