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Will apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a helpful ingredient for weight loss, appetite control, gut health and more. But does science back up these popular claims? Lena Beal, MS, RDN, LD, a Piedmont therapeutic dietitian, examines the research.

“Before we can make recommendations to the public about apple cider vinegar, we have to consider if there is any scientific evidence that supports these claims,” Beal says. “Right now, there is no sound evidence that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss.”

She adds, “We need to go back to the basics: If a weight loss method doesn’t include a component of increasing physical activity or decreasing calories, we need to question it.” 

Apple cider vinegar: Looking at the weight loss research

Beal references a commonly cited a Japanese study that found participants who consumed apple cider vinegar lost more weight over a 12-week period than those who had no apple cider vinegar.

“This study isn’t good to generalize for all people because it’s such a small subset of people in a specific region where they don’t eat the way we do here in our Western culture,” she explains.

In another study, participants were given apple cider vinegar and told to cut 250 calories each day.

“While they did lose weight, we have to consider if the weight loss is from the apple cider vinegar or the calorie deficit,” she says. “As a dietitian, I believe it likely had to do more with the calorie deficit.”

Researchers also found that apple cider vinegar increased satiety or feelings of fullness. While this is true, Beal points out that the study participants felt full because they were nauseous, as reported by the study’s authors.

Benefits of apple cider vinegar

That said, apple cider vinegar does have a few potential health benefits:

  • Probiotics. Forms of apple cider vinegar that contain “The Mother” can have probiotic benefits to support gut health. “‘The Mother’ is a combination of yeast and bacteria formed during the fermentation process,” says Beal. “While the health benefits of ‘the Mother’ haven’t been substantiated by research, probiotics, in general, have been shown to be beneficial. They can help promote good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria in the gut.”

  • A low-calorie way to add flavor to food. “While it doesn’t add to the nutrient composition of our meals, apple cider vinegar is safe as an ingredient,” she says. “It can add flavor to sautéed greens and salads, for example. And if you use it in place of creamy dressings, that can help support your weight-loss goals.”

  • Possible blood sugar control. “There have been a few studies that suggest apple cider vinegar can prevent blood sugar spikes by blocking starch absorption in people who are prediabetic or who have type 2 diabetes,” she says. “However, each study used a different methodology. The doses varied, and they were used for different time periods.”

What happens when you have too much apple cider vinegar?

Consuming too much apple cider vinegar – more than one to two tablespoons per day for several months at a time – can cause:

  • Acid reflux: The high acidity in vinegar can cause or worsen acid reflux in some people.

  • Altered insulin levels in people with diabetes: “Apple cider vinegar has been shown to lower blood sugar,” she says. “If you take a large amount of it every day for a long period of time, you can run into an issue with hypoglycemia.”

  • Complications with chronic kidney disease: “People with chronic kidney disease may not be able to process the excess acid in large doses of apple cider vinegar,” Beal says.

  • Damage to tooth enamel: “The high acidity can damage tooth enamel, so you want to drink water after consuming apple cider vinegar,” she says. “You can use it in a recipe, but avoid drinking it straight.”

  • Low potassium levels: “It’s very important for people who take diuretics – found in medications for high blood pressure, for example – to be wary of how much apple cider vinegar they consume,” she says.

How to safely add apple cider vinegar to your diet

If you want to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, Beal recommends consuming no more than one to two tablespoons per day.

“Try it for six weeks, then take a break for two to four weeks to see how your body responds,” she says.

“If you take more than one to two tablespoons a day in excess of a recipe, it categorically becomes a medication,” Beal says. “If you are taking prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements, talk to your doctor about potential interaction with existing medication before consuming excessive amounts of apple cider vinegar.”

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