The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (or “ACV” as fans refer to it) has been one of the more long-lasting wellness trends of the past few decades. Whether taking it in capsules, gummies, or drinking it in its natural state, people are still turning to apple cider vinegaar to help with a variety of health ailments, including weight loss.

Proponents of the drink, which is most commonly used in cooking, argue that drinking apple cider vinegar straight-up can do it all: alleviate acne, clear up dandruff, help heal sunburns, and even efficiently and effectively dry-clean your dress shirts and starch their collars (maybe).

And there are also people who swear that drinking apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight. The most diehard ACV fans vouch for taking a shot of the drink, straight up, as if the masochism of the act somehow heightens the purported benefits. (Apple cider vinegar, after all, is vinegar, so it tastes like vinegar.)

But, yeah, what about apple cider vinegar and weight loss? We asked the experts to find out what you should know.

Can apple cider vinegar actually help you lose weight?

In short: maybe.

The mechanism behind apple cider vinegar and weight loss, ACV fans argue, is that the acetic acid produced during the fermentation process of the drink can help control appetite and burn fat. Some evidence suggests this effect may, in fact, be true, but experts say that the way acetic acid works in your body is slightly more complicated than ACV-in, pounds-out.

Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University says that when you consume small amounts of acetic acid through apple cider vinegar, the compound may activate your metabolism to help your body use fat as a form of energy rather than storing it.

In one study, obese rats that were fed high-fat diets lost a significant amount of body fat when acetic acid was added to their food (but…rats, so it’s not totally clear whether and how this applies to people). In another study that was in humans and was published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, people lost an average of four pounds in 12 weeks after consuming one to two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar daily.

In a small 2018 study, overweight adults who reduced their calorie intake and took 30 milliliters of ACV daily lost slightly more weight over twelve weeks than adults who only cut calories (although it’s worth repeating that both groups lost weight).

Overall, though, there haven’t been enough large-scale and long-term studies to know exactly how (and if) ACV impacts weight loss, Kim Yawitz, R.D., says. “Although it probably won’t hurt to use it in small amounts, you’ll still need to be sure you’re consistently eating fewer calories than you burn to lose weight.”

The human trials to date do not indicate that ACV helps with weight management. “However, a growing body of evidence suggests that it may be useful for blood glucose control,” says Edwina Clark, R.D. As always, consult with a doctor before adding any supplement to your routine.

side portrait of a young caucasian male who is drinking a glass of apple juice

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The acetic acid in vinegar may be beneficial in other ways, because it may suppress appetite, says Johnston. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be most effective when paired with a diet full of starchy foods, as the acid slows down the digestion of starch. This could potentially assist those looking to lose weight, because slow digestion keeps you feeling fuller, longer.

There’s also some evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar before a starchy meal keeps your blood sugar stable, making you less likely to crave sweet snacks. And a 2019 study showed that taking apple cider vinegar could help with insulin resistance, so if you have gained weight as a result of that insulin issue, ACV may potentially help iron out the root issue.

What is apple cider vinegar?

From a production standpoint, apple cider vinegar is actually pretty straightforward. Makers of apple cider vinegar start with apple cider and then add yeast, which kickstarts a fermentation process.

From a nutritional standpoint, ACV is also straightforward. One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar contains three calories, no protein, hardly any carbohydrates (none of them fiber), and zero fat, according to the USDA Nutrient Database.

So, from a calorie-in, calorie-out perspective, apple cider vinegar definitely isn’t adding a whole heck of a lot to the calorie-in side of the equation.

And, by itself, there are no additives, so you don’t have to watch out for excess sugars.

How much apple cider vinegar should you take?

There is no official recommended dosage, because the research on apple cider vinegar use is limited.

But Johnston recommends mixing one to two tablespoons with eight ounces of water to drink before meal time. Be careful not to add any more—because it contains acetic acid, drinking a ton of ACV could cause esophagus burns or erode tooth enamel. For some, ACV can even lead to some acid reflux-like symptoms.

What are the side effects of apple cider vinegar?

As with most things, it’s best to consume apple cider vinegar in moderation, as too much may damage your teeth and bones, according to reports.

apple vinegar or cider, bottle of drink and apples, healthy organic food concept

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Take this cautionary tale as one example: A 28-year-old woman was diagnosed with low potassium and osteoporosis due to her ACV consumption. She visited the hospital complaining of cramps, and doctors discovered she had low potassium and fragile bones. They believe she lost bone mass because of high acid levels caused by drinking 8 ounces of vinegar every day.

People with diabetes should also use caution when taking apple cider vinegar as it could lower blood sugar levels. And certain medications, like insulin, Digoxin (used to treat heart problems), and diuretic drugs may interact negatively with ACV.

What are other ways to lose weight?

Small lifestyle changes that you can maintain are the best way to achieve your goals, even without incorporating trends like ACV according to Andy Yurechko, M.S., R.D., of Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia. “A healthier type of diet is something you can do every day of your life,” he says.

Reducing the amount of highly processed snacks, like chips or cookies is one easy goal. If you normally eat three cookies at lunch, then reduce the quantity to two. Or, substitute fruits, vegetables, or jerky for a bag of chips in the afternoon. The fiber will keep you fuller and help you eat less overall.

If you’re looking to shed some pounds, here are some expert-backed tips to help get you started.

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