Vinegar in its various forms has been used as a “cure” for many years and for a number of different ailments. More traditionally, vinegar is used to preserve food and used to add flavor. Apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) has also become popular more recently because of studies linking its consumption to weight loss.
Why might vinegar improve certain health conditions?
As I mentioned, vinegar has often been used to preserve or ferment foods. This fermentation process, especially when fermenting plant-based foods (think, kimchi or fermented cabbage), leads to some beneficial compounds being produced like antioxidants and probiotics.
Antioxidants are thought to be good for the body because they help destroy harmful compounds called “free radicals.” Probiotics are experiencing lots of attention now because of their potential to help improve gut health. Recent research is even suggesting that probiotics may be useful in preventing diabetes!
Apple cider vinegar is also thought to contain antioxidants and probiotics. The theory is that the apple portion of the vinegar helps to increase these beneficial effects since fruit is a great source of nutrients.
Do vinegars and apple cider vinegar in particular, truly have health benefits?
Let’s look at the research: one of the more popular published studies on apple cider vinegar and weight loss was conducted in Japan. The researchers found that those that drank apple cider vinegar lost more weight than those that didn’t. But here’s what we may not realize.
The trouble is, once the study was over, the study participants gained all their weight back. So we really don’t know if by just being in the study, folks were more motivated to lose weight, or whether there was something about the apple cider vinegar specifically.
Apple Cider Vinegar’s Effect on Blood Sugar
There’s also some research on apple cider vinegar’s effect on blood sugar. This seems more promising. It seems that it may in fact help lower blood sugar levels. Diabetes is basically having blood sugar that’s too high, so if we can control it by consuming something that helps lower blood sugar, this would be a great thing!
The theory behind why apple cider vinegar may help reduce blood sugar is that because of its high content of acetic acid, it may block sugar from getting into your bloodstream. Normally, whenever we eat or drink something (other than water), the body converts some or all of that food into sugar.
This sugar then gets into our bloodstream where it travels to our brain, our muscles, our organs, etc., where it can be used for energy or get stored. If the sugar just stays in the bloodstream and never gets to our brain and our muscles, that often leads to more serious health problems.
So again, if ACV blocks sugar from getting into the bloodstream in the first place, this may help those with diabetes. But I should mention that using apple cider vinegar to lower blood sugar is still considered controversial. I would never recommend someone stop taking their diabetes medication just because they are drinking apple cider vinegar. We still need more studies to know whether it is truly beneficial.
Also, because those that have had diabetes for years often have kidney problems, we want to be cautious because the acids in ACV could put the kidneys under some stress.
Apple cider vinegar does have probiotics in it as well. The trouble is, we have gazillions of probiotics in our intestines right now. This is great because these are helpful bacteria – they keep our guts nice and healthy. They help kill bad bacteria, help our immune systems in general, and help keep us regular. When we consume foods that have probiotics, it’s a very small amount… only a fraction of what we find in our bodies.
Plus, some of those good, probiotic bacteria never make it to the intestines because of poor storage and handling of the food and our bodies’ natural digestion processes. Many scientists argue that unless you’re taking a very large dose of probiotics, it may not really help improve health. Therefore, we can’t say that consuming apple cider vinegar will really help improve gut health and the immune system.
ACV – Effects on Sinus Trouble, Acne, & Other Health Conditions
What about apple cider vinegar helping with sinus trouble, acne, and other health conditions?
There simply aren’t enough credible data to show it will help with any of these.
Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar
Something I have yet to discuss is the fact that you actually don’t want to drink apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar for that matter) straight. It’s way too acidic. So, how much should you use?
First, most who recommend apple cider vinegar would say to buy the kind that looks cloudy and has that “giant blob” floating around in it. That odd-looking giant blob is supposedly the Tesseract of the apple cider vinegar, or the Cube if you’re more of a Transformers fan.
If you’re totally lost because you’re not as big of a nerd as I am, I’m basically trying to say that this giant blob is where all of apple cider vinegar’s power comes from – it’s what contains those beneficial antioxidants and probiotics. The current recommendation is to drop 1 – 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a tall glass of water. Then you sip this mixture once or twice a day, before meals.
Does It Have to be Apple Cider Vinegar? Do Other Vinegars, Like Red Wine Vinegar Have Similar Properties?
To sum up, ACV is not the miracle cure-all. Instead, incorporating vinegar can be just one aspect of a nutritious, balanced diet. There’s no need to go overboard and consume it more than twice a day. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.