Vinegar has been used for thousands of years in cooking and for medicinal purposes. It has many uses, from pickling foods to treating skin conditions. However, there are vinegar side effects that should be taken into consideration when adding it to your health regimen.
Vinegar is a combination of acetic acid and water. First, the fermentation of juices from various fruits or grains results in wine, an alcoholic fermentation process. Next, the wine ferments with acetic acid bacteria, turning it into vinegar. This process is conducted using fruits like apples for apple cider vinegar, grapes for balsamic or wine vinegar, and grains like barley for malt vinegar. White vinegar is made from diluted, distilled alcohol.
The Research on Vinegar
The most popular vinegar used in supplemental form or externally for skin conditions is apple cider vinegar (ACV). Cider vinegar contains between 5 percent and 6 percent acetic acid. The research connecting vinegar to lowered blood glucose levels has been done since 1988, published in the June issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Biological Chemistry. Since then, vinegar has been the focus of numerous studies regarding its effect on diabetes, weight gain and loss, and appetite control.
Apple cider vinegar uses are primarily as a weight loss aid and for blood sugar control. However, Harvard Medical School has stated that the evidence for this is slim. There is some evidence for apple cider vinegar benefits for people with diabetes. Taking a dose before meals may help to lessen spikes in blood sugar by blocking the absorption of starch. University of Chicago Medicine affirms that taking 20 grams of apple cider vinegar before meals is a harmless, and possibly helpful, way to prevent blood glucose spikes.
Can ACV Be Harmful?
In general, apple cider vinegar side effects are few. It is considered safe, but with some precautions. Since vinegar is acidic, it can cause tooth enamel erosion. It can also cause acid reflux issues to worsen. If you suffer from kidney disease, vinegar is not recommended due to issues with excess acid processing that the kidneys cannot keep up with.
To prevent tooth enamel erosion, limit vinegar drinking to one to two tablespoons diluted in water twice daily. Drinking the mixture through a straw may further help to avoid damaging your teeth. It is also pertinent to avoid taking apple cider vinegar tablets with an acetic acid content over 20 percent, as this can damage the esophagus as reported in the October 2014 issue of Nutrition Reviews.
Some studies, such as one in the October 2014 issue of Nutrition Reviews, have shown that taking vinegar tablets or ingesting apple cider vinegar daily over a long period can cause adverse effects. There are risks of hypoglycemia, which is when there is not enough glucose in the bloodstream, and also of too low levels of potassium in the bloodstream.
There are some contraindications for ingesting vinegar along with certain medications and herbal supplements. Be cautious of taking apple cider vinegar with medicines that are used to lower blood pressure or diuretics, as these can affect potassium levels.
Consult a physician before beginning any new supplement.
- Journal of Agricultural and Biological Chemistry: "Effect of Acetic Acid and Vinegar on Blood Glucose and Insulin Responses to Orally Administered Sucrose and Starch"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple Cider Vinegar Diet: Does it Really Work?"
- The University of Chicago Medicine: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple Cider Vinegar for Heartburn?"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Effect and Mechanisms of Action of Vinegar on Glucose Metabolism, Lipid Profile and Body Weight."