Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used for thousands of years, starting at around 5000 B.C. when the Babylonians used a date palm to create the elixir. It was often used as a preserver or pickling compound, but its benefits reach far beyond just food. Throughout history, apple cider vinegar has been used for medicinal purposes, such as a digestive aid, an antibacterial balm to dress wounds, and a treatment for cough.
Apple cider vinegar is a mixture of apples, sugar, and yeast that is fermented and brewed over the course of a few months to create a powerful elixir with health benefits.
ACV is often used by individuals for their hair, skin, weight loss, antibacterial properties and other potential health benefits that are often trending on social media.
When you drink apple cider vinegar, it must be diluted into another food or beverage product — otherwise you run the risk of stripping the enamel on your teeth and potentially burning your throat.
Today, apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular drinks among wellness enthusiasts in beverages such as green smoothies and kombucha.
How is apple cider vinegar made?
Apple cider vinegar is a versatile, all-natural health product, made by fermenting apples, sugar, and yeast (or apple juice). It is produced through a two-step fermentation process, in which the sugars or starches from the apples are first converted into alcohol and then exposed to oxygen and the acetic acid bacteria — which is believed to provide many potential health benefits. Once it is exposed to oxygen and bacteria, the vinegar can be formed over the next few months.
Benefits of ACV
With all of its medicinal and healing properties, apple cider vinegar holds several benefits, including:
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Aids in weight loss
- Provides antifungal properties
- Holds antibacterial properties
- Aids in digestion
- Improves cholesterol and heart health
A few of the benefits with the strongest research to back up these claims are discussed below.
Improves cholesterol and heart health
Researchers analyzed data found from nine studies and concluded that consumption of ACV significantly decreased serum total cholesterol — along with fasting plasma glucose and HbA1C concentrations. It was also found that women who consumed vinegar in their diet 5–6 times per week saw a reduction in risk of fatal ischemic heart disease due to the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which ACV is high in.
Aids in weight loss
Apple cider vinegar is extremely popular when it comes to trying to lose weight loss and while it won’t make you drop a significant amount of weight on its own, it’s a great tool to add along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen. 175 obese participants took part in a 12-week study, consuming 0 (placebo), 15 (low-dose), or 30 (high-dose) ml of ACV in two 250 ml portions — one after breakfast and the other after dinner. The results concluded that body weight and BMI values in the high-dose group (30 ml) were significantly lower than those in the low-dose group and starting at week 4, both groups started to see a decrease in waist and hip circumferences.
Holds antibacterial properties
In a test tube study, scientists found that apple cider vinegar’s strong antibacterial properties were able to successfully kill Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus — which is the bacteria responsible for creating staph infections. Being that one of ACV’s main components is acetic acid, the drink is also a primary choice when fighting other infections.
Is ACV safe for pregnant women?
Apple cider vinegar is generally considered a low-risk supplement to take, but pregnant women should always exercise extra caution and consult with their doctor before taking any supplement. If you are going to take ACV, make sure that it is pasteurized. Unpasteurized ACV carries a risk of containing bacteria like E. coli or salmonella, which can be dangerous for pregnant women. As such, it is important to be sure that any ACV you are taking is pasteurized to minimize the risk of harm to yourself and your baby.
For those looking to add apple cider vinegar to their diet, it's best to take 1–2 tablespoons per day. While there is no universal consensus on the best time to take it, studies have found that taking it right before meals or at bedtime may be beneficial. For instance, a study of people with type 2 diabetes found that taking 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of apple cider vinegar at bedtime for two days significantly reduced their fasting blood sugar levels by up to 6%. Taking apple cider vinegar before meals may also help reduce feelings of hunger, which could aid in weight management.
How to take ACV
When considering adding apple cider vinegar to your diet, it is important to keep safety in mind. The acidity of apple cider vinegar can be harsh on your teeth and throat if taken undiluted, so it is critical to dilute the vinegar with water or mix it into a drink, such as honey and lemon, tea, or even salad dressings and soups. It is also important to avoid drinking apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach. Although there is no significant difference in the health effects of ACV gummies versus liquid vinegar, one should always research the authenticity of the pills or brand before taking them. It is essential to ensure the amount of acetic acid in the pills is sufficient, and to consult with a doctor to ensure they are safe to take.
Side effects of apple cider vinegar
Even with apple cider vinegar’s variety of health benefits, it’s still important to note that it can cause some side effects.
- Digestive issues. One of the most common side effects of drinking ACV is digestive issues, such as digestive intolerance and stomach burning.
- Tooth erosion. ACV can also lead to tooth erosion due to its acidity — similar to when we consume too many acidic foods, like citrus fruit.
- Potassium levels. Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that drinking ACV can lower potassium levels in the body, so it’s crucial to ensure your potassium levels are maintained at an optimal level for healthy function.
While the health benefits are fairly well established, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before using ACV as part of your diet.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Vinegar.
- Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects.
- Journal of Evidence-based Integrative Medicine. Diabetes control: is vinegar a promising candidate to help achieve targets?
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dietary intake of alpha-linolenic acid and risk of fatal ischemic heart disease among women.
- BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. The effect of apple cider vinegar on lipid profiles and glycemic parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.