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Apple cider vinegar: Does it help with weight loss?
Katy Perry has drunk it daily since she was little, Scarlett Johanssen puts it on her face, and Victoria Beckham starts her day with two teaspoons of it. These celebrities swear by apple cider vinegar, which has long been a popular home remedy for various skin and health issues, as well as weight loss. Here we look at whether the research is out there to support this claim.
What are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugar from apples, which creates acetic acid - this is added to water to make vinegar. Acetic acid is the main active ingredient in vinegar which may the reason for its potential health benefits.
Acetic acid can kill harmful bacteria and prevent it from multiplying, which is why vinegar is used as a disinfectant and a preservative. Some apple cider vinegar preparations also contain a substance called ‘the Mother’, which is made of ‘good’ bacteria, proteins and enzymes.
More recently, some studies have suggested that consuming apple cider vinegar - maybe a teaspoon a day or adding it to salad dressings - can help with weight loss.
In a 2018 study, 39 people followed a low calorie diet for three months - some people had apple cider vinegar every day whilst others had none. At the end the group who had apple cider vinegar lost more more weight than the group which didn't. However, the study was small and short-term and so it is difficult to say for sure that this is the reason why people lost more weight1.
Apple cider vinegar may boost insulin sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, breaks down fats, and helps your body store fat for energy. If you have a low sensitivity to insulin - also known as having insulin resistance - it means your body produces more insulin because your tissues do not respond to it properly leading to more sugar circulating in your blood. Insulin resistance and therefore, more sugar in your blood can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Research suggests that drinking apple cider vinegar may help improve insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to burn fat more effectively.
Reema Patel, a registered dietitian at Dietitian Fit, says: “Some research has shown that apple cider vinegar may help improve insulin sensitivity during a higher carb meal, leading to a lower blood sugar and insulin output2. This may help those with type 2 diabetes, however it must not be used as a replacement for medical treatment.”
It’s important to note that the study only involved a very small sample of just 29 people. While apple cider vinegar may help someone with type 2 diabetes, eating a healthy diet, avoiding refined carbs and sugar and doing regular exercise is the most effective and healthiest way to regulate blood sugar levels and lose weight.
Apple cider vinegar may help you feel full
Some research suggests that apple cider vinegar may also help you feel full for longer, which could help reduce your appetite.
One review of studies that explored the short-term effects of apple cider vinegar found that people who consumed it with a meal felt full for 2 hours after eating and snacked less over the day. However, other studies carried out over longer periods did not find any link between apple cider vinegar and appetite suppression3.
“Research into the overall health benefits of apple cider vinegar is currently quite limited,” says Patel. “Therefore longer-term and better quality studies are needed before it can be suggested to be used to the wider population.”
Instead of relying on apple cider vinegar, it may be better to stick to a healthy diet with plenty of whole grains, which take longer to digest and help you feel fuller for longer.
Apple cider vinegar and cholesterol
Some studies also suggest that apple cider vinegar may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels4. Cholesterol is a natural, fatty substance that is found in the blood, but having too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
Are there any downsides to apple cider vinegar?
Vinegar is acidic and can damage the enamel on your teeth, so it should be diluted or added to a salad dressing, instead of being consumed on its own. It may also cause an upset stomach and heartburn.
Vinegar can also change your insulin levels, so people with diabetes should be careful and speak to their doctor before trying any supplements or dietary changes that may affect their medication.
Overall, the results of studies are mixed. Apple cider vinegar alone - without eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise - is unlikely to lead to weight loss.
However, it may help support a healthy diet for some people. It can be easily drunk by the teaspoon, or added to salads or vegetables to add flavour. And even if it doesn't help with weight loss, it can make a great addition to a salad dressing.
- Beneficial effects of apple cider vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomised clinical trial.
- Johnston et al: Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
- The effects of vinegar/acetic acid intake on appetite measures and energy consumption: A systematic literature review.
- Hadi et al: The effect of apple cider vinegar on lipid profiles and glycemic parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials.