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Pucker up. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) may be part of the secret to losing some of those extra pounds—and clearing up hair, skin, and teeth too—but it’s important to know some of the facts before spritzing, brushing, and downing the vinegar on a daily basis.
Nowadays, ACV is consumed with the expectation that it will miraculously reveal that six-pack or burn away any remaining gut hanging around. Dieters and bodybuilders have used ACV on a regular basis to keep weight gain in check—some even downing a shot of the acidic liquid daily. The truth is, ACV does have health benefits, but consuming it every day like clockwork may not be the answer to all your weight loss woes. ACV has acetic acid, and when consumed it can work as an appetite suppressant. If taken with starchy foods, for example, ACV can actually help stabilize your blood sugar levels, making you less likely to crave the sweet stuff. “Ultimately, our appetite is really important to pay attention to,” Abbey Sharp, dietitian and blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen, told M&F. “Most of us have really ruined our relationship with food simply by silencing these innate cues. If your body is telling you you’re hungry, you really should be listening to it, not trying to artificially manipulate its messages.”
A study from Arizona State University found that people at-risk for type 2 Diabetes who consumed ACV at meals kept their insulin levels in check and had 34 percent lower glucose post-meal. Another study led by the university tested a group of people with type 2 diabetes. The subjects consumed two tablespoons of ACV before bed*, which lowered their blood sugar levels by four to six percent by the morning.
Sharp, who documented her own battle with an eating disorder in her book, “Mindful Glow Cookbook,” said that the few ACV studies currently available have shown modest results and are short-lived, so it’s not known if the weight loss is sustainable after regular use of the vinegar. “Research has shown that when taken consistently, adding ACV to our regime may result in you eating a bit less because it seems to increase satiety, or make you feel nauseous which may result in you eating less—though that seems like a really terrible way to live your life just for an extra pound or two lost,” Sharp said. “Personally, unless there were other major changes in one’s diet, exercise or lifestyle in general, I don’t believe anyone would see substantial weight loss from any amount of ACV use.”
Dating back centuries, vinegar has always served its purpose—even as a disinfectant in the early days before real medicine—but this doesn’t mean that a tablespoon or two a day of the apple version will keep the fat away. In one Japanese study, 175 overweight subjects drank one to two tablespoons of ACV every day for 12 weeks straight. Following the 12-week trial, the individuals lost an average of three pounds, then gained it back within a month following the study. So, ACV does work, but you would have to drink it every day for months in order to see substantial weight loss, according to the study.
Some studies are more far-fetched when it comes to ACV, including one claim that vinegar can help cure cancer. “I’ve heard that it fixes split ends in your hair, but to my knowledge, no one has gone and studied that specifically,” said Sharp. “I think a lot of people believe that just adding a shot of ACV to their morning will help fat just melt away. That’s absolutely not how it works.”
Today, ACV has been known to serve as a dandruff remedy by changing the pH balance of your scalp making it difficult for yeast to grow. “Some people claim that ACV is rich in vitamin C and B, and may contains alpha-hydroxy acid, so it could potentially help exfoliate scalp skin and reduce dandruff,” Sharp said. “However, while apples are rich in vitamin C and alpha hydroxy, evidence suggests there are no detectable amounts in the vinegar. At the end of the day, there are currently no studies to support the rich vitamin amount in ACV and whether it can act as a remedy for dandruff.”
It has even been used as a teeth-whitening agent when paired with baking soda, but there is very little research to back up these claims, according to Sharp. “Much of the research on using baking soda has only been completed on dental products that contain baking soda, so it’s still unclear whether baking soda alone or in combination with vinegar actually works,” said Sharp. “What we do know, however, is that using ACV alone can eat away at our enamel and cause serious damage to our teeth.” That’s because ACV is an acid, and prolonged use over time can start to chip away** at your tooth enamel.
Those hoping to clear up their skin have also looked to apple cider vinegar as an acne solution. Unfortunately, there’s little researched to support whether ACV can kill acne-causing bacteria, with the exception of one study where a topical, lactic acid lotion, which contained ACV (and organic acids found in the vinegar), was applied to the faces of 22 individuals twice a day for an entire year. At the end of the study, most in the group saw a reduction in acne, and two saw a less than 50 percent improvement.
Overall, ACV does have small amounts of vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium and can be consumed as part of a daily diet. When using ACV, always opt for one that is organic and unpasteurized, since the pasteurization process can remove any of the vinegar’s health benefits. Sharp recommends adding apple cider vinegar in salad dressings and marinades. More palatable than being diluted in water as a drink, ACV can be infused into a soothing hot toddy or a switchel, a 19th century farmer’s drink of ginger, vinegar, and sweetener that originated in the Caribbean, in addition to baked goods and sauces.
“If you’re a fan of sour things, apple cider vinegar, particularly an unfiltered ACV is a great addition to the diet,” Sharp said. “But I don’t think we need to be going taking shots of it which can irritate our digestive tract and damage tooth enamel.”