Apple Cider Vinegar (All Hype or Miracle Food?)
There have been many claims about apple cider vinegar and the healing powers that it possesses. From claims about apple cider vinegar being good for your skin, to promoting weight loss, improving gut health, reducing bad cholesterol, whitening teeth, detoxifying the liver, and even preventing cancer, apple cider vinegar seems to be the newest miracle food. However, these claims are only one side of the story.
The History of Apple Cider Vinegar
The discovery of vinegar seemingly happened by accident. In different parts of the world, wine or beer was left uncovered for too long and turned into vinegar. From this, the many vinegars we know about today were created. (1)
For more than ten thousand years, apple cider vinegar has been used as both food and medicine, not just for people but also for their animals. While we aren’t sure where apple cider vinegar was created first, we do see the use of apple cider vinegar in both ancient Egypt and ancient Greece.
Traces of vinegar were found in an ancient Egyptian jar dating as far back as 8,000 B.C. (3) In ancient Egypt, apple cider vinegar was used as an antiseptic, a preservative, and a weight loss agent. In addition to these uses, apple cider vinegar was used as a skin tonic. It was believed that even Cleopatra believed in its efficacy as a skin toner and used it extensively. (2)
The Greek scientist and doctor Hippocrates is well known, even today. In fact, the doctors who treat you, take the Hippocratic oath. Over two thousand years ago Hippocrates was prescribing apple cider vinegar mixed with honey to treat coughs, colds, and diabetes. (3)
Surely, since we trust so much in Hippocrates, there must be something to these claims.
Apple Cider Vinegar Comes to America
While there are some varieties of wild crab apples that are native to north America, the apples that are most useful for desserts and ciders were introduced by the western European settlers.
As more and more homesteads were built in north America, apple trees were becoming commonplace and could be found in almost all these properties. The apples were being used for eating, cooking, drying, and making cider.
To make the cider, the apples were pressed into apple juice and left to ferment naturally into hard apple cider. Some of this apple cider was then left to ferment further to become apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar was also used to treat soldiers’ wounds during the American Civil War and was used well into the 1st World War as a disinfectant. (5)
The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar
There is some truth to the claims people make about apple cider vinegar. If you are looking to boost your immune system, consuming apple cider vinegar that is raw and unprocessed can benefit your lymphatic system.
The probiotics that are found in apple cider vinegar can also help to support a healthy digestive system and destroy any bad bacteria and viruses that are in the intestinal tract. (6)
A study that followed four men and seven women who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and who were not taking insulin, found that taking apple cider vinegar at bedtime favorably impacted the waking glucose concentrations. (7)
Another study found that if you were to take vinegar before a meal, this would heighten insulin sensitivity and thus reduce glucose and glucose spikes that would happen after a meal. (8)
There is also promising evidence that apple cider vinegar can help with reducing cholesterol. In a study that was conducted on rats, apple cider vinegar reduced the triglyceride and VLDL levels in rats given the vinegar, when compared to rats who were not receiving the supplement. (9)
A study has also shown that pectin, an active ingredient in apple cider vinegar may help regulate blood pressure and lead to good cholesterol.(8)
While it does not promise weight loss, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can delay the digestion of starch and thus stave off hunger pangs longer, if taken before a meal.
It is suggested that digestive enzymes may help in breaking down or converting the carbohydrates into sugar. This would therefore delay the absorption of sugar into the body. (9)
The Untrue Claims About Apple Cider Vinegar
One of the most popular claims of apple cider vinegar is that it can help prevent cancer. One study was done and showed that apple cider vinegar provided a decreased risk of esophageal cancer in China. (10)
However, another study done in Serbia (9) associated the use of apple cider vinegar with an increased risk of bladder cancer. While rice vinegar has been shown to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors (11), there is no solid evidence that apple cider vinegar is going to provide the same results.
Another popular claim is that apple cider vinegar is going to help with weight loss. While apple cider vinegar does a lot to aid in weight loss, it is not a magical substance that is going to melt your fat away without any lifestyle changes. (12) When used in addition to a good diet and exercise regimen, apple cider vinegar can aid weight loss efforts.
Another widespread claim is that apple cider vinegar has anti-infective qualities. This could be true if used for food preparation, but it is not a good idea to use vinegar when treating or disinfecting wounds.
It is also not the best household cleaning aid as there are other more effective disinfectants for this purpose. (13)
Too Much of a Good Thing
Many people believe that if something is good for us, we can consume as much of it as we want without any dire effects. However, this is often untrue. In the case of apple cider vinegar, consuming too much can lead to many side effects.
Delayed Stomach Emptying
One of the reasons that apple cider vinegar may contribute to weight loss is that it helps you to feel fuller longer. This happens because apple cider vinegar delays the emptying of the stomach.
This is a risk because it can cause the blood sugar levels to dip lower than what is safe, especially for those with diabetes. (14)
When apple cider vinegar is consumed directly, it can have a negative effect on the teeth. Since apple cider vinegar is acidic it eats away at the enamel on the teeth.
Research has also shown that apple cider vinegar can lead to the loss of minerals that are essential for healthy teeth which also increased the risk to the tooth enamel. (13) It is good for cleaning dentures though, compared to bleach solutions. (14)
Another negative effect that can come from ingesting too much apple cider vinegar is lowered potassium levels and bone loss.
A study noted that in the case of a woman who consumed eight ounces of vinegar mixed in water on a daily basis, it was found that she developed blood abnormalities, low potassium levels, and osteoporosis.
Doctors noted that large daily doses of apple cider vinegar led to minerals being pulled from the bones to help offset the blood acidity. It was also noted that when there are high acid levels in the body, the formation of new bone is greatly reduced. (15)
The Safest Way to Use Apple Cider Vinegar
When it comes to apple cider vinegar, you aren’t going to find official guidelines on how to use it. There are, however, some things to keep in mind when you are taking apple cider vinegar to help ensure that you are taking it in the most effective way.
Never drink apple cider vinegar straight. Ensure that you are always diluting apple cider vinegar.
Many of the negative side effects of apple cider vinegar are caused when you are not diluting apple cider vinegar effectively. It can damage your tooth enamel and esophagus.
In general, it is recommended that one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar are mixed into eight ounces of water. (16) There are also no studies that support taking apple cider vinegar in the morning on an empty stomach.
Drinking apple cider vinegar isn’t the only way to consume it. Apple cider vinegar can also be added into salad dressings, ketchups and marinades to help you consume it on a regular basis.
Apple cider vinegar also comes in capsule form for those who do not relish its taste. But some studies found that some capsules do not contain any acetic acid and the amount of calcium, potassium and iron may vary according to the brand. (17)
Finally, to keep safe, it is also a good idea to consult a health professional especially if you are taking other medications, as vinegar may cause a counter-reaction to these.
Remember, it is best to purchase a brand that is raw, organic, unprocessed, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. This is usually cloudy and brownish in color and should have cobweb-like strands floating, which is actually ‘the Mother’.
This usually signifies good quality vinegar. A clear mixture means that the apple cider vinegar has been distilled or pasteurized and therefore most of its enzymes and nutrients are gone.
There are a lot of claims that apple cider vinegar is a superfood that should be added to everyone’s diets. While there is some truth to many of the claims that are made, there is a need for much more research to be done on apple cider vinegar before we turn to apple cider vinegar to cure all our ailments.