Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used for centuries to flavour and preserve food, as a home remedy to heal wounds, fight infections, as well as clean surfaces. Its first uses were discovered about 5000 years ago when Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” has prescribed ACV with added honey to treat various diseases.
In recent years, researchers have been assessing possible health benefits of ACV more closely, and research does support some of the ACV health claims. Potential beneficial effects of ACV consumption include aiding weight loss, improving digestion, lowering blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol, supporting detoxification, and having antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties.
ACV is made from twice fermented apples. Liquid from crushed apples is mixed with yeast and bacteria, which starts the fermentation process during which sugar produced by the apples is converted to alcohol. During the second fermentation process, alcohol is converted by bacteria to acetic acid, one of the key components in ACV and which also gives the vinegar a tangy taste. Other constituents of ACV include vitamins, mineral salts, amino acids, polyphenolic compounds, and organic acids such as malic acids, lactic acid, citric acid, etc. Modern research has revealed the beneficial activities of ACV as an entire product and the abilities of ACV individual compounds.
1) Slowing down the blood sugar response
Research suggests that acetic acid in ACV may influence blood sugar levels by suppressing the breakdown of starches into sugars following the carbohydrate-rich meal. This effect decreases the rate by which sugar is absorbed into the body. Therefore, ingesting diluted ACV before the meal could slow down the post-meal rise in blood sugar levels, thus reducing glycemic response.
2) Aiding weight loss
Reduced glycaemic response when consuming ACV has been described as one of the possible mechanisms of ACV in aiding weight loss. The slower release of sugar into the blood helps prevent blood sugar spikes, thus is less likely to be followed by a sharp fall in blood sugar levels and subsequent sugar cravings. This effect could promote post-meal satiety and may be helpful in weight management when trying to reduce sugar and caloric intake.
3) Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Polyphenols content in ACV has been shown to contribute to the antioxidant activity of the vinegar. Antioxidants help to fight damaging free radicals in the body that have been linked to inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and other conditions.
4) Prebiotic and digestive aid
Raw, unfiltered ACV contains the mother of vinegar, making ACV look cloudy with a naturally formed substance “mother” floating around in the mix. The “mother” results from a longer fermentation period allowing the accumulation of proteins, yeast, and bacteria. This is harmless and can be removed by filtering. Although not supported by studies, some claims propose retaining the mother provides additional health benefits, including prebiotic and digestive aid.
ACV is readily available in most health stores and online, and therefore can be easily included in meals. It can be added to salads, sauces, and meals as a flavour enhancer, or taken as a drink, diluted in water. Mixing one to two tablespoons of ACV in a glass of water (around 250ml) can be taken regularly before meals.
Things to consider
As ACV is very acidic, it may be best not to take it on an empty stomach but rather with or just before the meal. It is also important to make sure ACV is well diluted, as it could irritate the throat, stomach, or erode tooth enamel.
There is limited data available on the consumption of large quantities of ACV. Most studies are based on 1-2 table spoons of ACV per day. Therefore, large amounts may be unsafe to consume.
If you are on medication, please check with your GP as some medicine could interact with ACV, such as diuretics, diabetes medication, etc.
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Atik D Atik C Karatepe C (2016) The effects of external apple cider vinegar application on varicosity symptoms, pain, and social appearance anxiety: a randomized controlled trial Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2016 (Article ID 6473678) 1-8
Johnston CS Gaas CA (2006) Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect Medscape general Medicine 8 (2): 61
Zhang S Hu C Guo Y Wang X Meng Y (2021) Polyphenols in fermented apple juice: beneficial effect on human health Journal of Functional Foods 76 (2021): 104294