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Apple Cider Vinegar and Your Health

Should you be drinking this?
Should you be drinking this?

Apple Cider Vinegar or ACV is promoted as a virtual cure-all for dozens of conditions. A quick search online turns up claims it can fight cardiovascular disease, improve the lives of diabetics and cure cancer. It's considered by many to be a modern-day cure-all.

I wanted to find out what clinical research has shown about this supposed miracle liquid. So in September of 2017, I started going through clinical trials that used ACV to see what they found.

After nearly three years of looking, I can say for certain that researchers have found some benefit. But it's not even close to what promoters of ACV claim. Here's what the science says.

ACV is fantastic for Wistar rats. In a 2018 study where obese Wistar rats were given ACV for 6 weeks, they lowered their cardiovascular risk factor and total cholesterol. ACV "normalized various biochemical and metabolic changes" and lowered oxidative stress.

Another study done in 2018 found that Wistar rats could reduce metabolic disorders caused by a high-fat diet if they took ACV. Rats that took ACV didn't eat as much because it made them feel more full.

The rat studies continued. Another found that ACV had, “significant antihyperglycemic and antioxidant effects” and could prevent “diabetic complications in liver and kidneys.”

In 2008 a study showed ACV could help diabetic rats. One study concluded with, "apple cider vinegar improved the serum lipid profile in normal and diabetic rats... and may be of great value in managing the diabetic complications."

Rats aren't the only beneficiaries. Common carp (yes, the fish) saw “health promoting effects” when given ACV in their diet. White shrimp saw their triglycerides drop when they were given ACV and it demonstrated, “beneficial effects on health status.”

So if you're a rat, carp or shrimp, you've got it made. But the studies on people are small, and most lasted for very short periods of time. For example, there was a promising study done at Arizona State University. Researchers found that just 2 teaspoons of vinegar to a meal, could help people who were at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, the study was done on just 14 people.

Study after study, had the same tantalizing results. It appeared like ACV might help, but there just wasn't enough data. Then in March of 2020, researchers in Denmark decided to do a comprehensive review. They wanted to see if ACV could help with weight and metabolism, and to see how safe it might be.

They found 487 papers with 13 studies on humans and 12 studies on animals. They thought the risk of taking ACV was small, if it was done, “in recommended quantities and in recommended ways.”

However, they also found that, “Due to inadequate research of high quality, the evidence for the health effects of AV is insufficient.” In other words, there was no definitive proof from large, long-term studies that prove ACV health claims.

Applel Cider Vinegar Image

Before you decide to jump onto the ACV train and start self-medicating with it, consider these two points.

  1. Avoid pills or supplements that claim to give you apple cider vinegar. Because supplements are almost completely unregulated, there is no guarantee you'll get any ACV in the supplement.

    In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers tested 8 ACV tablets. They said, "Doubt remains as to whether apple cider vinegar was in fact an ingredient in the evaluated products."

    You read that right. The researchers couldn't even verify ACV was in any of the tablets they tested.

  1. The studies that showed human benefit, did not require large doses. Just two teaspoons of vinegar, or apple cider vinegar before a meal was sufficient to produce a positive response. You could mix it into a glass of tea or soak it up with a small slice of bread.

An even better strategy would be to make healthier food choices. But making those sorts of changes is a discussion for another day.

Studies - Clicking on the study title will bring up an Adobe PDF file of the abstract in a new window.

Anti-obesogenic effect of apple cider vinegar in rats subjected to a high fat diet

Antidiabetic and Antioxidant Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Normal and Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats

Apple cider vinegar attenuates lipid profile in normal and diabetic rats

Apple Cider Vinegar Attenuates Oxidative Stress and Reduces the Risk of Obesity in High-Fat-Fed Male Wistar Rats

Apple cider vinegar boosted immunomodulatory and health promoting effects of Lactobacillus casei in common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Effect of dietary supplementation with apple cider vinegar and propionic acid on hemolymph chemistry, intestinal microbiota and histological structure of hepatopancreas in white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei

Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products

Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review

Vinegar ingestion at mealtime reduced fasting blood glucose concentrations in healthy adults at risk for type 2 diabetes

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