For centuries, vinegar has been used for various household and cooking purposes. It is also an ancient folk remedy, claimed to help with all sorts of health problems. The most popular vinegar in the natural health community is Apple Cider Vinegar. It is claimed to lead to all sorts of beneficial effects, some of which are supported by science. This includes weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and improved symptoms of diabetes. Here are 5 health benefits of apple cider vinegar that are supported by scientific research.
1. Potent biological effects
Vinegar is made in a two-step process, related to how alcohol is made. The first step exposes crushed apples (or apple cider) to yeast, which ferment the sugars and turn them into alcohol. In the second step, bacteria is added to the alcohol solution, which further ferments the alcohol and turns it into acetic acid, the main active compound in vinegar. In French, the word “vinegar” actually means “sour wine.”
Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains “mother,” strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky, cobweb-like appearance. Some people believe that the “mother” is responsible for most of the health benefits, although there are currently no studies to support this. Apple cider vinegar only contains about 3 calories per tablespoon, which is very low. There are not many vitamins or minerals in it, but it does contain a tiny amount of potassium. Quality apple cider vinegar also contains some amino acids and antioxidants.
2. Potent antimicrobial
Vinegar can help kill pathogens, including bacteria. It has traditionally been used for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts and ear infections. However, many of these applications have currently not been confirmed by research. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar for wound cleaning over two thousand years ago. Vinegar has been used as a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria (like E. coli) from growing in food and spoiling it. If you’re looking for a natural way to preserve your food, then apple cider vinegar could be highly useful.
3. May lower blood sugar levels
By far the most successful application of vinegar to date is in patients with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugars, either in the context of insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin. However, elevated blood sugar can also be a problem in people who don’t have diabetes.
The most effective (and healthiest) way to keep blood sugar levels stable is to Avoid refined carbs and sugar, but apple cider vinegar may also have a powerful effect. Vinegar has been shown to have numerous benefits for insulin function and blood sugar levels:
- Improves insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by 19 to 34% and significantly lowers blood glucose and insulin responses
- Reduces blood sugar by 34% when eating 50 grams of white bread
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime can reduce fasting blood sugars by 4%
- Increase insulin sensitivity and significantly lower blood sugar responses during meals.
For these reasons, vinegar can be useful for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those who want to keep their blood sugar levels low to normal for other reasons. If you’re currently taking blood sugar lowering medications, then check with your doctor before increasing your intake of apple cider vinegar. Bottom line, apple cider vinegar has shown great promise in improving insulin sensitivity and helping to lower blood sugar responses after meals.
4. Can help with weight loss
Given that vinegar lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, it makes sense that it could help you lose weight. Several human studies suggest that vinegar can increase satiety, help you eat fewer calories and even lead to actual pounds lost on the scale. Vinegar along with high-carb meals can increase feelings of fullness and make people eat 200 to 275 fewer calories for the rest of the day. By reducing calorie intake, this should translate to reduced weight over time. A study in obese individuals showed that daily vinegar consumption led to reduced belly fat, waist circumference, lower blood triglycerides and weight loss.
However, keep in mind that this study went on for 12 weeks, so the true effects on body weight seem to be rather modest. That being said, just adding/subtracting single foods or ingredients rarely has a noticeable effect on weight. It’s the entire diet and lifestyle that counts, so you need to combine several effective methods to see results. Overall, it seems like apple cider vinegar may be useful as a weight loss aid, mainly by promoting satiety and lowering glucose and insulin levels. But it won’t work any miracles on its own. Bottom line, studies suggest that vinegar can increase feelings of fullness and help people eat fewer calories, which can lead to weight loss.
5. May have benefits for heart health
Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is currently the world’s biggest cause of death. It is known that several measurable biological factors are linked to either a decreased or increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Several of these “risk factors” have been shown to be improved by vinegar consumption, but all of the studies were done in rats. These rat studies showed that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Apple cider vinegar may also contain the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to protect LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized, a crucial step in the heart disease process. There are also some studies showing that vinegar reduces blood pressure (a major risk factor) in rats. Unfortunately, what works in animals doesn’t always work in humans. The only human evidence is an observational study from Harvard showing that women who ate salad dressings with vinegar had a reduced risk of heart disease. Bottom line, several animal studies have shown that vinegar can reduce blood triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure, but this needs to be confirmed in human studies.