You know I just love an old health fad bust! Of course, I do all my research before putting something down as ‘useless’, no matter how sceptical I am. There have been times I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much truth there is to some of these fads. Sadly, this is a rare occurrence.
There are plenty of ‘health foods’ out there that are seen as ‘magic pills’ Sorry to burst your bubble, but when it comes to health there is no such thing as a magic pill. There are loads of things you can do to stay healthy and happy. A lot of the time these things can vary from one person to the next whether it’s regarding nutrition, fitness, mental or emotional wellbeing. The best thing you can do is listen to YOUR body. Don’t follow trends unless you know they are backed by good science. Also, even if something is proven to be good for your health, but you don’t enjoy it then don’t do it!
Let’s look at Apple Cider Vinegar. This health fad is mainly used for those looking to lose weight, but of course it claims to do much more.
Aids weight loss
Help with blood glucose control
Acts as a food preservative
Control high blood pressure
Improves gut health
Can cure (or help treat) some forms of Cancer
Are you getting excited reading these claims? I know I was! That is, until I actually started looking for some good old scientific trials to back these claims and found…well…very little to be honest. It’s good to be an optimistic person, but when it comes to nutrition and the many health fads out there, I want you to ask yourself this duration. “Does it sound too good to be true?” If the answer is “Yes” then it probably is. If you do your research, you may find a few of the claims are legit though so just be weary.
First let’s look at the weight loss claim. Vinegar is naturally very low in calories with a tbsp only containing 3Kcals. Vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid and the body needs energy to metabolise this, thus, activating an enzyme called AMPK. AMPK is kind of like the fuel gage in your car. When it senses we’re low in energy it amps up energy production and tells our body to start burning fat instead of storing it (Hardie and Ashford, 2014). Basically because vinegar (any kind of vinegar) is dilute acetic acid it also activates this AMPK enzyme in some body tissues (McCarty, 2014).
There was one study carried out on overweight Japanese students (KONDO et al., 2009). In Japan their BMI of ≥25kg/m2 is seen as obese. In Europe and most of the rest of the world a BMI of ≥30kg/m2 is seen as obese. The study investigated the effects of vinegar intake on the reduction of body fat mass. So, it didn’t just look at weight loss, it also looked at body measurements. It was a 12-week trial and there were three groups.
|High intake||30mls Apple Cider Vinegar (1500mg acetic acid)||Showed the most weight loss (average of 1.9-2.2kg) and most loss of inches around the abdomen (average of 1.9” – 2.1”)|
|Low intake||15mls Apple Cider Vinegar (750mg acetic acid)||Lost an average of 1 – 1.2kg of weight and 1.3 – 1.4” around the abdominal area|
|Control group||Received a drink that looked and tasted like Apple Cider Vinegar but was not, so it contained no acetic acid (placebo)||Lost no weight or inches, in fact some did gain weight over the course of the 12 weeks|
No other diet or lifestyle changes were made, and the participants were monitored carefully regarding their calorie intake and exercise to ensure they didn’t deviate from their usual. Also, when the trial finished, and the participants stopped taking Apple Cider Vinegar they did start to gain weight again. This is only one study though, but it is a pretty good one with promising results.
Another possible reason that Apple Cider Vinegar could hep with weight loss is that vinegar has been shown to act as a natural appetite suppressor. Now, I know what your thinking. Does this mean if I drown my chips in vinegar I’ll eat less? Possibly. A study done in England which looked at the palatability of vinegar concluded that ingesting vinegar did increase satiety (feeling full), but this was largely due to poor tolerability (Darzi et al., 2014). Meaning large amounts led to feelings of nauseas and when you feel nauseated you don’t tend to feel like eating. Another study showed that taking vinegar with a high carb meal leads to increased feelings of satiety, leading to the consumption of 200-275 fewer calories throughout the day (Östman et al., 2005). However, the Japanese study made sure the three groups each ate approximately the same number of calories.
Next claim is Blood glucose control. There was a very small study that did show that consuming Apple Cider Vinegar did significantly lower post-prandial blood sugar levels (Mc Donald, 2018)(that’s your blood sugar levels after you’ve eaten). Once again, this was a VERY small study. So, don’t go swapping out your insulin for a spoonful of Apple Cider Vinegar if you’re a Diabetic! Also be aware that Apple Cider Vinegar can have some adverse reactions with certain medications and if you have kidney disease you need to avoid consuming it.
Over 2000 years ago the ‘Father of Medicine’ Hippocrates, used vinegar to clean wounds, like an antiseptic. Vinegar has been shown to kill harmful bacteria. It can be used to clean and disinfect , treat fungal nails, lice, warts and even ear infections (Gunnars, 2020). It can also be used as a food preservative, so that claim is true. It can inhibit the growth of E.coli, Salmonella and other food borne diseases (Park et al., 2016; Yagnik et al., 2018; Yucel Sengun and Karapinar, 2005).
Apple Cider Vinegar could help prevent you from getting food poisoning from salad (Yucel Sengun and Karapinar, 2005). In 2005 a study showed that both lemon juice and vinegar decreased the growth of salmonella to undetectable levels on Rocket and spring onion (salad veg). Fruits and vegetables are best eaten raw if you’re looking at it from a nutritional point of view. Cooking them can cause the, to lose some of their important vitamins and minerals. However, from a food safety point of view is fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw are now kept grown, harvested, and stored in a clean and hygienic environment with under correct storage conditions they can cause food poisoning. Salad green can carry Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar in a nice homemade dressing would be a great way to make a low-calorie dressing. However, do no disregard food hygiene thinking the Apple Cider Vinegar will kill all bacteria!
As for the blood pressure claim. It is 100% false! There is no evidence to prove Apple Cider Vinegar helps lower high blood pressure.
Apple Cider Vinegar, and any vinegar, is made in a process called fermentation. We’ll not get into that (it’s a long process). If you are looking into taking Apple Cider Vinegar you’ve probably heard of the ‘Mother’. The ‘Mother’ is a combination of yeast and bacteria formed during the fermentation process. It causes the Apple Cider Vinegar to be cloudy. Many people believe the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar come from this ‘Mother’. Truth is that it is a probiotic and probiotics do help with gut health. You can read my blog on probiotics here or check out my YouTube video explaining Probiotics and Gut Health here
Moving on to the claim that every health food seems to have. Curing, preventing, or helping to treat cancer. There are no human trials to prove this. A few studies show it may have anti-cancer properties, probably because it does contain antioxidants from the apples. As we know, antioxidants fight free radicals which can cause inflammation and chronic diseases including cancer. However, it’s no better that just eating some nice (tasty) fruit and veg or a smoothie.
In conclusion. Apple Cider Vinegar may help with weight loss, but only if you keep taking it. It doesn’t exactly taste great. You could use it in cooking and as a salad dressing. It’s an antibacterial and antifungal and the ‘mother’ acts as a probiotic. There still has been very limited research done on Apple Cider Vinegar and its effects on health so more is needed before you can have a definite answer.
Darzi, J., Frost, G.S., Montaser, R., Yap, J. and Robertson, M.D. (2014) Influence of the tolerability of vinegar as an oral source of short-chain fatty acids on appetite control and food intake. International Journal of Obesity (2005), 38(5) 675–681.
Gunnars, K.Bs. (2020) 6 Proven Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-proven-health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar [accessed 17 April 2021].
Hardie, D.G. and Ashford, M.L.J. (2014) AMPK: Regulating Energy Balance at the Cellular and Whole Body Levels. Physiology, 29(2) 99–107. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3949207/ [accessed 19 April 2021].
KONDO, T., KISHI, M., FUSHIMI, T., UGAJIN, S. and KAGA, T. (2009) Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 73(8) 1837–1843. Available from https://doi.org/10.1271/bbb.90231 [accessed 17 April 2021].
Mc Donald, E. (2018) Debunking the health benefits of apple cider vinegar Available from https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/debunking-the-health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar [accessed 17 April 2021].
McCarty, M.F. (2014) AMPK activation—protean potential for boosting healthspan. AGE, 36(2) 641–663. Available from https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-013-9595-y [accessed 19 April 2021].
Östman, E., Granfeldt, Y., Persson, L. and Björck, I. (2005) Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(9) 983–988. Available from https://www.nature.com/articles/1602197 [accessed 17 April 2021].
Park, S.Y., Kang, S. and Ha, S.-D. (2016) Antimicrobial effects of vinegar against norovirus and Escherichia coli in the traditional Korean vinegared green laver (Enteromorpha intestinalis) salad during refrigerated storage. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 238 208–214.
Yagnik, D., Serafin, V. and J. Shah, A. (2018) Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific Reports, 8. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/ [accessed 17 April 2021].
Yucel Sengun, I. and Karapinar, M. (2005) Effectiveness of household natural sanitizers in the elimination of Salmonella typhimurium on rocket (Eruca sativa Miller) and spring onion (Allium cepa L.). International Journal of Food Microbiology, 98(3) 319–323.