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5 Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits, According to Doctors

Can it really help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol?

If the internet is to be believed, adding apple cider vinegar (ACV) to your daily wellness regimen can overhaul your health. However, some experts caution that ACV is not the panacea that people make it out to be. Yes, there are some apple cider vinegar benefits, but similar to other dietary supplements, it will not cure chronic health problems or be a silver bullet solution for weight loss, as some people claim. Before you take anything you've seen on the internet, it's important to sort fact from fiction.

That's why Jen Caudle, DO, a board-certified Osteopathic Family Medicine Physician and medical content creator, recently took to social media to discuss the internet's enthusiasm for ACV. Referencing information provided by Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense, she said there are a few valid claims about ACV, as well as more than a few that lack adequate evidence.

When it comes to research on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, "the evidence is of low quality and the studies are small," Caudle said in her recent TikTok post. "What that means is that it's not a slam dunk. We do have some studies suggesting that apple cider vinegar might do these things, but the data is not the most robust—not the strongest."

In other words, until we have more randomized clinical trials to collect full data sets over long periods of time, you should probably proceed with caution and only after running it by your doctor. That said, there are a handful of benefits of apple cider vinegar that you might reasonably expect—minus the hype.

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What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

apple cider vinegar
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Apple cider vinegar is sweeping the internet, but you're not alone if you're still wondering what it is and how it's made.

"Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from fermented apple juice. It is produced by crushing apples, extracting the juice, and then adding bacteria and yeast," explains Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, fitness and nutrition advisor at Fortune Recommends Health. "It is known for its distinct sour taste and strong smell from acetic acid and other organic compounds."

Double board-certified physician Kunal Sood, MD, adds that acetic acid, in particular, is responsible for its purported health benefits. "The recommended dose of acetic acid to reap its benefits is 750 milligrams per day," he explained in a recent TikTok post.

RELATED: 5 Surprising Benefits of Taking a Turmeric Supplement Every Day.

Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits

Apple cider vinegar may not exactly live up to its hype, but that doesn't mean it has no use. These are a few of the benefits you might be able to expect from taking ACV regularly.

1. Blood sugar control

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One benefit that OPSS confirmed is that ACV appears to produce modest benefits related to insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management.

"Apple cider vinegar might help regulate blood sugar levels, making it beneficial for those with prediabetes or diabetes, though it certainly isn't a cure for either," agrees Mohr. "One study found it may increase insulin sensitivity after eating high-carb meals and reduce blood sugar spikes. However, it should not replace standard treatments for those with diabetes."

Experts from UChicago Medicine add that while apple cider vinegar should never be used as an alternative to medication, "it's a safe enough addition to a diabetes treatment plan (as long as you don't have kidney disease)." However, it's important to first discuss this with your doctor.

2. Weight Management

A person stepping on to a scale with a measuring tape in front of her feet
Shutterstock / Eviart

Mohr also points out that some preliminary research suggests that consuming apple cider vinegar may assist in body weight management—but that it works best when combined with traditional means of weight loss, including healthy diet and exercise.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, which included 44 obese and overweight subjects, found several weight-related benefits to taking ACV.

"In the present study, oral administration of ACV along with a restricted calorie diet (RCD) significantly decreased body weight, BMI, hip circumference and Visceral Adiposity Index (VAI) in comparison to the control," the study authors wrote. "An implication of this is the possibility that ACV could be used as an adjunctive therapy in concomitant with RCD or other standard ways of weight management therapy."

3. Improved digestion

woman with hands over stomach representing digestive health
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Many people anecdotally report improvements in their digestion after taking apple cider vinegar regularly.

"Its acidity might help break down food more effectively, though this is more based on personal stories than science," Mohr says, noting that there is only limited research to support these claims. Additionally, it contains healthy bacteria that can have a probiotic effect on the gut.

Reduced heartburn and improved acid reflux are two more of its possible gastrointestinal benefits. That said, it's important to note that for some people who already have acid reflux, ACV may actually exacerbate symptoms. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not it may benefit you.

4. Antimicrobial properties

woman smoothing skin in the mirror
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Additionally, apple cider vinegar benefits the body thanks to its antimicrobial properties. Some research suggests that applied topically, the acetic acid in ACV can fight off fungi and kill harmful bacteria that can lead to skin infections. Some people report reduced acne after regularly applying apple cider vinegar to acne-prone areas.

However, it's important to dilute ACV with water before doing so to avoid irritation. Doing a patch test first can help ensure that you don't irritate a larger area of skin.

5. Lower cholesterol levels

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Finally, OPSS says that moderate consumption of ACV might help to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Both of these can, in turn, reduce your risk of heart disease.

RELATED: 12 Supplements You Should Never Take Together, Medical Experts Say.

How to Consume Apple Cider Vinegar

There's more than one way to take apple cider vinegar. These are the top three.

Diluted in liquid

Apple cider vinegar diluted with water, measuring tape
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Some people take liquid apple cider vinegar in the form of an undiluted shot, but experts say this is not only unpleasant but it's also harmful to your health. Due to its high level of acidity, undiluted apple cider vinegar can irritate and inflame the esophagus, stomach, and more. Cutting ACV with water can help reduce the risk of adverse effects.

"It's important to dilute apple cider vinegar in water before drinking to protect your teeth, throat, and stomach lining," explains Mohr. "Usually, one to two tablespoons in a large glass of water is a good choice."

As a supplement

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For some people, the sour, bitter taste of apple cider vinegar is a deal-breaker for daily use. However, Sood points out that you can also take it in capsule form.

"The brand I recommend is Bragg, because not only do their capsules include 750 milligrams of acetic acid, which supports healthy blood glucose levels and weight management, but also includes both vitamin D and zinc, which are beneficial to our immune system," he notes.

However, the OPSS site notes that ACV supplements can pose a serious problem when it comes to dosing.

"ACV dietary supplement tablet labels don't consistently report ingredient amounts, and recommended dosages vary. Two studies have revealed a range of contents and acidity levels (with an acid concentration as high as 10 times the amount in household vinegar). To date, no other studies have evaluated the contents or acidity of ACV dietary supplements. Therefore, no conclusions can be made regarding their safety," they write.

Chewable gummy supplements are also available, and several of these clearly list their safe dosing levels.

In cooking

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You can also incorporate apple cider vinegar into your everyday cooking. In particular, many people use it to make healthy salad dressing by mixing it with olive oil, herbs, and other ingredients.

"Add it to marinades, sauces, or soups to enhance flavor and gain health benefits," suggests Mohr.

RELATED: 5 Surprising Benefits of Taking a Ginseng Supplement Every Day.

Risks Associated With Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar

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Drinking apple cider vinegar is not without its risks.

"The high acidity of apple cider vinegar can damage tooth enamel, leading to decay and sensitivity. The acidity can also irritate your throat and it might not interact well with certain medications and could potentially cause low potassium levels, which is why it's critical to dilute pure vinegar with water," Mohr explains.

If you already have low potassium, a condition known as hypokalemia, you should avoid taking apple cider vinegar and lowering your levels further. People with kidney disease should also skip ACV unless their doctor has recommended it.

What's The Best Time of Day To Consume Apple Cider Vinegar?

Some people swear by taking their apple cider vinegar at a particular time of day, but there's little research to suggest that morning or night is preferable. However, there may be a slight advantage to taking it around mealtime.

"There's no set time, but drinking diluted apple cider vinegar before meals may help with digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Listen to your body and adjust based on your health needs and comfort," says Mohr.

Conclusion

Apple cider vinegar offers some health benefits, but it's not a cure-all health solution. "It's important to use it as part of a balanced diet and not rely on it only for health improvements," Mohr says.

He adds that you should always consider your existing health conditions and talk to a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have health problems or take regular medication.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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