You may have a friend who insists on taking apple cider vinegar shots in the morning for fat burning. Or you may have seen apple cider vinegar drinks in the refrigerated section at the grocery store. With the exploding popularity of this seemingly basic pantry staple, you’re probably wondering what the buzz is all about.
In a perfect world, losing weight when you want to would be a simple process. In reality, it’s complicated and usually requires that you change up what you eat (more on our best diets for weight loss here), how you think about food, and your exercise plan. So, it’s understandable to be intrigued if you happen to come across claims that there’s a connection between apple cider vinegar and weight loss.
Many holistic health experts and Instagram influencers swear by the stuff, but whether ACV will really help you squeeze into a smaller pair of jeans isn’t so straightforward. Here’s what experts and the research actually says about apple cider vinegar for weight loss.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is mostly apple juice, but adding yeast turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol. This is a process called fermentation. Bacteria turn the alcohol into acetic acid. That’s what gives vinegar its sour taste and strong smell.
Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a home remedy, used to treat things like sore throat and varicose veins. There isn’t much science to support the claims. But in recent years, some researchers have been taking a closer look at apple cider vinegar and its possible benefits.
Some people say the “mother,” the cloud of yeast and bacteria you might see in a bottle of apple cider vinegar, is what makes it healthy. These things are probiotic, meaning they might give your digestive system a boost, but there isn’t enough research to back up the other claims.
As for nutrition facts, diluted apple cider vinegar contains an insignificant amount of calories per serving; almost no fat, carbohydrates, or protein; and no fiber. Think of it as a great way to add a burst of flavor to foods without adding calories or extra salt.
ACV isn’t just available in liquid form; you can also buy ACV tablets, capsules, and gummies. Keep in mind, though, that ACV supplements may not be as potent as liquid ACV and will likely be more expensive.
The science behind apple cider vinegar for weight loss
Let’s get one thing clear up front: There’s only a small amount of evidence directly tying ACV to weight loss in humans. One study in the Journal of Functional Foods, which followed 39 adults, found that participants who consumed a tablespoon of ACV at lunch and dinner, while cutting 250 calories per day, lost 8.8 pounds in 12 weeks. On the other hand, those who cut the same number of calories but didn’t consume ACV lost only 5 pounds.
In another study in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 144 adults with obesity were randomly assigned to drink either a placebo or one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who drank two tablespoons had lost close to 4 pounds, while those who drank one tablespoon lost 2.5 pounds. (Those who drank the placebo actually gained a little bit of weight.) However, those findings alone don’t prove that ACV is a magic fat melter. “These studies were done on very small populations,” says Erin Palinksi-Wade, R.D., C.D.E., L.D.N. “But the consistent results indicate that ACV may be a beneficial tool in reducing body weight.”
On top of that, ACV seems to have properties that could potentially support your weight-loss efforts. For instance, a 2013 study from the Journal of Functional Foods suggests that drinking apple cider vinegar before eating is linked to smaller blood sugar spikes. Another 2010 study from the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism shows that having two teaspoons of ACV during meal time could help reduce sugar crashes and keep blood sugar levels stabilized. Why this happens isn’t totally clear, but nutrition researchers like Carol Johnston, Ph.D., who has studied ACV at Arizona State University for years, suspects that compounds in the vinegar interfere with the absorption of some starches.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Vinegar has been used as a remedy for centuries. The ancient Greeks treated wounds with it. In recent years, people have explored apple cider vinegar as a way to lose weight, improve heart health, and even treat dandruff.
Research doesn’t back most of these claims. But some studies have found that the acetic acid may help with a variety of conditions:
- Japanese scientists found that drinking vinegar might help fight obesity.
- One small study found that vinegar improved blood sugar and insulin levels in a group of people with type 2 diabetes.
- Can help kill harmful bacteria
- May help lower blood sugar levels and manage diabetes
Vinegar also has chemicals known as polyphenols. They help stop the cell damage that can lead to other diseases, like cancer. But studies on whether vinegar actually lowers your chances of having cancer are mixed.
How to add apple cider vinegar to your diet for weight loss
Wondering about the best time to take apple cider vinegar? You can drink a tablespoon of ACV diluted in eight ounces of water up to twice a day—ideally, before or with a meal. That’ll increase the chances that the ACV will boost your satiety and help keep your blood sugar steady, Palinski-Wade says.
If you can’t stomach the idea of drinking vinegar, think about working it into your meals instead. Try drizzling ACV and olive oil over a salad or steamed veggies, Palinski-Wade. Or add a tablespoon of ACV to a smoothie.
If you use ACV to replace more calorie-dense salad dressings and marinades, and you had enough of them in the past, it could help you lose weight by cutting calories.
To maximize the health benefits, choose an ACV that’s labeled raw and unfiltered. “Unfiltered versions contain proteins, enzymes, and healthy bacteria from the vinegar starter or mother,”. Try Bragg Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar or Spectrum Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar Risks and Side Effects
Because of its high acidity, drinking a lot of apple cider vinegar can damage your teeth, hurt your throat, and upset your stomach. Also:
- Though some studies have been promising, there’s still little to prove that drinking apple cider vinegar helps you lose weight.
- It may also cause your potassium levels to drop too low. Your muscles and nerves need that nutrient to work the way they should.
- Another study of people with type 1 diabetes found that apple cider vinegar slows the rate food and liquids move out of your stomach to your intestines. Slower digestion makes it harder to control your blood sugar level.
- It might cause some medications to not work as well. These include diabetes and heart disease drugs as well as diuretics (medicines that help your body get rid of water and salt) and laxatives.
- And of course, its strong taste might not be for everyone.
In short, apple cider vinegar probably won’t hurt you. You can try it because it’s calorie-free, adds lots of flavor to food, and has health benefits. But it isn’t a miracle cure.
Apple Cider Vinegar Dosage
There’s no universally agreed upon dosage of apple cider vinegar, and suggestions of how much to take vary depending on whom you ask.
Harvard Health Publishing points out that most recommendations for drinking diluted apple cider vinegar are 1 to 2 teaspoons prior to or during meals.
The University of Washington, on the other hand, recommends that if you’re taking apple cider vinegar as a supplement (by the spoonful, as a shot), you ought to stick to a limit of 1 to 2 tbsp at a time.
As noted, the ingredient is also used in topical creams and can come in tablet form; check packaging for dosage information.
Regardless of the delivery method or amount, there’s no guarantee that apple cider vinegar will result in health or weight loss benefits. Simply put, more research is needed.
You can use apple cider vinegar on more than just salads. The ingredient may help you control your blood sugar and can be part of a healthy diet. It’s also extremely useful around the house for a variety of cleaning purposes.
But don’t rely on it as a magic weight loss cure or a treatment for chronic health conditions just yet.