Apple cider vinegar has been hailed as a cure-all dietary supplement, with health benefits ranging from relief from allergy symptoms to helping the body burn fat and lose weight. Proponents of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar cite testimonials from people who believe that drinking apple cider vinegar has helped them, but is there any evidence to back up these claims?
Alexa Schmitt, a clinical dietitian at Massachusetts General Hospital, says, “No.” While a few studies have been conducted on the possible health benefits of apple cider vinegar, the number of people in these studies is typically small, and the evidence is not yet convincing. “We have to look at the science,” says Schmitt. “One or two small studies is not enough to prove a benefit.”
Sorting Out Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
- Weight loss. According to Schmitt, the idea that apple cider vinegar somehow “speeds up fat loss is altogether a myth.” There is no evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar can affect metabolism, which is the way an individual breaks down food and burns calories.
- Feeling full. A 2006 study found that people who took doses of vinegar while eating bread reported feeling more full than people who ate bread alone. While this study has been cited by those who believe in the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, it is important to note that it only tested 12 individuals, and the authors concluded that much more research was needed before firm conclusions could be drawn. This study did not suggest that the way these people burned calories was affected.
- Cholesterol. Schmitt mentions a successful study that was done on rats but has yet to be replicated in humans. The study found that rats on a diet with an acetic acid supplement had lower cholesterol levels than rats without the acetic acid supplement. Acetic acid is one of the ingredients in apple cider vinegar and many other kinds of vinegar. For those who believe in the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, this study is promising. But there are other things to consider before assuming that the findings will be true in humans — primarily that there are key differences between the metabolism of rats and humans. The study authors recommend that the next trial be on hamsters, which break down fat in a way that is more similar to humans.
- Diabetes. A few studies have found that apple cider vinegar helped in the management of diabetes; however, these studies are also limited by their small size. One study, which found that taking vinegar at bedtime reduces blood sugar levels the next morning in people with type 2 diabetes, examined only 11 people. Another study found that taking cider vinegar might have some effect on insulin sensitivity in some diabetes patients, but that research, too, was limited by the small number of people being studied.
Although there is not currently good scientific evidence for a health benefit of apple cider vinegar, this may change in the future. Researchers are still involved in some exciting research about apple cider vinegar, and the future is likely to bring better information.