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What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugars from apples, which turns them into acetic acid – the active ingredient in vinegar. In the shops you may see apple cider vinegar labelled as 'filtered' (a clear liquid), or unfiltered – the latter containing something known as ‘mother’. This means there are proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria present, and gives this type of vinegar a cloudy appearance. Other fruits may be used to create flavoured cider vinegar – the base of the vinegar will usually be apple with fruits, such as raspberries, added during manufacture.
Apple cider vinegar health benefits may include:
1. It may improve glucose and insulin levels after eating carbohydrates
2. It may increase feelings of fullness and help to lower calorie intake
3. It may reduce weight and body fat
4. Studies suggest it could be beneficial for cholesterol levels and blood pressure
5. Similar to other vinegars, it has anti-microbial properties
Nutritional profile of apple cider vinegar
A tablespoon (15ml) provides:
- 3Kcal / 13KJ
- 0.1g carbohydrate
- 11mg potassium
- 1mg calcium
- 1mg magnesium
Apple cider vinegar doesn’t really contain any vitamins or minerals, other than a very small amount of potassium, calcium and magnesium. There isn’t enough research at the moment to demonstrate that buying the ‘mother’ variety is any better for you than buying filtered. However, apple cider vinegar does also contain amino acids and antioxidants.
What are the top 5 benefits of apple cider vinegar?
There is currently no specific evidence to support the efficacy of the ACV diet, however, there are some interesting studies which assess the potential dietary effects of vinegar. However, it should be noted that some of these findings are based on animal studies only.
1. May help manage blood sugar levels
To date, the evidence of ACV’s use as a means of aiding blood sugar management is the most impressive of all its claims. A number of studies have suggested that as part of a meal containing carbohydrate, cider vinegar may improve glucose and insulin levels after you’ve finished eating. Its method of action is thought to be similar to that of the blood-sugar-lowering drug metformin.
Another study examining the consumption of 2 tbsp of ACV at bedtime found improved glucose levels on waking. It’s worth noting, however, that the success of ACV in this area appears to be most relevant for healthy individuals or diabetics with well-controlled blood sugar levels.
Moreover, if you take prescription medication to help manage your blood sugar, you should check with your GP before you increase the intake of any form of vinegar.
2. May aid weight loss
There is currently no specific evidence to support the efficacy of the ACV diet, however, there are some interesting studies assessing the potential dietary effects of vinegar. However, it should be noted that some of these findings are based on animal studies only.
That said, some human studies have reported positive effects of ACV on feelings of fullness and helping to lower calorie intake. This combined with balancing blood sugar and reducing insulin levels may explain its perceived effects on weight. For example, a study examining the impact of adding vinegar to a meal based on white bread found the people in the study experienced better satiety and reduced blood glucose and insulin responses.
A further study that involved the consumption of 2 tbsp of ACV combined with a 250kcal energy deficit appeared to reduce weight, BMI and hip circumference. However, the evidence supporting ACV as an effective weight loss tool remains low and it may be argued that it’s simply too early to draw any valid conclusions.
3. May reduce belly fat
In animal studies acetic acid has been seen to reduce the accumulation of body fat. The same was seen in a 12 week study of obese men. The men consumed an acetic acid-rich vinegar and were seen to experience a reduction in body weight, BMI, visceral fat, waist circumference and blood triglyceride levels. Findings look promising, but more research is needed.
4. May balance cholesterol
5. May act as an anti-microbial
Traditionally used for cleaning the home and as a food preservative, vinegar does have anti-microbial properties. Specifically, ACV may be affective in inhibiting the growth of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.
How can you use apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar can be incorporated into cooking or used in salad dressings.
If choosing to drink apple cider vinegar, make sure that it is sufficiently diluted – it is too acidic to drink straight. Given that it's a traditional remedy and not a medicine, there are no official guidelines on how to consume it. Some people choose to stir between 1 tsp - 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water.
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Is apple cider vinegar safe for everyone?
It is important to note that as ACV is a traditional remedy and not a medicine, there are no official guidelines for how to take it. There is also limited data available for the effects of long-term use or consumption of large quantities of ACV.
The potential lowering of blood sugars could be problematic for diabetics, including those who use insulin, and it may reduce potassium levels in the body. For the same reason, ACV is best avoided if you are taking any diuretic medication, also known as water pills.
For those suffering with gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying, where the movement of food between the stomach and small intestine is slowed, ACV may make the symptoms worse and should be avoided.
There is also a concern that acidic drinks, such as ACV, may cause damage to tooth enamel. As a precaution, it is a good idea to dilute the vinegar appropriately, never consume it neat, and don’t sip throughout the day. It may also help to rinse the mouth with fresh water after consuming ACV. Check with your dentist if you are concerned.
Overall, is apple cider vinegar good for you?
Yes, it would seem that apple cider vinegar does have some benefits to your health. Studies have shown this storecupboard staple may help to aid weight loss, reduce your calorie intake and even reduce waist size, as well as lowering blood sugar and insulin levels after eating carbohydrates. Although more studies are needed, apple cider vinegar is also believed to help keep cholesterol levels down. More research is needed but it would be fair to consider this a healthy ingredient.
If you’re on prescription medication, have a relevant medical condition or have concerns speak to your GP for guidance.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.