Advocates claim it makes you healthier in almost every possible way, but here’s what the experts and research have to say.
Apple cider vinegar is another one of those food trends—you know, the kind that people love touting for its ability to make you healthier in every possible way. That includes helping you lose weight, stabilising your blood sugar, boosting digestion and nutrient absorption, transforming you into a super athlete, and of course, helping you “detox.”
But can a basic bottle of vinegar actually do any of this? We delved into the research and chatted with experts to find out what the real benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar are so you don’t end up slugging down a shot for nothing.
Drinking apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight, enhance your digestion and improve nutrient absorption, act as a detoxifier, and even boost your athletic performance.
A lot of people say that apple cider vinegar can do a lot of things for your health. But the research is pretty limited, and the studies out there look mostly at ACV’s effect on weight and blood sugar.
There’s a smattering of evidence suggesting that ACV could potentially support weight loss. One small study of 39 adults found that those who drank a tablespoon of ACV at lunch and dinner lost close to nine pounds in 12 weeks—but they also cut 250 calories daily. Another study looking at 144 obese adults found that those who downed 2 tablespoons of ACV daily for 12 weeks lost close to four pounds, while those who had one tablespoon lost just two and a half pounds.
The science is a little stronger when it comes to ACV’s effects on blood sugar, at least among people with type 2 diabetes. ACV seems to improve blood sugar absorption and increase insulin sensitivity, according to one 2015 study. And indeed, more recent research has found that drinking apple cider vinegar promotes healthier blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.
“ACV’s role in stabilising blood sugar is based on the idea that the acetic acid in vinegar provides an anti-glycemic effect, meaning it helps lower blood glucose levels after a meal is consumed,” explains sports dietitian Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D.
As for the claims about digestion, nutrient absorption, and detoxing? ACV is a fermented food, so it contains some probiotic bacteria that could be beneficial for gut health, Jones notes. But there’s no evidence to support the notion that drinking the stuff will help you absorb more nutrients from food. In fact, it might worsen the body’s absorption of potassium, says sports dietitian Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D.
There’s also zero science behind the detox claim. “The body is already equipped with a liver and kidney that break down and remove toxins,” Jones says. So there’s really no reason to believe a shot or two of ACV will do more than what some of your organs were created to do.
Anecdotally, you may have heard that apple cider vinegar can help with treating heartburn, but there is no research published in medical journals that addresses using raw ACV to quell heartburn.
Lastly, ACV hasn’t been shown to have a beneficial impact on athletic performance either. “There’s currently no research to support this claim,” Goodson says. (Womp womp.)
Apple cider vinegar has a few good things going for it, but it’s far from a miracle worker. “There’s not enough evidence to recommend ACV to improve your health,” Goodson says. “Don’t assume it will fix all your ailments.”
Regular ACV consumption could theoretically support your efforts to get leaner, provided you’re already doing things like eating fewer calories and upping your activity level. But most experts are still skeptical about the long-term benefits of apple cider vinegar.
“Drinking ACV to help you lose weight is just far-fetched to me,” Goodson says. As for the blood sugar benefits? Most of the research has looked at people with type 2 diabetes. So if you’re a healthy adult, it’s hard to say for sure whether you’d reap any blood sugar benefits from drinking ACV, says Goodson.
Drinking ACV to get more probiotics, on the other hand, might potentially support gut health. But it won’t solve any major digestion problems or heartburn. And anyway, you can get those good bacteria from other fermented foods that pack more nutrition—such as yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi, Jones says.
ACV won’t help you get significantly more nutrition from your food either. And the fact that it worsens potassium absorption could actually have a negative effect on your athletic performance. “Potassium is an electrolyte lost in sweat. It plays a role in muscle contraction along with sodium, and if one gets out of balance, cramping can occur,” Goodson explains.
In short, there’s not a ton of convincing reasons to drink the stuff (especially if you don’t have type 2 diabetes). But if you want to give it a try anyway, keep a few rules of thumb in mind: ACV is highly acidic, so stick with 1 to 2 tablespoons per day max, Goodson recommends. (More than that could irritate your stomach.) And consider mixing the vinegar with a cup of water or drizzling it onto a salad with olive oil instead of drinking it straight. Diluting the ACV will make it easier to swallow and prevent the acid from eroding your tooth enamel.