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Apple Cider Vinegar: Facts, Maybes and Myths

When you crush apples and ferment the juice, you get Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). Over the years, ACV has gained popularity due to its perceived health benefits. Many individuals in the natural health community refer to it as a superfood. While it is true that ACV may be beneficial for specific conditions, skeptics have referred to it as a placebo at best. It is for this reason that we evaluate the perceived health benefits of ACV to determine their validity.

apples are crushed and fermented to make apple cider vinegar
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Facts for Apple Cider Vinegar Use

As a food preservative

Just like other types of vinegar, ACV is a proven food preservative that extends the shelf life of food and allows you to store food for a more extended time. The science behind this food preservation is simple: ACV contains acetic acid, which deactivates any enzymes or kills any bacteria that causes by spoilage by raising the acidity and the PH of the food. One study showed that ACV could kill bacteria such as E coliStaph aureus, and Candida albicans. ACV functions as a preservative for foods like vegetables, meat, fish products, and spiced fruits. Using ACV as a preservative isn’t limited to the home; it is quite popular in the food industry. 

To lower blood sugar

ACV is known for its sharp taste due to acetic acid. It is an ingredient shown to reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes after eating a high-carb meal. Although the studies have used small sample sizes, there is some evidence that suggests ACV may be helpful for diabetes. 

So how does this work? The acetic acid in ACV delays the stomach’s emptying of food, slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates and reducing the spike seen after a high-carb or starchy meal. This property can be beneficial in people with diabetes with insulin resistance. This is a condition where insulin is not as effective in lowering blood glucose. Research involving type 1 and type 2 diabetes observed participants given two tablespoons of ACV after a meal to bolster this. The researchers discovered that post-meal blood sugar levels decreased, albeit slightly.

Apple cider vinegar may cause a mild reduction in glucose (4%).
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As a weight-loss supplement

ACV is incredibly popular as a weight-loss supplement, and evidence shows this claim has some merits. A 2018 study placed 39 people on a restricted-calorie diet; one of the groups received ACV with their diet. Both groups lost weight at the end of the 12 weeks study, but the ACV group lost more. But this is just one study. There are still unanswered questions regarding dosage and the best time of the day for the ACV. 

With one tablespoon of ACV containing three calories and no carbs, ACV is a low-calorie food option. Proponents have also linked its ability to promote satiety, lower blood sugars, and reduce insulin levels as some benefits that can be helpful in weight management.

crop person pouring vinegar into glass with liquid for coloring eggs
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Maybes for Apple Cider Vinegar

Improves heart health and cholesterol

Some proponents of ACV claim that the supplement can help clean the arteries, but there is currently no scientific evidence supporting this claim. ACV may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol and triglycerides levels in animal studies. But the jury is still out on this claim.

Lowers blood pressure

Some people say taking three teaspoons daily of ACV can lower blood pressure, but this prescription is still scientifically unverified. Although acetic acid may reduce systolic blood pressure in rats, this was only a preliminary study. There is currently no substantial medical evidence showing that this blood-lowering function also occurs in humans. 

Treats yeast infections

Based on in vivo experiments, ACV can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans. Many home remedies include diluting it to treat yeast infections. But the question is, do they work? There is little evidence that supports this, even though acetic acid is known to stop the growth of the fungi in the test tube.

Benefits Gut Inflammation

In a 2016 study, vinegar showed an anti-inflammatory effect on mice chemically induced with ulcerative colitis symptoms. Combining this with the ACV’s antibacterial activity, there is a possibility that it may be able to prevent or treat gut inflammation.

One study showed a significant reduction in BMI in rats fed apple cider vinegar for 90 days, corresponding to a beneficial shift in gut flora. This is known as the Firmicutes/Bacteroides ratio and a higher ratio is associated with greater gut inflammation. Here is a YHF article on the microbiome.

Myths

To boost skin health

Due to acetic acid, apple cider vinegar may help clear bacteria that contribute to skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea. Although medical research doesn’t support this, many ACV proponents swear by it. If you decide to use ACV as part of your skin-care routine, always dilute it before applying it to your skin. When using ACV, you should do a spot test by applying it to one part of your skin before applying it to the entire area. But do not put ACV directly on broken or bleeding skin, as it can irritate it.

To supplement as an anti-cancer treatment

There have been claims that ACV can treat cancer based on laboratory research where acetic acid, a component of ACV, was observed to kill cancer cells. However, a test tube isn’t the same as a human-based investigation, and there is a lack of robust medical evidence in this regard.

To treat asthma

Although there is anecdotal evidence that ACV may help relieve respiratory symptoms such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD, there is currently no scientific evidence to back this claim.

Wrapping up

The use of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar for that matter, has grown over the years, especially as a home remedy. There is some evidence that suggests it may offer some health benefits. However, more evidence would support these claims. Overall, using it as a preservative, weight loss supplement, or lower blood sugar are potential benefits that have some scientific basis. 

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