With advocates touting its ability to do everything from clear skin to spur weight loss, apple cider vinegar boasts a massive health halo. The idea is certainly appealing: one decently cheap product capable of curing all your health woes. But as with anything that sounds so magical, it’s wise to remain skeptical. Before you decide to build your entire diet and beauty regimen around apple cider vinegar, it’s worth taking a closer look.
Not surprisingly, weight loss is usually the reason people start looking into cider vinegar. The blogosphere is swimming with stories about how it can suppress your appetite and help you shed pounds. Some even go so far as to cite appropriate research, but these studies tend to be lacking.
For example, one 2009 study involving obese men found those who supplemented their diets with cider vinegar lost a few pounds over the course of 12 weeks. While they did lose weight, it’s worth noting these subjects gained it back after the study concluded. And such small weight fluctuations are normal for most people, regardless of what they’re doing in terms of diet.
More recent research published in the International Journal of Obesity found consuming vinegar alongside breakfast boosts satiety, but it’s not because of some magic effect. According to the researchers, reductions in appetite were largely due to feelings of nausea after downing the vinegar solution. No one feels like eating when they’re queasy, so the results are hardly illuminating. You’d likely achieve the same effect from catching the stomach flu.
Downing too much vinegar can also be bad for your teeth. Even everyday foods like coffee and citrus can damage your enamel, so a more potent solution is just going to make things worse. One Dutch article actually reported a case of substantial tooth erosion in a 15-year-old girl who’d taken to drinking a glass of apple cider vinegar every day.
Some people are more interested in the liquid as a nutritional powerhouse than a way to shed pounds, but even these supposed benefits don’t stand up. You can easily see what apple cider vinegar contains by looking at the USDA’s nutrient database. It doesn’t really contain much of anything.
All this being said, apple cider vinegar is a smart ingredient to use when making your own salad dressings. You’ll end up with something a lot less caloric than any dressing from a bottle. And if it encourages you to eat more vegetables, that’s definitely a positive.
When it comes to cider vinegar’s ability to alleviate diabetes, there is some evidence to suggest it can help. One recent review reported vinegar may help control blood sugar. Still, the researchers admit the effect is more pronounced for those who don’t have diabetes. Furthermore, some studies are a bit on the strange side. One example from 2005 found consuming vinegar with a breakfast of white bread helped minimize changes in blood sugar after the meal. But when was the last time you ate a piece of naked white bread for breakfast?
Claims about apple cider vinegar’s ability to improve heart health also don’t hold up. No matter what you read online about how it can cure hypertension, the only studies you’ll find involve animals. Until there’s research involving human subjects, there’s just no way to know if vinegar can positively affect your ticker.
Moving on to beauty treatments using apple cider vinegar, there really isn’t research to say yay or nay. If you’re curious about trying the ingredient to combat acne, dermatologist Dr. Diane Walder says on her website there’s probably no harm in experimenting. Just make sure you dilute the vinegar with water first to minimize the chances of irritating your skin. Women’s Health offers some ratio suggestions for a number of hair and skin treatments if you want to give it a shot.
Because apple cider vinegar can help kill bacteria, it might be best used as a household cleaner. Bear in mind, bleach products are generally more effective, but vinegar solutions are a great alternative for those who prefer to use something more natural. According to SFGate, a mix of equal parts water and vinegar can be used for most surfaces in your home.
As much as we’d love to believe apple cider vinegar can melt fat, cure diseases, and yield flawless skin, these claims simply don’t hold up. You might be able to minimize a post-meal sugar drop by adding some to your lunch, but it’s no cure-all.