Health & Wellness

Apple Cider Vinegar: Are the health claims true?

January 2, 2018

From fighting the common cold to whittling the waistline apple cider vinegar (ACV) can apparently cure it all, but how many of these claims are true?

“It’s a health fad,” says Gina Todozrovska, a Toronto-based Clinical Dietician.

A quick Google search and you’ll find hundreds of articles, blog posts and comments raving about the benefits of apple cider vinegar but Todozrovska says most of the literature found online has no medical merit or scientific research. 

“What’s really troubling is that consumers, who are poorly informed, are actually replacing viable treatments with apple cider vinegar,” Todozrovska says. 

Gina works for the University Health Network to design personalized nutrition plans for patients with different medical needs. She urges consumers to do their research and speak to a healthcare professional before self-treating with ACV.

Nargis Amir is a homeopath and nutritionist who regularly recommends unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to her clients. Amir, who operates out of Nutrition House in Mississauga, believes that apple cider vinegar can effectively treat different ailments.

“Apple cider vinegar, in its organic and unpasteurized state, is an incredible product. It’s antibacterial, it helps with digestion and weightless among other things,” she says.

The homeopath disagrees with those who question the effectiveness of ACV. “This is a product that has been used for centuries and it’s a viable health treatment… it’s helped many of my clients.”

Todozrovska admits that there is some scientific research behind the relationship between apple cider vinegar and controlling blood sugar levels. ” But it’s certainly not enough to put all of your trust in. Always consult a doctor.” 

What is apple cider vinegar? ACV is apple juice that’s been fermented, explains Amir It’s sold in two forms filtered and unfiltered.

How’s it made?  Yeast is added to crushed apples which change the natural apple sugars into alcohol (fermentation). Then good bacteria is added to the mixture which turns the alcohol into acetic acid -one of the main ingredients in apple cider vinegar.  The end result is a murky-looking drink with a pungent smell and a strong taste.

When the solution is filtered, bacteria and sediment are removed from the formula which creates a clear apple cider vinegar.

In its unpasteurized (unfiltered) state, the mother -which looks like cobwebs- is kept in the formula.  Amir says the mother is responsible for many of health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar.

Gina Todozrovska disagrees, “There is no evidence that the mother bacteria has any health benefits.”

Unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains “The Mother,” which is described as healthy bacteria that gives ACV its murky, cobweb-like appearance. This is what “the Mother” looks like up close.

 

I had the opportunity to ask both Todozrovska and Amir to address some of the popular health claims associated with apple cider vinegar. Here’s what they had to say: 

Apple Cider Vinegar and Digestion:

Amir says those who have trouble digesting meals may be lacking in adequate hydrochloric acid (HCl) levels in the stomach. 

“Apple cider vinegar can help because it mimics hydrochloric acid it the stomach,” she says, “and this is why it’s good for digestion.”

Amir believes maintaining a proper acidic environment in the digestive system is important to kill bacteria, parasites and microbes that may be ingested from food. 

Todorzrovska agrees that hydrochloric acid plays an important role in our digestion and food absorption. It converts pepsinogen -a substance secreted in the stomach- into the enzyme pepsin. “Pepsin is one of the main enzymes in the digestive systems which breaks proteins into amino acids. Amino acids are used in every cell of the body to build the proteins we need to survive.”

But the nutritionist is not convinced that ACV mimics HCl levels in the stomach or improvs digestion. “There is just not enough substantial evidence to confirm this… there are better treatment options for dealing with poor digestion… and you should not assume that you have low acid levels if you are experiencing digestive issues. 

Amir says another reason why she things ACV is good for digestion is because unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is a prebiotic.

A prebiotic is food for the good bacteria, or probiotics, in your gut. Well-fed gut bacteria generally translate to better health explains Amir, “these microorganisms help support good digestion and improve the immune system.”

Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss: 

A study conducted in 2014 suggests that the acetic acid, the main ingredient in apple cider vinegar, can help with weight loss by preventing body fat accumulation.

“Apple cider vinegar makes you feel full which can help with portion control,” says Amir.

But Todozrovska disagrees. “I would say the weight loss notion is speculative. There was one study, that I know of but the weight loss recorded was very insignificant” she says.

Amir claims that she has helped clients manage their weight with apple cider vinegar. “It’s effective in slowing the speed at which sugar enters the bloodstream which is important for those looking to lose weight,” she says,”

Don’t expect to lose weight with apple cider vinegar alone says Todozrovska. “Maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle is key to weight management.”

Diabetes and Apple Cider Vinegar:

According to a study from Arizona State University, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar slows down the digestion of starch into the bloodstream and subsequently prevent blood-sugar spikes.

Amir alluded to the relationship between ACV and glucose levels in the section above. She says individuals trying to lose weight or those with pre-diabetes (a condition where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes) and Type 2 Diabetes should drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before meals. 

Gina Todozrovska seems more optimistic about the relationship between apple cider vinegar and blood-sugar levels.

“There is more substantial evidence supporting this idea, but it should be noted that acetic acid is present in all vinegars so it’s not just apple cider vinegar that has this effect.”

Todozroska explains that in the study from Arizona State, it was revealed that glucose levels were reduced by 6 percent only when taken after starchy meals. “If someone drinks a sugary drink or a fatty meal and adds vinegar nothing happens.”

According to the study, those with pre-diabetes saw the most improvement. 

While Todozrovska confirms the existence of scientific research concerning ACV and controlling glucose levels, she cautions anyone with these disorders to consult a doctor before introducing apple cider vinegar to the body.

“If you’re taking medication for diabetes, apple cider vinegar may amplify the sugar lowering effect of your anti-diabetic medication.”

Apple Cider Vinegar the Cold and Flu Fighter:

Can apple cider vinegar prevent and even fight off colds and flu this season? Todozrovska doesn’t seem to think so. She says, again, that there is no research or scientific evidence to support this claim.

“The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar is a natural antimicrobial, which means the acid kills microorganisms by entering the cell membrane causing it to die… although we don’t know for sure how much vinegar you need to kill bacteria.”

So if you have a bacterial infection vinegar may help. Since cold and flus are viral ACV won’t do anything she explains.

“Wash your hands regularly, get the flu shot, drink lots of water, take a multivitamin, get your seven hours of sleep and don’t forget to exercise… this is how you stay flu-free,”  Todozrovska says. 

Nargis Amir believes apple cider vinegar may shorten the duration of a cold and flu by strengthening the body’s ability to fight off the virus, but she says taking zinc and eating superfoods like garlic and onion are better allies against colds and flus. 

UTIs and Apple Cider Vinegar:

Todozrovska says apple cider vinegar is not a safe treatment option for urinary tract infections (UTIs). “Failing to seek proper treatment as prescribed by a doctor can result in serious complications like bacteria travelling to your kidneys,” she says.

She believes the best way to treat a UTI is with antibiotics. 

Nargis agrees that apple cider vinegar is not the best way to treat a UTI. She explains that the acidity found in vinegar can increase the acidity in the urine. “If you pass acidic urine when you have a UTI  you can irritate the already inflamed lining of the bladder.”

Most UTIs are caused when E. coli bacteria from the colon area contaminates part of your urinary tract, like the urethra or the bladder.

However, Nargis does believe that drinking apple cider vinegar can prevent the formation of future UTIs.“Drinking apple cider vinegar can stop the bacteria from growing and multiplying because apple cider vinegar creates an alkalized state which kills bacteria.”

Apple Cider Vinegar remains a controversial health aid for treating ailments like the ones listed above

 

Despite the evidence or advice from different professionals both Amir and Todozrovska believe that there are many people on the ACV bandwagon. 

“It’s your choice if you want to follow a fad or self-treat with something like apple cider vinegar, all I can say is do your research first,” Todozrovska says. 

How much Apple Cider Vinegar? 

If you’re going to drink it, the dietician says you should dilute ACV in water.

“Mix 1 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in an 8 oz glass of water, you can add honey if you’re not too fond of the taste,” she says.

Don’t drink it straight from the bottle because it may burn your throat and esophagus she says. “It’s best not to drink on an empty stomach to avoid irritation.”

Amir says that ACV should be consumed on an empty stomach 1-2 times a day before meals. “This helps your body absorb the apple cider vinegar and take advantage of its benefits.”

Both agree that apple cider vinegar should be diluted in a large glass of water and users should rinse out their mouths and brush their teeth 30 minutes after drinking apple cider vinegar because the acids can weaken teeth enamel.

If users develop any negative side effects or already have conditions like the ones listed below, they are advised to stop drinking apple cider vinegar and consult a healthcare practitioner.

  • Upset stomach (common if taken undiluted) Do not drink if you have a stomach ulcer.
  • Weakened tooth enamel
  • Irritation of throat, esophagus and stomach lining
  • Low potassium: those taking medications like insulin and diuretics should consult a doctor
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels (those with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes may benefit, see diabetes section above)

Amir explains that if consumed correctly, apple cider vinegar should not produce any negative side effects.  “If you’re drinking more than the recommended dose, these negative symptoms can happen,” she says.

Gina admits that she has tried apple cider vinegar, “only as a salad dressing though… it’s a healthier alternative to some store-bought brands and the acetic acid can kill any lingering bacteria in your fruits and vegetables, but other than that I wouldn’t drink apple cider vinegar religiously.”

Pouring spoonful of Apple Cider Vinegar to a salad can be used as a dressing substitute, and as a way to kill any bacteria residue from vegetables says Gina Todozrovska.

 

Is apple cider vinegar effective or not? It depends who you ask. Nargis Amir is confident in the positive effects associated with apple cider vinegar but Gina Todozrovska remains skeptical about most claims listed above. She believes more research is needed before anyone confirms its healing abilities.

Both agree that those who are thinking of introducing apple cider vinegar in their diets should consult a healthcare professional first. 

You Might Also Like

49 Comments

  • Reply Bee December 28, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I like how you addressed the topic of ACV being a weight loss “remedy”, I had a friend who drank 2 shots daily in hopes of loosing weight, in the end she didn’t see any weight loss effects and was irritated every time she took her “shots”.
    Really like this post and really informative!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you for reading! There seems to be this big misconception that ACV is a miracle weight loss drink but it really comes down to eating well, staying active and being healthy. Adding ACV to an already healthy lifestyle may help but it’s not the answer to all of our weight-loss prayers.

  • Reply AmberLynn December 29, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I knew that there was a great debate over Apple Cider Vinegar, but I did not realize it was this deep. I love that you broke down the different “benefits” and offered the differing perspectives. This is a helpful post to those who religiously use ACV.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you for reading. I’m glad you found my post helpful 🙂

  • Reply Sophia Ramos December 29, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Finally, someone who actually did some research and spoke to some experts! It’s crazy that people just proclaim all of this health stuff as if they know what they’re talking about and what’s even crazier is that people take their word as gospel. I am very wary about what I read online most stuff floating around is garbage…. I am so pleased that your post has actual substance. Thank you for the great read. I will say I do drink ACV for my own reasons but it was nice to have perspectives from both experts.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you Sophia for reading the article and commenting on my post 🙂 I agree anyone can write something and share it online but we have to be critical thinkers and understand what information has merit and is well researched.

  • Reply kuminkueche January 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    I heard a lot about apple cider vinegar. I tried it and I really liked it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      I appreciate your commentary!

  • Reply Saranya January 2, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    I like how you go into detail with the science behind ACV. Thanks for this informative post!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      Thank you for reading 🙂

  • Reply Lucy January 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    There are so many articles on the benefits of apple cider vinegar, at last your post answers the questions that have been raised. And, you’ve spoken to actual experts on the topic. Thanks for presenting the positive and negative view points. This is so helpful.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      I know right!? This is what inspired me to write this article and find experts to comment. There is so much literature out there that is just based on personal preference. I’m glad we got to understand the different point of views.

  • Reply Melanie January 2, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    This is such an informative post! Thank you for doing your research and showing both the good and the bad!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      There are always two sides to every story! Thank you for readign 🙂

  • Reply Angel Lou January 2, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    I must say you are very concise. This is very educational. I’ve been wanting to try Apple cider for weight loss.. I think using acv and exercise may be good.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I think ACV alone won’t help as Gina stipulates but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key.

  • Reply Shamira January 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    I love the research for this post. I heard about it all over the internet including Pinterest. I use it recently for rinsing out shampoo when washing my hair there is subtle difference but nothing groundbreaking.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      Thank you for reading 🙂 I really enjoy speaking to experts who are more versed in this subject matter.

  • Reply Aiman Zafar January 2, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    wow! This is such an informative post! very educational. Thumbs Up 🙂

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you for your kind words <3

  • Reply Marissa Giletto January 2, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Wow! I think I had some huge misconceptions about ACV. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      So glad you found the post interesting and or helpful 🙂

  • Reply Adrienne Bruner January 2, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    This was really interesting to me …I have always wondered the pros and cons to apple cider vinegar. I never would have thought to try it as a salad dressing …I may do that!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Using ACV as a salad dressing seems like the easiest way to incorporate it to me!

  • Reply erin January 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Very interesting, I’ve read lots of blog posts on this but haven’t found real evidence for it’s claims for better health.
    erin recently posted…Family Goals for 2018My Profile

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      Hey Erin! Thanks for the post. This is what prompted me to write this article and interview two experts…There were several claims from different websites raving about the benefits of ACV but there is no real evidence or research behind the claims. I drink ACV and after writing this post I plan on continuing to drink ACV but it was nice to hear the different opinions.

  • Reply Emily Carson January 2, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    This is such great info! I’ve used ACV in the past and really noticed it affected my appetite and helped me fight off colds, but I haven’t used it in a while. I’ll have to go back to it!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you for reading and for your commentary!

  • Reply Michelle January 3, 2018 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the fantastic information! I had wondered about ACV and weight loss, because there are so many claims about it out there. I have taken ACV for severe congestion in the past and it did help. I have also used it in my hair and it really does wonders!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! ACV seems to be a miracle drink for everything… but it was nice to speak to two experts about their stance on the popular health claims. Glad ACV helped with congestion, I will keep that in mind!

  • Reply Mirlene | Savory Thoughts January 3, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    In our house we live by ACV. We often add 1 tbsp to a glass of water everyday. I am so glad you did this research. I have heard numerous stories regarding ACV; none of which have had any medical merit. Thank you for doing the research and informing us.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you for reading. I do love my ACV but I am no expert by any means so I rely on the commentary of actual experts to share their opinions.

  • Reply Jamie January 3, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Was just telling a friend how i LOVE the BRAGG brand of organic apple cider vinegar!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Bragg is my brand of choice! What do you drink ACV for??

  • Reply Anissa January 3, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    This was very informative and I love the research that went into it. There are so many fads out there that people are willing to try without giving peer reviewed research a second look.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Absolutely! I was so grateful to have both experts share their opinions; anyone can position themselves as experts and say “you should try this because of…” but we need to be critical readers and understand who is giving the information and if it has merit.

  • Reply Alyssa January 4, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Love ACV! Use it all the time. I wrote a similar post you may want to check out!! 🙂 https://thesimplysereneblog.com/2017/11/04/12-amazing-ways-to-use-apple-cider-vinegar/

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Awesome! What do you use it for??

  • Reply Kyla Matton Osborne January 4, 2018 at 12:22 am

    Interesting post! You’ve given me a lot to think about, especially with the links to the scientific research on acetic acid.

    I am open to the possibility that ACV could have health benefits. And I do suspect that the lack of scientific evidence at this point is probably more a question of few studies being done – especially studies that look at unpasteurized ACV. That being said, I think I found the arguments of Gina Todozrovska more convincing than those of Nargis Amir.
    Kyla Matton Osborne recently posted…Rare Fruit Hybrids: What Do You Get When You Cross a Plum with an Apricot?My Profile

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and for your insightful commentary. I agree we need more research on whether or not the Mother really has any merit. I am not a fan of self-medicating as Gina mentions… I would consult a professional first

  • Reply priya dharshini January 4, 2018 at 8:56 am

    nice information admin

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply Sara [Real Balanced] January 5, 2018 at 2:11 am

    This is such a thorough post!! It seems that over the last 5ish years, ACV has become sooo popular! I personally combine ACV with some warm water and drink each morning to get my digestion going. It seems to help with GI problems!

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      It really has become crazy popular! I too started taking ACV for digestion and it personally helped me. I can’t speak on the lack of scientific evidence but I can speak on its effectiveness for me. However, I do think more research needs to be performed especially with ACVs growing popularity. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply Wanda Gosselin January 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Freshly squeezed lemon juice will do many of the same things, and is better for you. Not disputing that ACV is useful.

    • Reply angelahoyos January 10, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I’m going to try it and maybe write a post about it. Do you know, off the top of your head, the associated health benefits of lemon juice?

  • Reply Kate January 11, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    What does it say about using ACV as shampoo if you have big curly hair?

    • Reply angelahoyos January 13, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Hi Kate,

      Thank you for reading and for your question. I know some people say ACV is a great no-poo alternative because of its anti-bacterial properties, and those with big curly hair have also used it as a way to tame the mane and relax curls – this is speculative according to experts. I asked a hair educator from Marca College her thoughts on your inquiry and she highly recommends against using ACV on hair. According to her, the acids in the solution will make hair dry and brittle and strip it’s natural hair oils. Does this answer your questions?

      As a woman with big curly hair myself, stay tuned for my review of a great, natural hair mask that really helps me 🙂

  • Reply Tony February 18, 2018 at 2:53 am

    Apple Cider Vinegar has become very popular and important. Thanks for applying some more input on the subject.

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge