An expert explains why it’s not a quick fix.
The hype surrounding apple cider vinegar (or “ACV” as fans refer to it) is for real.
Proponents of the drink, which is most commonly used in cooking, argue that drinking apple cider vinegar straight-up can do it all: alleviate acne, clear up dandruff, help to heal sunburns, and even efficiently and effectively dry-clean your dress shirts and starch their collars (maybe).
And there are also people who swear that drinking apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight. The most diehard of ACV fans vouch for taking a shot of the drink, straight up, as if the masochism of the act somehow heightens the purported benefits. (Apple cider vinegar, after all, is vinegar, so it tastes like vinegar.)
Although, you can also take your apple cider vinegar in a “cocktail” of sorts. ACV fans also combine the ingredient with tea, smoothies, sauces, and dressings.
But, yeah, what about apple cider vinegar and weight loss?
The mechanism behind apple cider vinegar and weight loss, ACV fans argue, is that the acetic acid produced during the fermentation process of the drink can help control appetite and burn fat. Some evidence suggests this effect may, in fact, be true, but experts say that the way acetic acid works in your body is slightly more complicated than ACV-in, lbs-out.
Can a shot (or smoothie or tea) of apple cider vinegar actually help you burn fat? And, other than the after-burn of doing a shot of ACV, are there any side effects or dangers to a daily dose of the liquid?
We asked the experts to find out what you should know.
What is apple cider vinegar?
From a production standpoint, apple cider vinegar is actually pretty straightforward. Makers of apple cider vinegar start with apple cider and then add yeast, which kickstarts a fermentation process.
From a nutritional standpoint, ACV is also straightforward. One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar contains three calories, no protein, hardly any carbohydrates (none of them fiber), and zero fat, according to the USDA Nutrient Database.
So, from a calorie-in, calorie-out perspective, apple cider vinegar definitely isn’t adding a whole heck of a lot to the calorie-in side of the equation.
And, by itself, there are no additives, so you don’t have to watch out for excess sugars.
Are there benefits to apple cider vinegar?
Fans of ACV talk about acetic acid, a compound produced during the fermentation process that converts the drink’s sugars to acid. Acetic acid, they argue, has a strong backing of research link its consumption to weight loss.
To cross-check these claims, we sought out Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, who has done extensive research on the subject.
Johnston says that when you consume small amounts of acetic acid through apple cider vinegar, the compound may activate your metabolism to help your body use fat as a form of energy rather than storing it.
In one study, obese rats that were fed high-fat diets lost a significant amount of body fat when acetic acid was added to their food. In another study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, people lost an average of four pounds in 12 weeks after consuming one to two tablespoons of diluted apple cider vinegar daily.
So it is true: Apple cider vinegar has helped study participants lose weight, according to research.
And the acetic acid in vinegar may be beneficial in other ways, because it may suppress appetite, says Johnston. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to be most effective when paired with a diet full of starchy foods, as the acid slows down the digestion of starch. This could potentially assist those looking to lose weight, because slow digestion keeps you feeling fuller, longer.
There’s also some evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar before a starchy meal keeps your blood sugars stable, making you less likely to crave sweet snacks.
But does apple cider vinegar actually work to help you lose weight?
Johnston says it’s worth trying—provided you’re not looking for immediate results.
If you eat whole foods with a high starch content, such potatoes or rice, you can try making apple cider vinegar a daily precursor to your meals.
How much apple cider vinegar should you take?
There is no official recommended dosage, because the research on apple cider vinegar use is limited.
But Johnston recommends mixing one to two tablespoons with eight ounces of water to drink before meal time. (Be careful not to add any more—because it contains acetic acid, drinking a ton of ACV could cause esophagus burns or erode tooth enamel.)
What’s the best type of apple cider vinegar?
Numerous brands sell ACV, and one isn’t more beneficial than another. Generally, you’ll want to choose a bottle labeled raw and unfiltered because they contain protein and healthy bacteria, Prevention reported.
While most brands filter the mass out, others include it, believing it could enhance apple cider vinegar’s health benefits, but no studies have supported this idea.
What are the side effects of apple cider vinegar?
As with most things, it’s best to consume apple cider vinegar in moderation, as too much may damage your teeth and bones, according to reports.
Take this cautionary tale as one example: A 28-year-old woman was diagnosed with low potassium and osteoporosis due to her ACV consumption. She visited the hospital complaining of cramps, and doctors discovered she had low potassium and fragile bones. They believe she lost bone mass because of high acid levels caused from drinking 8 ounces of vinegar every day.
Diabetics should also use caution when taking apple cider vinegar as it could lower blood sugar levels. And certain medications, like insulin, Digoxin (used to treat heart problems), and diuretic drugs may interact negatively with ACV.
Here’s best way to lose weight
Small lifestyle changes that you can maintain are the best way to achieve your goals, according to Andy Yurechko, M.S., R.D., of Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia,
“A healthier type of diet is something you can do every day of your life,” he says.
Reducing the amount of highly processed snacks, like chips or cookies is one easy goal. If you normally eat three cookies at lunch, then reduce the quantity to two. Or, substitute fruits, vegetables, or jerky for a bag of chips in the afternoon. The fiber will keep you fuller and help you eat less overall.