You’ve heard the claims – now it’s time to clarify them. How good is apple cider vinegar for us really?
No other back-of-the-kitchen-cabinet item has had quite the reputation boom as apple cider vinegar. What was once an occasional salad dressing ingredient has now found an almost cult-like following in the wellness world. You must have seen the posts about starting your day with a 50ml measure, or maybe even the Instagram accounts dedicated to the ACV diet?
The health claims are large and far reaching, “varying in how extreme they are – from boosting weight loss, to improving digestion and even reducing the risk of cancer,” explains Dr Hazel Wallace, junior doctor and nutritionist and a member of the Strong Women Collective.
So what is fact and what is fiction? We asked Dr Wallace to help us sort it out – this is what she thinks.
Is apple cider vinegar good for you?
One of the most frequently associated health claims is to do with the ‘mother’ in apple cider vinegar. That’s the floaty bits you find in organic versions of the product, and is made up of yeast and bacteria. It’s therefore assumed to be a great probiotic which can support gut health.
It might not be that simple though, as the live bacteria may not survive during digestion, according to Dr Wallace. The European Food Safety Authority published a report on the substantiation of health claims about apple cider vinegar in powder form supporting digestive health and bowel function. It concluded that a cause and effect relationship was not established between the consumption of apple cider vinegar and improvement of bowel motor function.
Dr Wallace points out that “some studies have found that consuming vinegar with a meal which contains carbohydrates may help with regulating blood glucose levels after the meal”. Firstly, our bodies do a pretty good job of regulating our blood glucose levels themselves, so this isn’t something that most of all need to worry about and we shouldn’t sip apple cider vinegar purely on this basis. However, it could be beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes, Dr Wallace says.
And what about boosting our metabolism, one of the most touted claims of apple cider vinegar? Dr Wallace says that studies show vinegar “may slow down the release of food from the stomach”. This can help with appetite and feeling full for longer.
Finally, some research does point to apple cider vinegar supporting heart function. Studies in animals show that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat) levels. It’s thought this is because the acetic acid, the compound responsible for the smell of the vinegar, can stop the liver from storing fat. Studies in humans are, of course, needed to prove this further, but it’s promising.
How to take apple cider vinegar?
The problem is how people use vinegar to reap those benefits. Shotting apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning has become a wellness trend intended to ‘kick start’ your metabolism, but “there is no evidence to support this and it may increase the risk of tooth erosion if you have it without a meal,” warns Dr Wallace.
Dr Wallace says that a serving of 1-2 tbsp per meal is roughly the amount needed to bring about some potential metabolic, heart and blood sugar benefits. However, as with all good health advice, this is personal. The health benefits of it probably aren’t substantial enough to force yourself to add it to your dinner if you really dislike the taste. But equally, if taking apple cider vinegar makes you feel better then by all means add it into your diet.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).