When it comes to looking for wellness-bolstering solutions, it’s natural to seek out superfoods — think coconut oil, flaxseed, acai or apple cider vinegar — that may potentially function as a magic bullet. One of the most talked-about foods in this group is apple cider vinegar (ACV). A type of vinegar made from crushed apples (sans their juice), bacteria and yeast is a fermented food that can be used in anything from salad dressing to folk remedies for warding off the common cold. It’s also the key ingredient in a trendy weight-loss method known as, of course, the apple cider vinegar diet.
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What Is the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?
The apple cider vinegar diet is a detox protocol that proponents assert will do the following:
-Promote weight loss.
-Regulate blood sugar.
-Balance the body’s pH.
-Lower high cholesterol.
-Boost the immune system by providing probiotics (good bacteria) to the gut.
-Aid in the removal of toxins.
-Heal skin conditions.
-Provide enzymes to the body.
At times, the ACV diet is recommended as a way to kick-start a more sustainable, long-term lifestyle plan for weight loss and maintenance.
“The apple cider vinegar diet promotes weight loss by drinking apple cider vinegar with the mother — the cloudy part of ACV that settles to the bottom — mixed with water, with juice, with a sweetener or by itself,” explains Stephanie Schiff, RDN, a registered dietitian at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York. “The ACV should be cloudy, organic and unpasteurized. The ‘mother’ is made up of enzymes, proteins and probiotics.”
How Does the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet Purportedly Work?
“The idea is that ACV is an appetite suppressant, increases metabolism and helps reduce fluid retention,” explains Schiff. She also notes that because ACV is fermented and contains healthy bacteria that the digestive system requires to remain healthy and balanced, ingesting apple cider vinegar may reduce overall inflammation and contribute to weight loss.
What Does Science Say About the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?
Although there’s much buzz about the apple cider vinegar diet, there’s no concrete body of scientific evidence to support its efficacy.
When it comes to straightforward proof that consuming apple cider vinegar is tied to weight loss, there are a couple of interesting studies: Japanese research from 2009 found that vinegar aided with weight loss in animals, but, of course, that’s not necessarily a parallel to apple cider vinegar consumption in humans.
Later, a 2013 study, published in the the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine found that when mixed with wheatgrass, alfalfa and fulvic acid along with an oral supplement consisting of various herbs like cat’s claw and pau d’arco, apple cider vinegar did help a group of men and women lose a little more than eight pounds in 21 days. It bears noting, though, that study subjects also ate a reduced-calorie diet that ranged from 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day. For that reason, researchers can’t say whether or not it was the apple cider vinegar in and of itself that contributed to subjects’ weight-loss success.
Another study, this one published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed ACV’s potential for reducing calorie consumption. Researchers found that participants who drank ACV before a meal consumed up to 275 fewer calories throughout the rest of the day.
There’s potentially more solid evidence that apple cider vinegar may help manage blood sugar. “It has been suggested that ACV may help keep blood sugar stable by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates in some people,” say Schiff. Thanks to this blood sugar-stablizing effect, ACV may help with weight loss.
A 2004 study published in Diabetes Care looked at subjects who had prediabetes, diabetes or neither. Subjects were given less than one ounce of ACV to drink with a high-carb meal. Ultimately, all three experienced more stable blood glucose when compared to those who took a placebo drink.
Read more: 10 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Who Is a Good Candidate for the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?
If you suffer from acid reflux, a common condition marked by heartburn triggered by stomach acid flowing back up into the esophagus, you may do well to try the apple cider vinegar diet, notes Schiff. “It may help neutralize the pH in the stomach, or it may help tighten the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing acid from bubbling up,” she says. “It is said the ACV becomes alkaline in the gut, which can be beneficial for digestion and for the body in general. But even this is debatable.”
Otherwise, most healthy people could safely give the apple cider vinegar diet a shot. “It may be worth a try to see if you’re one of the people who benefit, whether for weight loss, more stable blood sugar, less reflux or lower cholesterol,” she says.
That said, just as you should prior to starting any new regimen, it’s best to check with your health care provider before diving in, especially if you take any medications, as ACV may interfere with them, says Schiff.
Who Should Steer Clear of the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?
“Sometimes ACV can lower potassium levels in certain people by decreasing absorption from foods,” Schiff explains. This is of particular concern for anyone suffering from a condition like hypokalemia, marked by decreased potassium in the body, or anyone taking medications, such as common diuretics for high blood pressure, that can lower potassium.
At the same time, ACV’s famed blood sugar-lowering effect that could be beneficial for prediabetics and people with Type 2 diabetes could actually be dangerous for patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. “ACV can also cause blood sugar levels to fall too low in people who are on insulin, possibly leading to hypoglycemia,” she says.
Apple Cider Vinegar Diet Foods: What Can You Eat?
The diet doesn’t prescribe any particular foods other than the ACV drink, which should be consumed alongside a regular healthy diet. “You should be eating balanced meals that include anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy fats, quality protein and an abundance of vegetables and some fruits,” says Keith Kantor, Ph.D., a leading nutritionist and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating and Drinking (NAMED) program.
Then, in addition to this whole foods-rich, clean diet, you can take up to two tablespoons of ACV a day in water, explains Schiff. “You can add a little bit of honey or maple syrup as a sweetener,” she says. “Or use it as base for a salad dressing mixed with some olive oil. Some people take it straight.”
Other ways to consume ACV:
-Add it to marinades for meat and veggies.
-Spray it onto popcorn.
-Mix it into a green juice.
-Incorporate it into soups or stews.
A word of warning if you go for it sans mixers or dilution: “Apple cider vinegar has a low pH, and you need to rinse your teeth well after drinking it or you may weaken the enamel on your teeth and find that your teeth are more sensitive,” Schiff notes.
How Do You Measure Success?
Some diets offer straightforward ways to quantify your results. For instance, if you’re doing the keto diet, you can use a blood test or urine test strip to make sure you’re in ketosis and therefore on track with the regimen. But the apple cider vinegar diet is a bit more nebulous. Dr. Kantor explains, “Health success can be measured in how you feel — [if you have] more energy, less pain, weight loss, decreased cravings,and improved appearance of hair, skin and nails."
What Do YOU Think?
Have you considered trying the apple cider vinegar diet? Will you take it straight or mix it into other foods?