For many years, apple cider vinegar has had a reputation of being able to help people lose weight. But does it? In spite of decades of people clamoring it really worked, there was no evidence either way – until now. Some research is saying yes, it really does work. In this review, I'll show you what the research on apple cider vinegar really says and in the process give some vindication those who said it worked -including my own mom. Let's see what we can discover.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), also known as cider vinegar is made by adding yeast and bacteria to apple juice. The yeast and bacteria turn the sugar in apple juice into vinegar through fermentation. The sour taste comes from the the acetic acid in the vinegar. Acetic acid is at the heart of vinegar weight loss benefits.
Apple Cider Vinegar Research
It was the 1990s and I was doing a live radio show about the futility of weight loss supplements when someone called in. The voice on the other end of the phone said “It's Joey Cannon's mom!” Yes, my mom had called into the radio show to extol the virtues of -wait for it – apple cider vinegar. She didn't tell me she was doing this. She just blindsided me.
To say it was embarrassing was an understatement. My mom went on and on about how apple cider vinegar really worked. Stuff like this happened regularly, as anyone who knew my mom could attest to.
Of course, I dismissed her claims – and I did it live on the radio. Looking back, I really could have handled the situation better. I should have remembered the old science proverb: lack of evidence does not necessarily mean something doesn't work.
It just means nobody has investigated it yet.
If my mom were around today I would apologize to her because it's starting to look like she may have been right.
Let's now summarize the apple cider vinegar weight loss research.
In 2009 researchers in Japan recruited 155 overweight women and men to take part in a 12 week study to test the weight loss effects of 2 different amounts of apple cider vinegar. The people consumed 16 oz of a beverage which contained either:
- 0.5 ounce apple cider vinegar (750 mg acetic acid)
- 1 ounce apple cider vinegar (1500 mg acetic acid)
- No vinegar (placebo)
After the 12 weeks were over, researchers noted some very interesting results. Those consuming vinegar had the following benefits:
- reduced body weight
- lower body fat
- reduced visceral body fat
- lower body mass index
- lower waste circumference
- lower triglyceride levels
All these effects were significantly better than the placebo group (which did not drink ACV). The amounts used were not much and ranged from 1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon per day. While the weight loss was significant, it came to about 2.5 to 4 pounds more than those who did not consume vinegar. While this may not seem like much, it's important to remember the people did not change their diet or exercise any differently.
In another investigation, researchers in Iran published a study in 2018 which also looked at apple cider weight loss effects. Here, 39 overweight women and men were randomly put on a moderately low calorie diet (250 fewer calories a day) for 12 weeks. Some of these people were also given 2 tablespoons of ACV per day (consumed at lunch and dinner).
While the reduced calorie diet did lower body weight (to be expected) those who also consumed 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar lost even more weight. How much? Those drinking the vinegar almost 9 pounds; it was just over 5 pounds in the diet-only group. In addition, those drinking apple cider vinegar also had:
- higher good HDL cholesterol
- lower triglyceride levels
- reduced appetite
While apple cider vinegar didn't reduce total cholesterol or bad LDL cholesterol, it's interesting it did seem to reduce appetite. Other researchers have noted cider vinegar slows down gastric emptying or the time it takes for food to leave the stomach. This might partially explain it's effects on reducing appetite.
How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work?
It's thought the acetic acid in vinegar is activates an enzyme called AMPK which helps us make energy (ATP). Where do we get the energy from? Our fat cells. So, by triggering the AMPK enzyme, vinegar/acetic acid ramps up energy production, causing a reduction in body fat and body weight.
How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Works?
From the studies presented it appears 1/2 table spoon to 2 tablespoons per day is all that's needed
How To Drink It?
Because vinegar is an acid, it might burn the the throat if you use it straight. As such, it's best to drink it diluted in a liquid rather than just swallowing a tablespoon or two at a time. Diluting it in a liquid is exactly what the researchers did too.
How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Is Too Much?
Do not use more than 2 tablespoons of ACV per day. There is no reason to do this and we know this is safe. This is the highest amount which research has shown helps weight loss. Even less than this has shown to be beneficial in weight reduction. If you are just starting to use ACV, dilute just a half a teaspoon in a liquid to get use to the taste and see how you respond.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects
Vinegar has been used for thousands of years. It's safe. When using it for reasons other than making salad dressings here are some things you should consider:
- Stop using it at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor if you have any medical issues like diabetes
- Speak to your doctor first if you are breastfeeding or pregnant
Various reports over the years have also highlighted other adverse reactions you should be aware of:
- Because of its acidity, it's possible drinking too much might cause dental problems by eroding tooth enamel. One report describes this happening although the girl consumed 8 oz (250 ml) of apple cider vinegar a day. This is much more than is typically consumed.
- Be careful using near the eyes. Vinegar is used for many reasons other than weight loss -even shampoo – so this is just smart to remember.
- Apple cider vinegar might reduce blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood. It also seems to make insulin work better. This can be both good and problematic for diabetics who take medications. Speak to your doctor if you take diabetes medications.
- Vinegar may cause hiccups. One report of this stems from a 72 year old man who used 2 tablespoons for 2 weeks. His hiccups lasted 9 days, until he went to the hospital.
- Drinking very large amounts of ACV long term may cause osteoporosis and low potassium levels. This evidence stems from a 28 year old woman who drank over 8 oz (250 ml) of apple cider vinegar for 6 years. This is proof of the power apple cider vinegar has as natural health remedy. Sometimes people take a good thing to excess.
- Be careful with apple cider vinegar tablets/capsules. If they get stuck in the throat, they can burn the throat /esophagus. When in doubt, liquid vinegar is better. Another reason to avoid the tablets is some brands tested may not even contain vinegar at all.
Granted all this seems to be from extreme cases of abuse and missus. I highly doubt most people would have any problems with ACV especially if using the low amounts used in the weight loss research.
Is Lemon Juice An Alternative?
Whats better: apple cider vinegar or lemon juice? Both are acids after all. One reason for asking this question is lemon juice tastes better than vinegar. So, might lemon juice help weight loss like ACV seems to?
While they are both acids, one difference is that apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. Lemon juice contains citric acid. Lemon juice does not contain acetic acid. The chemical structures of acetic acid and citric acid are different.
More importantly, there doesn't seem to be any evidence citric acid helps weight loss or activates the AMPK enzyme like acetic acid does. As such, I dont think drinking lemon juice would be an alternative to vinegar. On the plus side, lemons contain citrus bioflavonoids which are healthy and lemon juice, added to tea, tastes great.
Does It Detox?
I've heard some people drink apple cider vinegar to detox themselves after a night of drinking too much. One website says it helps your liver breakdown “toxins” and balance pH. While there is no evidence that it rids the body of toxins (notice they never tell us which toxins it eliminates), when it comes to balancing pH, that's a myth. If you are healthy, blood pH is always the same because too acid or too alkaline would kill us.
If to drink vinegar after a hangover, a teaspoon or two wont hurt you. Just don't expect any miracles. And if I can preach at you for a moment, come on, your an adult. It's time to put away childish things like getting drunk.
What's The Best Kind of Apple Cider Vinegar?
No study has highlighted one brand as being better for weight loss. Neither the 2009 or 2018 weight loss studies summarized above specifically mentioned the brand they used. I thought this was interesting – and refreshing – because the 2009 study was conducted by a vinegar company called Mizkan Group Corporation (“Big Vinegar”).
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Really Work?
Research does indeed appear to support what people have long been saying – apple cider vinegar helps people lose weight. While the effects appear to be modest, losing 5-10 pounds could mean knee and hip joint stress, reduced appetite, lower blood sugar and triglycerides and higher HDL levels. Given the low cost of vinegar and the fact it has more evidence than many over-priced weight loss supplements you've seen on TV and the web, there isn't much down side to giving it a try. I can hear my mom looking down on my now saying I told you so Joe…
Here's Apple Cider Vinegar on Amazon
Here it is on Ebay