What’s the Deal with Apple Cider Vinegar? The Science and Benefits

You’ve probably already heard of apple cider vinegar (or ACV) and the numerous benefits its avid supporters claim it to have. But what’s the real deal? Can drinking vinegar daily actually induce weight loss, lower blood sugar, whiten teeth, and alleviate cold symptoms? Let’s take a closer look and see if ACV lives up to the hype.

What exactly is it?

The word vinegar comes from the latin words vinum (wine) and acer (sour) and essentially vinegar is just that: sour wine.

 Apple cider vinegar (‘ACV’) is made from crushing apples and squeezing out the liquid. Bacteria and yeast are added to the liquid to start the alcoholic fermentation process, and the sugars are turned into alcohol. In a second fermentation process, the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria. In unfiltered or organic apple cider vinegar, this beneficial group of bacteria and acids remains and creates the murky web-like “mother”, similar to a Kombucha SCOBY. This “mother” is highly regarded for it’s nutritional and health benefits.

Clear and pasteurized vinegars typically do not contain the mother culture and don’t carry the same benefits, however they are great for cleaning as they don’t leave residue. Raw, unfiltered and unrefined versions contain many more beneficial properties for health uses.

What does science say?

A Turkish study published in 2014 looked into the effects daily consumption of apple cider vinegar has on 3 things:

  1. serum triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood)
  2. liver and kidney membrane lipid peroxidation (liver and kidney cell damage)
  3. antioxidant levels

Their findings indicate that apple cider vinegar had a protective effect on the kidneys and liver, preventing cell damage. Additionally, even though the test subjects were fed a diet high in cholesterol, the blood fat content was decreased in those that consumed ACV daily. Lastly, they found ACV to “increase levels of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins”.

Clearly, apple cider vinegar isn’t all hype. It’s not just this study that had these kinds of results either – if you’re interested feel free to read the linked studies below.

 There are several proposed explanations for these benefits including:

  • increased glucose utilization
  • facilitation of insulin secretion
  • reduction in the creation of lipids
  • increased satiety
  • enhanced energy expenditure

The main takeaway: Apple Cider Vinegar has been proven to have several health benefits including helping to reduce hyperglycemia, increase antioxidant levels, decrease cholesterol and increase weight loss. However, more long term studies are needed before any definitive health claims can be made by these scientists. In the mean time, many people have already been taking advantage of these scientifically proven (and unproven) health benefits of vinegar for years – even in 420 BC Hippocrates was using it to heal wounds.

Image by herbalteasonline.com

Medicinal Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Lowers blood sugar

Vinegar appears to inhibit the enzymes that help you digest starch. When starch is not completely digested, there is a smaller glycemic (blood sugar) response – 20-40% less of a response after eating a high glycemic food such as potatoes or a bagel. There is less of a blood sugar umpact when a fiber-rich whole grain is eaten beacause there is less of a glycemic response to begin with. Keep in mind there is no effect when no starch is eaten.

2. Improves digestion and immune system health

In addition to lowering blood sugar after eating high glycemic starches, this undigested starch from consuming ACV has a prebiotic effect. It passes through the intestines and becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut. Well-fed gut bacteria generally translates to a healthier you because these microorganisms help support good digestion and our immune systems

3. Stops a cold in it’s tracks

Many people claim drinking a mixture of two tablespoons of ACV with a glass of water every 4-6 hours at the first signs of a cold will prevent it from turning into a full fledged cold. However, there is still little evidence to prove this. Although, ACV contains potassium, which thins mucus; and the acetic acid in it prevents germ growth, which could contribute to nasal congestion. Personally, I have used this method about 3 times in the past year when I first started feeling sick and it worked to prevent the cold from worsening. Just remember to drink lots of water and get extra sleep to supplement the ACV benefits. Make sure to use apple cider vinegar with “the mother”!

 4. Lower cholesterol

Prescription drugs that are meant to lower cholesterol can have side effects and low cholesterol diets can be difficult to stick with. Apple Cider Vinegar, on the other hand, has very few negative side effects if taken correctly and is easy to administer. Pectin is a naturally occurring fiver found in both apples and apple cider vinegar. Excessively high levels of cholesterol—in particular, LDL cholesterol— are bad and can lead to serious health problems such as clogged arteries, heart disease, and stroke. When pectin is consumed, LDL attaches itself to the pectin and the cholesterol is eliminated. Apple Cider Vinegar can be used to lower cholesterol if it is the result of poor diet or genetic predisposition.

5. Weight Loss 

Many personal anecdotes and some case studies have shown that it does contribute to increased weight loss. A possible reasoning is that some of the bacteria and acids in the apple cider vinegar may help speed metabolism, however, more research is needed in this area before conclusive evidence is found.

6. Reduces risk of cancer

Vinegars are also a dietary source of polyphenols, compounds synthesized by plants to defend against oxidative stress. Ingestion of polyphenols in humans enhances in vivo antioxidant protection and reduces cancer risk. Currently, much interest surrounds the role of dietary polyphenols, particularly from fruits, vegetables, wine, coffee, and chocolate, in the prevention of cancers as well as other conditions including cardiovascular disease. While more research needs to be done for a definitive answer, perhaps apple cider vinegar can be added to this list of foods and its consumption evaluated for disease risk.

Home Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar

1.  Degrease your kitchen

Fight grease on your stove, countertops, pans, etc. with a 1:1 vinegar water solution.

2. Freshen wood

Ditch the expensive store bought products filled with harmful chemicals – mix ¼ cup vinegar with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cups water and  to bring back luster and shine.

3. Prevent spots on dishes

Just add ¼ cup apple cider vinegar to your dishwasher rinse cycle.

4. Sanitize cutting boards

Cutting boards are hotspots for bacteria, especially if they’re used with raw meat. A thorough wipe down with straight ACV will keep them bacteria free.

5. All purpose cleaner

You can dilute vinegar in with water (1:1 ratio) and it can be mixed with other natural cleaning products like lemon juice, salt, alcohol or essential oils.

A note about baking soda, which is a common natural cleaning item: mixing baking soda and vinegar will impair the bacteria-killing properties of vinegar. (the alkalinity of the baking soda and the acidy of the vinegar neutralize.) So if you’re planning to clean surfaces that come in contact with food, it’s best not to mix with baking soda. You can mix the two, however, for cleaning your oven, or even unclogging drains.

 

Hygiene and Beauty Uses Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Facial toner

Apple cider vinegar’s natural alpha-hydroxy acids and acetic acid will stimulate circulation, as well as minimize pores. Mix together one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and two cups water. Moisten a cotton ball, and swipe the mixture over a clean, dry face to tighten skin. Don’t rinse (the scent will dissipate quickly). You can add essential oils to cut the scent if it’s too aggressive for you.

2. Foot deodorizer

Apple cider vinegar’s antiseptic properties help to deodorize and disinfect feet. Plus, its anti-fungal attributes prevent and combat fungal conditions like athlete’s foot. Mix one cup apple cider vinegar with four cups water in a basin. Soak feet for 15 minutes, the rinse and dry.

3. Dandruff Treatment

Apple cider vinegar has natural anti-fungal properties to combat and mitigate dandruff. Plus, its acidic properties balance pH levels and restore the scalp’s protective acid mantle layer to ward off further fungal growth. Mix together a solution of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Massage into your scalp before shampooing. You can also mix one teaspoon apple cider vinegar into your regular shampoo and use to wash hair, massaging and concentrating on your scalp.

4. Hair Rinse

The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar will remove residue from product buildup and help you get shiny, lustrous locks. Mix two tablespoons apple cider vinegar with one cup water, and use to douse your hair after washing. Rinse thoroughly, and follow with a light conditioner.

5. Bug bit treatment

The acids in the vinegar neutralize the itch, while its anti-inflammatories ease swelling and its pH-balancing properties speed healing. Moisten a cotton ball or pad with undiluted apple cider vinegar and dab on bug-bitten skin for instant relief.

Could it do more harm than good?

Vinegar’s use as a condiment and food ingredient spans thousands of years, and perhaps its use can be labeled safe by default. Yet there are rare reports in the literature regarding adverse reactions to vinegar ingestion. Inflammation of the oropharynx and second-degree caustic injury of the esophagus and cardia were observed in a 39-year-old woman who drank 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar in the belief it would dislodge a piece of crab shell from her throat. Her symptoms resolved spontaneously after several days. Esophageal injury by vinegar is likely very rare but deserves notice.

So don’t drink it straight. It’s so acidic that it could harm your tooth enamel and your esophagus.

Summary

While ACV isn’t a cure all, it can certainly help certain ailments when used supplemented with a good diet and exercise. Additionally, we need more research before we know how significant the effect really is. And it’s worth pointing out that vinegar is not completely harmless, either. Drinking or gargling straight vinegar can erode tooth enamel, increasing your risk for cavities.

While not all of the claims live up to the hype, some scientific studies show results that support that apple cider vinegar can help to reduce hyperglycemia, increase antioxidant levels, decrease cholesterol and increase weight loss. To reap these benefits, be sure to dilute one to two tablespoons of unfiltered vinegar (with “the mother”) in eight ounces of water, and drink it during the first bites of a meal.

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