In the world of health, apple cider vinegar is like a “jack of all trades.” Apple cider vinegar, also called ACV, is just apple cider to which yeast has been added to start the fermentation process. ACV is a natural cure for just about any health problem you can think of.
But even though all those great reviews sound good, science doesn’t really back them up. There hasn’t been much research on these supposed benefits of apple cider vinegar, especially in humans, so there isn’t much proof about what it can and can’t do.
Still, some small-scale studies have shown that apple cider vinegar might have some health benefits, as long as you use it right (i.e., don’t take too much or drink it straight, which can hurt your teeth or give you diarrhoea). What you need to know is listed below.
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1. It may be able to help curb carb cravings.
High blood sugar has been linked to cravings for carbs and sugary foods, and Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, tells MensHealth.com that “some preliminary research shows that apple cider vinegar may help control post-meal spikes in blood sugar levels.” In one study, taking two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with a meal that had a lot of carbs helped keep blood sugar levels steady.
2. It may help manage type 2 diabetes.
ACV’s effects on blood sugar can help with more than just cravings. Gorin says that apple cider vinegar could help people with diabetes because it could keep their blood sugar from going up and down too quickly. People think that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar could slow down how quickly the bloodstream changes complex carbohydrates into simple ones. Research also shows that these effects are more helpful for people with insulin resistance or prediabetes than for people with normal blood sugar levels.
In another study, people with diabetes who took two tablespoons of ACV with one ounce of cheese before bed “lowered their fasting blood sugar by 4%,” says functional dietitian Ryan Whitcomb, M.S., R.D., C.L.T., owner of GUT RXN Nutrition. But he says that the protein in the cheese could also be to blame, so it can’t be said that ACV alone helped lower blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease, so talk to your doctor about making changes to your diet, such as adding apple cider vinegar to your daily routine, says Gorin. This is especially important if you are also taking other medicines.
3. It may be able to help treat eczema.
Whitcomb says that ACV baths may help treat atopic dermatitis (eczema) because they make the skin acidic and have anti-microbial properties.
That doesn’t mean you should put straight ACV on your skin, though, because not diluting it could cause burns. Instead, the Dermatology Nurses’ Association suggests adding three to four cups of ACV to half a bathtub of water and soaking for 10 minutes.
4. It may be able to help you lose weight.
Most of the time, apple cider vinegar is talked about as a way to lose weight, and there is some evidence that it may help with that. Whitcomb says that the acetic acid in ACV could help your body use fat as energy instead of storing it.”One study looked at the use of ACV with a calorie-restricted diet for 12 weeks. Those in the ACV group, compared to those in the control group (no ACV), significantly decreased their body weight, BMI, hip circumference, visceral adiposity [belly fat], and appetite scores,” says Whitcomb.
Whitcomb says that there are some problems with the research that has been done so far on weight loss and apple cider vinegar. In the study above, for example, “there were only 39 people, so we couldn’t apply the results to the whole population,” he says. Also, both the control group and the ACV group were put on diets with a deficit of 250 calories. “Did the low-calorie diet cause the results, the apple cider vinegar, or a combination of both? Whitcomb says, “It’s hard to say.”
5. It may be able to help with digestion.
Functional nutritionist Brigid Titgemeier, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., tells MensHealth.com that apple cider vinegar can help keep stomach acid in check. This is especially true if you don’t have enough acid in your stomach, which can cause acid reflux. “When stomach acid is low, pH levels rise in the stomach. This makes the gut a place where bacteria can grow, causing an imbalance of bacteria,” says Titgemeier. Changing the pH level in the stomach may help digestion.
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Bottom line: Apple cider vinegar can help you live a healthier life, but until more research is done, we don’t know how strong its benefits are. But if you want to give it a try, Titgemeier says, “I recommend between one and two tablespoons with eight ounces of water before meals, and I often tell people to build up slowly.” She says to use organic raw apple cider vinegar, like Bragg USDA Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar isn’t a cure-all, so keep that in mind as well. Gorin says, “Apple cider vinegar isn’t a miracle cure on its own, but it may help support other healthy habits.”
This is especially true if you want to keep your diabetes under control or lose weight. Whitcomb says that in these situations, the best things to do are to change your diet, your way of life, and get some exercise. “ACV can work, but it’s not the only thing that needs to be changed.”
Alexa is a Denver-based contributor who covers all things lifestyle, wellness, travel, home, and beauty. When she’s not writing, you can find her sweating it out at boxing or Pilates, planning her next travel adventure, or drinking red wine.