How to Improve Your Health Using Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar has been used for thousands of years for medical purposes. The ancient Greeks used it to treat wounds.
Much more recently, the apple cider variety has been tested for its ability to support weight loss, skin health, blood sugar balance, digestion, detox, immunity and for lowering cholesterol. And a growing number of people openly praise its health benefits. But which claims hold water? Is vinegar good for you? Or is apple cider vinegar bad for you? Or some of both?
What Can Apple Cider Vinegar Do for You?
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has been touted for things like nail fungus, warts, lice and ear infections. This may be due to its ability to help kill bacteria. This property helps explain vinegar’s usefulness as a household disinfectant, and it does provide a more healthful option for those who want to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals. But there is little research showing that vinegar can help with skin conditions.
Likewise many enthusiasts want to attribute health benefits for colds, sore throats and acid reflux to ACV. But these claims have very little scientific evidence supporting them.
Good News! Vinegar Offers Benefits for Blood Sugar
Solid research does show that vinegar supports healthy blood sugar levels:
- The American Diabetes Association reports that vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to high-carb meals in people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
- A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutritiondemonstrated that vinegar helped people reduce their blood sugar by 34% after they ate 50 grams of white bread.
- The American Diabetes Association reported that drinking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar at bedtime can lower morning fasting blood sugar by 4%.
- Additional studies demonstrate that vinegar improves insulin function and can help lower blood sugar levels after eating.
High blood sugar has been linked to aging and to some chronic diseases. People with type 2 diabetes have difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels because they experience insulin resistance (insulin can’t penetrate the cells) or they aren’t producing enough insulin. The best way to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels is through the diet—limiting the intake of refined carbs and sugars. NOTE: People who take medicine for the regulation of blood sugar should consult their doctor before beginning a vinegar consumption regimen.
What Exactly Is ACV and How Does it Work?
When you add yeast to apple juice, it ferments. The fruit sugar turns into alcohol, which bacteria then turn into acetic acid. This process gives vinegar a powerful odor and a sour taste.
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains the “mother,” which consists of enzymes, proteins and friendly bacteria that look like sediment or dregs at the bottom of the jar and add to its health benefits. This content may also give the product a cloudy appearance. Vinegar also contains polyphenols—antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage. It also contains small amounts of potassium, an essential mineral.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss and Belly Fat
Can drinking apple cider vinegar daily help you lose weight? According to several human studies, vinegar can increase feelings of fullness, help you eat fewer calories and lead to weight loss. People who drink vinegar with a high-carb meal feel fuller and eat an average of 200–275 fewer calories for the balance of the day. (Sources: Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;59(9):983-8 and J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Dec;105(12):1939-42)
Another study of obese people showed that a daily apple cider vinegar drink led to reduced belly fat and weight loss. (Source: Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43. Epub 2009 Aug 7.)
For best results, it makes sense to include other effective methods that support weight loss as well, including a sensible diet and regular physical activity.
Are Vinegar, Cholesterol and Heart Health Connected?
Animal studies suggest that consuming apple cider vinegar may help lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels and may reduce other cardiovascular disease risk factors. Vinegar may also help lower blood pressure in lab animals. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and kidney problems. One human study showed that women who ate vinaigrette type salad dressings had a lower risk of heart disease (Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):890-7.) But, this data might be simply associated rather than causal.)
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Help Protect Against Cancer?
The Internet is full of hype on this subject. But truth is, several studies show that certain types of vinegar can kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. But these studies were performed in lab animals or in vitro, which does not necessarily correlate to how vinegar might perform in the human body. Further research is needed to see if there’s a viable apple cider vinegar–cancer connection worth noting. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12228,Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):93-7,J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Mar;23(1):69-75.)
What About the Apple Cider Vinegar Detox?
This health craze is popular for sure, but does taking ACV (with or without cinnamon, honey, ginger, lemon or cayenne) truly boost the body’s ability to cleanse or detox? Solid evidence is lacking.
How to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
You may discover health benefits simply from adding apple cider vinegar to your diet in salad dressings, sweet-and-sour recipes, etc. If you want to drink it like a beverage, you should always dilute it. Apple cider vinegar shots are not recommended. Where possible, use organic, unfiltered ACV with the “mother.” Store the open vinegar bottle in the refrigerator.
Webmd.com suggests this apple cider vinegar drink recipe:
- Mix 1–2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar with water or tea (1–2 cups).
- Sweeten with 1 Tbsp honey if desired.
How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Should I Drink? And How Often?
It’s a good idea for beginners to start with 1 teaspoon ACV diluted in plenty of water until you know your stomach’s tolerance level. Slowly increase to 1 or 2 tablespoons in a large glass of water (with or without honey).
Take ACV 2 or 3 times a day on an empty stomach (before meals and/or before bed). If possible, spread your drinks evenly throughout the day. Continue this for up to four weeks. You may repeat this regimen three times throughout the year if desired.
What’s the Best Way to Drink Apple Cider Vinegar?
These tips can help you get started on a vinegar health regimen:
- Add honey to apple cider vinegar drink, improving the palatability. The benefits of apple cider vinegar and honey remain the same as drinking it without honey. Try adding 1 tablespoon honey to the diluted ACV. Stir well before drinking.
- Add ground cinnamon or cayenne pepper to boost the antioxidant content of your drink. These spices may also help increase your body’s ability to burn calories. Be sure to stir well before drinking.
- The best time to take apple cider vinegar is 20 minutes before you eat a meal. This can help reduce appetite and support lower glucose levels.
- Due to the acidic nature of ACV, you may want to drink it through a straw if you have sensitive teeth or weak enamel.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects—What Are They?
- Because vinegar is acidic, it may upset the stomach, damage teeth or hurt the throat.
- It might also interfere with potassium levels, which could impact muscles and nerves.
- ACV may complicate the taking of medications for diabetes and heart disease.
- Vinegar can impact the effect of diurectics and laxatives.
Can You Drink Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar?
A few dangers are associated with drinking apple cider vinegar, including damage to your mouth, teeth and esophagus due to the inherent acid content. Proper dilution is vital. Also, drinking too much ACV may upset the stomach and cause nausea or diarrhea. So don’t overdo it.
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