Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

The vinegar might be able to help with a few common conditions.

A bottle of apple cider vinegar next to some apples

Madeleine Steinbach / 500px / Getty Images

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the juice of crushed apples. The vinegar can be used for a variety of purposes, including in cooking and as a household cleaner. Apple cider vinegar may also be helpful in managing certain conditions.

When taken in by mouth, apple cider vinegar might help with weight management, diabetes regulation, and heart health. When applied to the skin, the vinegar might help with varicose veins (though skin application can sometimes cause chemical burns).
 
These potential benefits are based on limited research, though. Because of this, you should talk with a healthcare provider about using apple cider vinegar for the management of any condition.

Benefits

Apple cider vinegar has been studied more extensively in animals and isolated cells than in humans. While human studies on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are limited, existing research does appear promising. 

May Help With Weight Management 

Consuming apple cider vinegar might help in managing your weight.

For one small study, 39 people were told to cut 250 calories per day for 12 weeks. Some of these people only cut the calories; some were told to also add one ounce of apple cider vinegar daily. 

Compared to those who didn’t have the vinegar, people who used apple cider vinegar experienced significant reductions in: 

  • Body weight
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Hip measurements
  • Visceral fat (deep, internal belly fat)
  • Appetite

In another study, people with obesity were randomly assigned to drink a beverage that contained a half ounce of vinegar, an ounce of vinegar, or no vinegar every day for 12 weeks. Both vinegar groups experienced reductions in body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist measurements. 

May Aid in Managing Type 2 Diabetes

Apple cider vinegar might help with the management of type 2 diabetes.

A study involving 110 people with type 2 diabetes showed a positive effect on some diabetes measurements. During dinner for three months, the participants were given either a placebo or a half ounce of apple cider vinegar in about seven ounces of water. 

Over that time, the group who had the vinegar with their water experienced significant reductions in fasting blood sugar and HbA1C. 

Fasting blood sugar is the measurement of how much sugar is in your blood when you haven’t eaten a meal. HbA1C is a measure of blood sugar over the previous two to three months. High levels of either can indicate you have too much sugar in your blood, which can put you at increased risk for diabetes complications.

The group who didn’t have the vinegar experienced no changes in either of these measurements.

The half ounce of apple cider vinegar was also shown to reduce waist and hip measurements for those with type 2 diabetes—two factors that can help reduce disease risk.    

Apple cider vinegar’s positive effect on fasting blood sugar and HbA1C among people with type 2 diabetes was also shown in a review of nine previous studies.

May Improve Heart Health

Total cholesterol is the total amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides (a type of fat) in your blood. High total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or triglycerides can raise your risk of heart disease. Low levels of HDL can also be bad for heart health since this is considered a “good” cholesterol. 

Apple cider vinegar may help with all these levels.

Research has shown that drinking one ounce of apple cider vinegar a day may lead to reductions in triglycerides and total cholesterol and increases in “good” HDL cholesterol. 

Even just a half ounce of apple cider vinegar a day may have a positive effect on triglyceride levels for people with obesity and on triglycerides and total cholesterol for people with type 2 diabetes. 

One small study looked at 19 people with high cholesterol and/or high triglyceride levels who were not being treated for these conditions. The participants were asked not to change their diet or exercise programs but to add an ounce of apple cider vinegar twice per day for eight weeks. The group experienced reductions in total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.  

May Improve Symptoms of Varicose Veins

One study showed that people who applied apple cider vinegar to varicose veins on their legs—in addition to following the regular treatment their healthcare provider was giving them—had decreased pain; anxiety levels associated with the veins' appearance; and symptoms, such as cramps, swelling, and itching. 

While the study participants had no side effects, applying apple cider vinegar to the skin can potentially be unsafe since the vinegar might cause chemical burns for some people.

Nutrition

One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar provides:

  • Calories: 3
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg 
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Added sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Apple cider vinegar does not contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals in the portions used in recipes or in the portions used as dietary additives to help manage conditions. However, apple cider vinegar is known to contain antioxidants, namely phenolic compounds, which fight inflammation and have been shown to protect cells from damage that leads to disease. 

All types of vinegar contain acetic acid, a byproduct of fermentation. Acetic acid is what gives apple cider vinegar its strong, sour aroma and flavor. 

Acetic acid also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which makes the vinegar a natural disinfectant. People may use the vinegar in cleaning their house, for example. Research has shown that apple cider vinegar can help fight against Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus aureus (staph), and Candida albicans (a type of yeast).

Risks

When used to help manage conditions, apple cider vinegar appears to be safe in the short term. However, it may be unsafe when used in large amounts or in the long term. 

Large amounts of apple cider vinegar in the long term might lead to low levels of potassium, which may trigger abnormal heart rhythm, fatigue, muscle damage, weakness, tingling, numbness, and constipation.  

Apple cider vinegar can also interact with some medications and dietary supplements, including diabetic drugs, diuretics, and several herbs. 

Researchers say apple cider vinegar may also contribute to osteoporosis and harm the esophagus, tooth enamel, and skin.

There isn't enough reliable information to know if apple cider vinegar is safe to use medicinally when pregnant or breastfeeding, so experts advise only using it as a food during these times.

Tips for Using Apple Cider Vinegar

As a condiment or ingredient, apple cider vinegar can be added to salad dressings, marinades, pickled vegetables, soups, tea, smoothies, and even baked goods. 

Speak to a healthcare provider about drinking apple cider vinegar for condition-based purposes. If they say it’s OK to use, they might recommend that you mix the vinegar with water, as undiluted apple cider vinegar can harm the esophagus and tooth enamel. 

You’ll need to ask how much vinegar to mix, as well. Many studies have looked at the efficacy of anywhere from a half of an ounce to one ounce. Using too much might be harmful. One study found that taking two tablespoons of vinegar in a cup of water twice per day did increase tooth erosion by 18% over an eight-week period. 

Also speak to a healthcare provider about using apple cider vinegar directly on your skin.

A Quick Review

Apple cider vinegar is a condiment or recipe ingredient that people might also use for specific health effects. Human research to support many of apple cider vinegar’s touted benefits is lacking. However, small studies show that apple cider vinegar may help support weight management, diabetes regulation, and heart health. 

It’s safe to use apple cider vinegar in cooking. But because the use of apple cider vinegar as a medicine does carry risks, such as dental erosion, low potassium, and medication or supplement interactions, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before using it to prevent, manage, or treat a medical condition.   

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Sources
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