I once had a coworker who brought a gallon of apple cider vinegar to work every single day. He carefully poured a few tablespoons into his Nalgene in the mornings and sipped the concoction throughout the workday. “It changed my life,” he told me, the smell of sulphur springing forth from his mouth.
If you believe the hype, sure, apple cider vinegar could certainly change your life. An extremely popular home remedy, many claim that consuming small amounts — one or two tablespoons a day — improves digestion, helps you lose weight, lowers blood sugar levels, reduces acne, curbs belly fat, enhances heart health, decreases cancer risk and the list goes on.
Some people even do an apple cider vinegar challenge, where they drink it for weeks or months at a time. Hell, you can even find apple cider vinegar gummies, which promise to provide many of the same benefits.
But can apple cider vinegar really be the cure to all of our problems?
Well, some research supports a few of these claims. One study found that apple cider vinegar significantly lowered post-meal blood glucose, meaning it could be used in tandem with medication to help treat symptoms of diabetes. Another study found that the antimicrobial properties of apple cider vinegar can reduce the presence of bacteria on food that may otherwise cause food poisoning, which would make it a handy salad dressing, for instance. Yet another study suggests that apple cider vinegar might help with weight loss by curbing your appetite.
Overall, though, Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, calls the research “not super strong.” She goes on to say, “There is some data to support that it acts as a digestif, improving digestion a little, and also as a slight appetite suppressant. However, it’s quite acidic, so I don’t recommend drinking a ton of it to avoid getting an upset stomach. It can be pretty strong.”
If you have a sensitive stomach, drinking even small amounts of apple cider vinegar can pose problems, something this unfortunate Reddit user endured: “Hey, you remember those science fair volcanos you used to make in elementary school that you fill with baking soda and food coloring, then at the last possible second, douse with a cup of vinegar before running for cover as the bubbling ooze endlessly pours from the top? That’s a really useful metaphor for my story because my baking soda stomach decided that it didn’t appreciate an apple cider vinegar bath and, well, I’ll spare you the details except to say that the leftover pizza I ate for lunch then wished that I hadn’t was no longer an issue for my digestive system. Unfortunately, the myriad of snacks and tonight’s dinner was blocking its path down the mountain, but the geyser of apple cider vinegar erupting up my esophagus convinced everything else in my stomach that life would be better down the metaphorical mountain too.”
So, all in all, as UChicago Medicine explains in a blog post, “Like any supplement, ACV [apple cider vinegar] won’t replace a healthy lifestyle. It may have some benefits to our bodies, but overall, we need more studies to truly understand the health benefits and side effects associated with ACV.”
Hopefully my old coworker has figured that out by now.