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Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Have you heard the news about Apple cider vinegar? Seen headlines that claim it can help you lose weight? What should you make of the story of apple cider vinegar for weight loss on CNN?
The old notion, if it sounds to good to be true it probably is holds firm in this case.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from apples that are crushed then have the juice squeezed out and allowed to ferment. It has many uses including vinaigrettes, salad dressings and food preservatives. Large containers of apple cider vinegar are also bottled and sold. The main ingredient is acetic acid. Most brands of apple cider vinegar like the Bragg’s one pictured below are between 5-6% acetic acid. Acetic acid is a weak acid, meaning it is not as harmful to your body as other acids such as hydrochloric acid (strong acid) would be.
1. Can I really see massive weight loss?
There may be stories on the internet of weight loss from 30-60 pounds claiming to change nothing but adding apple cider vinegar to the diet. I would not believe any of that as there have been studies on it’s use but none that would support that kind of change.
One story that was touted as being on CNN and had large weight loss claims included a supplement TrimGenesis Garcinia with apple cider vinegar. This was not much more than a marketing ploy and it appeared to conflict with an actual story that was on CNN that had a much more moderate and realistic version of the benefits of apple cider vinegar.
2. Would I lose any weight at all?
There have been studies in lab animals that have shown apple cider vinegar helps to lower blood sugar levels and in doing so decrease insulin levels. They have also shown lowering of body fat in obese rats.
Studies in mice and rats usually doesn’t mean the exact same thing will happen in humans. However, it does give a reason for study of the idea in human subjects.
Small studies in humans have shown weight loss and improvements in other markers such as cholesterol when combined with low calorie diets and other supplementation. However, it is hard to know if the apple cider vinegar caused the weight loss or if it was due to eating fewer calories.
3. Make you feel full
One of the hardest things for most people to do is to stop eating when they feel full. Often serving sizes are bigger than what people need but they eat it anyway.
What about when you are in between meals?
If the last meal you ate made you feel overly full then you are not likely to go grab a snack before you next planned mealtime. Apple cider vinegar may be a help to you in this regard.
Normal metabolism of certain foods is altered by acetic acid. Starches that are not fully metabolized move through your intestines and are removed in the stool. That can help you have the sensation of still feeling full, which should keep you out of the snacks.
Examples of foods with high amounts of starch:
If you find yourself eating something along these lines, taking some apple cider vinegar before you eat would help achieve a full feeling afterwards.
If you plan to eat candy or drink a diet coke you will get no benefit from apple cider vinegar. It will not stop the absorption of these type of simple sugars.
4. Lowers Insulin resistance
Why is insulin resistance important?
The modernized world is in the midst of an epidemic. Elevated levels of insulin and insulin resistance have caused the proliferation of type 2 diabetes.
The energy components of food we eat is driven into our cells by insulin released from the pancreas. This energy is in the form of carbohydrates in the blood also known as blood sugar. Over time if continually overeating our cells become resistant to always high levels of insulin the pancreas is producing.
More insulin is produced which leads to energy storage in the form of fat and since the cells don’t take up more sugar the level of sugar in our bloodstream becomes very high.
Where does apple cider vinegar fit in?
According to studies acetic acid in apple cider vinegar helps to lower the blood sugar in two ways.
- Prevents certain types of carbohydrates from being absorbed
- Delayed the movement of the food from the stomach into the intestines preventing a spike in blood sugar that would cause more insulin to be released.
To see these benefits the apple cider vinegar should be taken prior to eating the meal.
5. As good as some diabetes drugs?
In a small study done in 2013 on the effects of apple cider vinegar on blood glucose for patients at risk of type 2 diabetes the effects were promising.
The authors compared Bragg’s apple cider vinegar to apple cider vinegar tablets. Both showed a positive effect on blood sugar 2 hours after eating. Results were similar to what was seen for the diabetes drugs metformin and acarbose in trials on healthy patients.
Before you through out your diabetic medications in favor of apple cider vinegar please keep in mind that the diet you eat can affect how the vinegar works. Basically, if you eat meals that don’t contain starch you should not expect to get any benefit from apple cider vinegar. Your diabetes medications will work to lower blood sugar regardless of your diet.
That is more than likely the reason this study did not see a decrease in hemoglobin A1C which is a long term marker of how high your blood sugar has been.
The bottom line for prediabetics or diabetics….
Adding apple cider vinegar to meals that you are eating starchy foods probably would be beneficial, but it isn’t a cure all.
6. Bowel movements
Many articles have been written for apple cider vinegar as a natural laxative. The claim to make you “more regular” in your bowel movements.
To date there are not studies showing this to be the case. However, many anecdotal cases where people swear it helps them stay regular.
More than likely the passage of starchy type foods through the intestines without being absorbed is helping to regulate them. Most foods with starch have some fiber as well and fiber has been proven as the best natural laxative.
Therefore, it isn’t far fetched to think that this could be a benefit of apple cider vinegar. If you suffer from constipation and this does increase your number of bowel movements per week then you just might lose some “stool weight” in the process.
The dose of apple cider vinegar that has been shown in a reputable clinical study to provide benefits was 1 tablespoonful (15ml) twice a day with meals.
That comes out to 30ml per day which is 1 ounce per day.
The Bragg’s brand is sold in a 16 ounce and 128 ounce (1 gallon) sizes.
- 16 ounce cost = $8.40
- 128 ounce cost = $30.79
Monthly cost would be $7.21 for the 1 gallon size to $15.75 for the 16 ounce.
Remember you can also obtain the vinegar you need from salad dressings. You could use the apple cider vinegar with one meal and then salad dressing for the other.
8. Don’t drink it straight!
The main ingredient in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid. Although this is a relatively weak acid it can still cause problems if you drink it without diluting it.
Diluting it in water is the best idea. It never hurts to get another full 8 ounces of water in and if you take this twice a day you will be 16 ounces of water up from what you had been!
If you don’t dilute the apple cider vinegar you can have issues with the enamel of your teeth. You don’t want it to come into contact with your teeth undiluted if you can help it. It is also a good idea to avoid brushing your teeth for about 30 minutes after you have taken apple cider vinegar.
Your esophagus and stomach lining will also thank you. Taking this twice a day, every day could lead to irritation of either of them.
You should avoid taking apple cider vinegar at night before bed. The first issue is that you know by now that this works when taken with food and you shouldn’t be eating right before bed. The other reason is that if you are going to be lying down the acetic acid could creep back up into your esophagus and cause you to have heartburn.
Remember this is not a magic pill. You will likely see benefits if you use apple cider vinegar in your daily diet. However, don’t expect to start using this and forget to eat right and exercise.
Plenty of posts and claims are out there touting this as the new hip thing. Apple cider vinegar has been around for many years there is really nothing new about it.
Like everything in life keep it in perspective. Marketing often makes things sound better than they really are. See the tweet below for an example.
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