Apple cider vinegar is considered a remedy for many ailments, but there is not always scientific validity for health claims. Some research suggests it may play a role in weight loss, blood sugar regulation, heart health benefits or impacting cancer risk.
Drinking apple cider vinegar in moderation (if you can stand the taste) may be safe and even beneficial for most people, but consuming excess is not recommended.
Apple cider vinegar is acidic; therefore, consuming too much may cause tooth enamel erosion, irritation to the digestive tract or possibly weaken bones.
If you take medication, speak with your healthcare team before adding it to your diet. Apple cider vinegar may interfere with some medications.
Apple cider vinegar is not a magic bullet cure all for any health condition and adding it to your diet won’t guarantee weight loss or other major changes to your health.
In this article:
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is basically fermented apple juice. Yeast gets added to apple juice which turns the sugar from apples into alcohol.
Bacteria further break down the alcohol into acetic acid which gives the strong taste and smell.
The acetic acid gives the acidic property of vinegar and may also be a main player in health benefits associated with consuming apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is basically fermented, acidic apple juice.
Apple cider vinegar health benefits
Vinegar has been used for centuries as a remedy for various health ailments. For example, US doctors in the 18th century used vinegar to treat stomach, croup, poison ivy and dropsy (1).
Many studies have shown vinegar to offer health benefits, but not all claims tied to consuming vinegar are backed by research.
Here are some research based claims for apple cider vinegar’s health benefits.
Apple cider vinegar and weight loss
Apple cider vinegar can be a trendy go to for supposed weight loss results. Can drinking apple cider vinegar really help with weight loss?
A 2014 review (2) on vinegar’s effects on metabolism concluded only some- not all- studies have shown vinegar may positively influence weight loss.
More large scale studies are needed before definitive health claims related to apple cider vinegar and weight loss can be made.
The main research showing apple cider vinegar may benefit weight loss was a 2009 Japanese study (3).
Researchers had study participants consume daily either no vinegar, 15 ml of vinegar or 30 ml of vinegar mixed with 500 ml of water for 12 weeks.
Participants in the vinegar groups had significantly lower body weight, visceral fat, waist circumference and triglycerides than participants who had the placebo.
Therefore, researchers concluded daily consumption of vinegar may aid weight loss.
Other animal studies have shown vinegar to suppress body fat accumulation. Therefore, some suggest this may mean consuming apple cider vinegar may help prevent weight gain.
However, more research is needed in humans.
Dr. Schmerling from Harvard Health (4) suggests to date the research for apple cider (or other) vinegars promoting weight loss is not strong.
Some small studies have shown apple cider vinegar may aid in weight loss. However, more research is needed.
Vinegar and appetite
One possible way consuming apple cider vinegar may affect weight regulation is through appetite. Vinegar’s taste is strong and acidic.
After consuming vinegar, appetite may naturally be suppressed. Some studies have even found consuming vinegar may cause nausea and as a result lower appetite.
Apple cider vinegar may help lower appetite, but this may be at the expense of causing feelings of nausea.
Blood sugar regulation
Vinegar has been shown in many studies to lower the glycemic load of a meal. For example, a 2005 study (5) found adding vinegar to a high glycemic meal significantly lowered postprandial (after meal) blood sugar levels.
Simply adding apple cider vinegar or other vinegars to meal times may lower the glycemic load of a meal.
Adding pickled vegetables to a meal is another way to add vinegar to your diet.
Lowering glycemic load from a meal can mean better blood sugar regulation; the body doesn’t have to produce as much insulin to maintain blood sugar levels.
Consuming vinegar before a meal has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance (6).
However, before you start drinking apple cider vinegar before meal times to help regulate your blood sugar, speak with your doctor.
Apple cider vinegar may delay gastric emptying which could be problematic for some and may interfere with blood sugar regulating medications.
Vinegar has been shown to lower the glycemic load of a meal. Adding apple cider vinegar or pickled vegetables to a meal may benefit blood sugar regulation.
Good for heart health: Lowering cholesterol
Some studies have shown apple cider vinegar may have a positive impact on heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels.
A 2012 study (7) had study participants with high blood cholesterol consume 30 ml of apple cider vinegar twice a day for eight weeks.
Researchers found after eight weeks, participants had significantly lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Researchers suggest the way apple cider vinegar benefits heart health may be from a combination of the acetic acid and flavonoids (antioxidants) from apples.
More large scale studies are needed for analyzed heart health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Animal studies have shown vinegar and/or acetic acid to lower blood pressure. However, human studies have not shown the same benefit.
Therefore, more research is needed for clarifying if vinegar benefits blood pressure (8).
Some small studies have shown apple cider vinegar may benefit heart health by lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides, but more research is needed.
Oil and vinegar dressing for heart health
An easy way to integrate more apple cider (or other) vinegar into your diet is to use it as a base for salad dressing.
Researchers obtained food frequency data (9) from over 75,000 women and found a higher intake of oil and vinegar dressing (5-6 times per week) was associated with a lowered risk of fatal heart disease compared with those who rarely eat oil and vinegar dressing.
Consuming a vegetable rich salad topped with oil and vinegar provides a variety of heart healthy nutrients: fiber, antioxidants, acetic acid and omega 3 fatty acids.
Use an oil and vinegar based dressing in place of creamier dressing for a heart healthy swap.
Consuming a higher intake of oil and vinegar dressing has been associated with a lowered risk of fatal heart disease.
Apple cider vinegar and cancer risk
Eating a diet high in antioxidants may help lower risk for certain cancers. Main sources of antioxidants in the diet include fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, spices, herbs and olive oil.
Apple cider vinegar can also contribute as a source of antioxidants in the diet.
Proving one food (or supplement) can prevent or treat cancer is virtually impossible because so many factors influence cancer risk.
Therefore, be wary of health claims suggesting a food can prevent cancer.
Research from apple cider vinegar and cancer risk is not consistent. For example, some research suggests apple cider vinegar was associated with decreased esophagus cancer risk, but some research suggests apple cider vinegar was associated with an increased bladder cancer risk (10).
More research is needed on how apple cider vinegar affects cancer risk. Eating a variety of antioxidant rich foods is recommended for general health,and taking antioxidant supplements is not advised for lowering cancer risk.
Apple cider vinegar can be a source of antioxidants. Research results are mixed on how apple cider vinegar may influence cancer risk. Therefore, consume in moderation.
Apple cider vinegar diet
Can you have a diet built around consuming vinegar? Unfortunately, the apple cider vinegar diet tries to do just that. Sometimes the apple cider vinegar diet is claimed to be a “detox diet” although there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.
An apple cider vinegar diet doesn’t have a strict definition, but in general, it consists of consuming apple cider vinegar drink about three times per day.
The dose can vary but is generally about one to two tablespoons of vinegar per eight ounces of water. Following a low calorie diet along with consuming the vinegar is usually recommended.
Incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet may be safe for most people, but keep in mind this will not detox your body or be a magic bullet for weight loss.
Adding apple cider vinegar to your diet is no substitute for following a healthy, balanced diet long term.
Proponents of the apple cider vinegar diet can claim this diet can detox the body and boost weight loss. However, there is no scientific evidence to support claims of detoxing the body.
Apple cider vinegar supplements
If you can’t stomach drinking apple cider vinegar, you may think opting for apple cider vinegar pills may be a more palatable way to get the benefits of apple cider vinegar.
However, as with most supplements, getting apple cider in pill form may not provide the same benefits.
Could cause damage to esophagus
There have been reports of apple cider vinegar tablets causing damage to the esophagus. Due to these reports, researchers (11) conducted testing on eight different types of apple cider vinegar tablets.
The results from their analyses concluded a wider variety in acidity levels, tablet size and label claims.
In fact, researchers suggest they weren’t even sure apple cider vinegar was an actual ingredient in any of the tablets.
Caution should be used for taking apple cider vinegar tablets. The supplement industry in general is not well regulated, and the purity, safety and authenticity of such supplements can vary.
If you notice irritation in your esophagus or other side effects from taking apple cider vinegar tablets, stop taking them and consult your healthcare team.
Apple cider vinegar can come in supplemental form for those who don’t want to drink it. However, such supplements can vary in their ingredient purity and may cause irritation to the esophagus.
How much apple cider should you drink a day?
Drinking apple cider vinegar diluted in water or other liquid is common due to the strong flavor of apple cider vinegar. Diluting it can minimize the acidity and strong flavor.
There is no set best dose recommended for apple cider vinegar. More research is needed for recommending a certain dosage.
How much apple cider vinegar you should have per day can depend on various health factors and age.
How to drink apple cider vinegar
How to drink apple cider depends on how well you can tolerate the taste. To start, you may want to just have one tablespoon (15 mL) mixed in 8-10 ounces of water.
If you can tolerate this amount, you can try adding two tablespoons (30 mL) with 8-10 ounces of water.
If you would rather get your apple cider vinegar in fast, you could do a small shot of a tablespoon or two at a time.
This will obviously have a strong flavor, but it is a quicker way to get it down.
There are several ways you can try to make an apple cider vinegar drink taste better. You could add a little honey to your drink or try adding the apple cider vinegar to a fruit smoothie to mask the strong flavor.
For example, Greenblender has a recipe (12) for a spiced cinnamon apple cider vinegar smoothie that includes spinach, apple, zucchini, cinnamon, water, ice, walnuts and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
You can drink apple cider different ways depending on how well you tolerate the taste. A common way to drink it is combining 1-2 tablespoons with 8-10 ounces of water.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
There can be various side effects from consuming apple cider vinegar especially if it is in excess. Even small amounts may irritate the digestive tract.
If you start consuming apple cider vinegar, do so gradually to make sure your body handles it without any side effects.
Apple cider vinegar and teeth enamel
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar causes a low pH (high acidity). Consuming excess apple cider vinegar may weaken tooth enamel.
Dr. Schmerling with Harvard Health (13) suggests diluting apple cider vinegar in water to limit damage to tooth enamel. Consuming apple cider “straight” can weaken tooth enamel faster.
Here are some ways to limit damage to tooth enamel from apple cider vinegar.
- Consume apple cider vinegar as part of a dressing instead of drinking it.
- Drink apple cider vinegar diluted instead of straight.
- Drink it through a straw.
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
Apple cider vinegar can damage tooth enamel. Drinking it diluted, through a straw or as part of a dressing can lessen the wear on tooth enamel.
Apple cider vinegar and digestive health: a fine balance
Vinegar has been a remedy for various digestive ailments for centuries. But, even in moderate doses it may irritate the digestive tract for some.
Vinegar may be beneficial for some digestive problems but may aggravate others.
Therefore, if you have digestive problems, you should consult your healthcare provider before you take apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar can be a popular recommendation from many websites for heart burn.
However, according to Dr. Marcelos Campos from Harvard Health (14) there is no research to date from medical journals looking at the impact apple cider vinegar has on heart burn.
Despite lack of evidence, many people advocate apple cider vinegar as an aid for heart burn relief. How can something acidic provide heart burn relief?
It is not clearly understood but the acid from apple cider vinegar could actually help neutralize stomach acid which may bring heart burn relief.
Apple cider vinegar may cause further irritation to ulcers. Drinking apple cider vinegar when you have an ulcer may cause exacerbate symptoms.
Gastroparesis is a condition where the muscles surrounding your stomach don’t move the food out of the stomach properly. Gastroparesis can cause nausea, vomiting and issues with blood sugar.
Apple cider vinegar can exacerbate gastroparesis and should be avoided if you have this condition.
It may especially be problematic for insulin dependent diabetics because of the interference with blood sugar.
A 2007 study (15) concluded vinegar can affect gastroparesis in people with diabetes which can negatively interfere with blood glucose regulation.
If you are feeling nauseous, drinking a diluted apple cider vinegar drink won’t help. You’re better off holding off on any acidic substances until nausea calms down.
Apple cider vinegar is a commonly recommended remedy for heartburn, but there is no research to support these claims. Apple cider vinegar may irritate certain digestive conditions.
Too much may harm bone health
Consuming apple cider vinegar in moderation- up to 1 to 2 tablespoons per day- shouldn’t cause any harm for bone health.
However, individual cases of people consuming very high doses of apple cider vinegar for an extended time have been known to cause altered blood potassium levels and weak bones.
In order for this to be a concern, intake of apple cider vinegar would be closer to about 8 ounces everyday for years.
In order to lower risk of weak bones from too much vinegar, consume in moderation.
Caution: possible throat burning in children
Apple cider vinegar tablets can especially increase risk for burning the throat. However, there are no reports to date that specifically site apple cider vinegar as causing throat burning.
What may be a concern is if children get drink apple cider vinegar. Acetic acid may be harmful for the throats of children.
Apple cider vinegar in excess has been shown to cause low blood potassium and weaken bones. The acid content may be harmful for children if they swallow apple cider vinegar.
Drug interactions with apple cider vinegar
If you are taking any medication, it is best to consult your doctor before increasing your intake of apple cider vinegar.
A potential benefit of apple cider vinegar is potentially lowering the glycemic load of a meal.
However, this could back fire for diabetics who are insulin dependent.
Drinking apple cider vinegar before meals may interfere with insulin or other insulin sensitizing medications.
Consult your healthcare team before adding vinegar to your diet if you are on insulin or other glucose regulating medications.
Apple cider vinegar can interfere with diuretics, laxatives and drugs that lower potassium blood levels.
Therefore, if you are on these medications, speak with your doctor before adding vinegar to your diet.
Apple cider vinegar may interfere with certain medications including: insulin or other diabetic medication, diuretics, laxatives or potassium lowering medications.
Should you take apple cider vinegar?
Adding apple cider vinegar to your diet may be a healthy addition. It can be another source of antioxidants, and when eaten with a meal may actually help lower the glycemic load.
Some studies have shown vinegar may have heart health benefits, and some limited studies have shown potential weight loss benefit. However, more research is needed.
Adding apple cider vinegar to your diet isn’t a magic bullet fix for weight loss or any other ailment. Some may find side effects even from moderate doses including weakening tooth enamel.
Some digestive conditions and certain medications may contraindicate adding apple cider vinegar to your diet.
Adding it to dressings or using it to pickle vegetables may be more tolerable and manageable than drinking it.
Apple cider vinegar may contribute some positive benefits to your diet, but it should be used in moderation. It is not a magic cure for any ailment or detoxing your body.