Famed as a centuries old tonic, apple cider vinegar is now taking centre stage as a claimed weight-loss aid. Registered nutritionist Kerry Torrens discusses whether there’s more to this condiment than just a tangy addition to a salad dressing.

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What is apple cider vinegar?

Given the word ‘vinegar’ is derived from the French for sour wine (‘vin aigre’), it’ll come as no surprise that apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the product of a second fermentation of apples. The apples are crushed with yeast to convert their sugar to alcohol, then during the second fermentation, the alcohol is converted by bacteria called acetobacter to acetic acid.

About 5-6 per cent of ACV is acetic acid. From a nutritional point of view, ACV contains very few carbs, some trace minerals including potassium, and about three calories per tablespoon (15ml).

What does apple cider vinegar do?

Taken as a supplement before meals, some believe that ACV may help to curb appetite, manage blood sugar and aid fat burning. However, much of this evidence is based on animal studies with limited quality research to support these actions in humans.

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How do you follow the apple cider vinegar diet?

Most followers of the ACV diet advocate taking 1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) of ACV per day mixed with water. The dose should be spread out over a 24 hour period, potentially consuming the diluted dose directly before meals.

When you first introduce ACV, many suggest starting with a lower amount, say 1 tsp (5ml), diluted in water, to assess your tolerance to it.

The diet involves the inclusion of ACV as a supplement to meals, there is no restriction on what you eat while following the diet.

How to take apple cider vinegar?

The diet suggests taking ACV with water as a drink but it may also be mixed with oil to make a salad dressing, alternatively why not use it to make chutney and pickles.

What is the evidence for the apple cider vinegar diet?

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. For example, animal studies have suggested acetic acid in vinegar may help to promote fat loss and burning, reduce fat storage, manage appetite and improve blood sugar and insulin response. Some human studies appear to replicate this, with a 2009 study showing a modest weight loss combined with lower blood fat (triglyceride) levels for those who included vinegar compared with those who didn’t.

This evidence suggests that it may not just be ACV, but potentially other vinegars with a high acetic acid content, that may provide these benefits.

Will I lose weight following the apple cider vinegar diet?

To date there is inadequate quality research to support ACV as a weight-loss aid. More large scale, long-term clinical studies with minimal bias are needed before conclusions may be made.

A bottled labelled 'apple cider vinegar'

Is the apple cider vinegar diet healthy? A nutritionist’s view…

When included as an addition to a varied diet apple cider vinegar may offer potential health benefits such as helping manage blood sugar and insulin levels, especially after a carbohydrate-based meal. However, don’t expect it to be the answer to your weight loss issues – a healthy, balanced diet combined with physical activity remains the answer to sustained weight loss.

Less is more when it comes to apple cider vinegar. Taking more than the recommended 1-2 tbsp may be harmful, it may interact with prescribed medication or lead to dental damage by causing erosion of the tooth enamel. Taken undiluted and as a single dose, ACV may cause nausea and a burning sensation to your mouth or gullet.

Read more about the potential health benefits of apple cider vinegar.

Who shouldn’t do the apple cider vinegar diet?

Although occasional use is safe for most of us there are a number of people who should not attempt the ACV diet. These include those with the chronic condition known as gastroparesis, where the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine is delayed. For these people, ACV is likely to make their symptoms worse.

It is also worth remembering that ACV is highly acidic so it may irritate the throat if you drink it often and in large amounts. For those with histamine intolerance, fermented foods, including vinegar, may aggravate their symptoms. ACV may also interact with certain supplements and drugs, including diuretics and insulin.

Talk to your GP or healthcare professional before starting any new diet, especially if you are under 18 years old, elderly, have a pre-existing medical condition or are on medication including diuretics, insulin or blood sugar balancing drugs.

If you’d like to start adding ACV to your diet, get some inspiration from these nourishing recipes:

Steamed trout with mint & dill dressing
Autumn vegetable salad with saffron dressing
Braised red cabbage with cider & apples
Apple & bacon salad

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If you are considering attempting any form of diet, please consult your GP to ensure you can do so without risk to health.


This article was reviewed on 8 January 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a BANT Registered Nutritionist® with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

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