While it can provide minor health benefits, there are also dangers of drinking apple cider vinegar. Any type of vinegar is acidic, which can damage your teeth and upset your stomach. Additionally, apple cider vinegar can interfere with some medications.
Aside from possibly damaging your throat and tooth enamel because of its extreme acidity, apple cider vinegar can interfere with certain medications, including insulin.
Apple Cider Vinegar Facts
Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apples, just as rice vinegar is made from rice and balsamic vinegar is made from grapes, according to the experts at the University of Illinois. Before the mashed apples can be made into vinegar, it first has to be made into wine. Once the apples have fermented naturally, the liquid must be exposed to bacteria.
In the case of apple cider and other varieties, the particular bacteria used is called acetobacter. This bacterium converts ethyl alcohol into acetic acid. If you make apple cider vinegar at home, you will have to dilute it with water or it may be too strong for you to use. The apple cider vinegar you get in stores is diluted down to about 5 percent acetic acid.
Nutritionally, the University of Illinois clarifies, apple cider vinegar contains very few calories, and most of those come from carbohydrates. It also offers trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, but no protein or fat. While a few studies examining the health benefits of apple cider have been conducted, they are not large enough or comprehensive enough to support the many Internet health claims surrounding this ingredient.
Apple Cider Vinegar Uses
There are several claims surrounding the so-called benefits of apple cider vinegar. Among them, notes Robert H. Shmerling, MD, faculty editor of Harvard Health Publishing, are the ideas that it can be used as an antibiotic, for detoxification, to help you lose weight and to treat scurvy.
Unfortunately, none of these claims have been verified by large enough peer-reviewed studies to be accepted as true. And neither of the two most widely quoted studies focused specifically on apple cider vinegar, Dr. Shmerling points out.
Of the two studies that enthusiasts tend to use to bolster their claims, one was done only on rats and mice and cannot be assumed to hold true for human beings. The other study found that a very small group of people found that taking vinegar before meals helped them to eat less. But that could be due to nausea, one of its side effects. This is hardly a pleasant way to lose weight or a good incentive for you to stick to this type of diet plan.
The best use of apple cider vinegar, Dr. Shmerling concludes, is to use it a salad dressing or otherwise in cooking. Make a simple salad dressing by mixing apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever herbs or spices you desire. Whisk them together until the liquids are fully emulsified, and correct the seasoning. Apple cider vinegar also makes an excellent dipping sauce for tempura-fried foods or chicken tenders when mixed to taste with soy sauce and honey.
Risk of Throat Damage
While there is a concern that apple cider vinegar's extreme acidity can make your body too acidic, the more realistic danger is that it can damage the sensitive lining of your throat, according to Colorado State University's Melissa Wdowik, Ph.D., RDN, FAND. Dr. Wdowik recommends that you always dilute apple cider vinegar to decrease its acidity as much as possible.
Another alternative is to take apple cider vinegar pills, which are available without a prescription at many supermarkets, health food stores and nutrition centers. Unfortunately, states Dr. Wdowik, there is no proof that these supplements will have any actual effect on your health.
There are at least two other issues with apple cider vinegar supplements, warns Dr. Wdowik. The first is that supplements are not generally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so there is no way to guarantee the quality of the ingredients in these pills. The other issue is that they may not even contain apple cider vinegar, which defeats your purpose in taking them.
Danger to Tooth Enamel
One of the biggest dangers to your tooth enamel, explain the dental experts at the University of the Pacific, is what you eat. Bacteria in your mouth, called plaque, digest the sugars and starches in your foods. This process turns the sugars and starches into acid.
Acid is the sworn enemy of your tooth enamel. When it is allowed to sit on your teeth, it can eat through the enamel. And while plaque is most often present in your mouth, it can travel to other parts of your body, including your head, jaws, lungs and even into your bloodstream, the university experts warn.
One of the dangers of drinking apple cider vinegar is that its highly acidic nature can weaken or destroy the tooth enamel, according to Dorrine Khakpour, RD, CD, CDE of Washington State University. At least one study meant to examine the effects of apple cider vinegar on weight loss actually found that it caused a significant amount of tooth erosion.
Khakpour suggests taking in no more than one to two tablespoons per day, and common sense dictates that you brush your teeth immediately afterward.
Interference With Medications
One of the most serious dangers of drinking apple cider vinegar, cautions Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD of the Mayo Clinic, is that it can interfere with certain medications, such as insulin. Additionally, it may lower the levels of potassium in your body. There don't seem to be any apple cider vinegar blood thinner interactions, however.
Insulin, explains the University of Rochester Medical Center, is a hormone that your body creates in your pancreas. Its role is to keep the levels of sugar, or glucose, in your blood from getting too high. Once released by the pancreas, insulin moves the extra sugar into your cells where your body uses it for energy.
When your body cannot make its own insulin, you must take insulin. Drinking apple cider vinegar can interfere with its effectiveness.
The other effect that apple cider vinegar can have on your body is to lower potassium levels. Potassium_,_ according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Center, is an electrolyte as well as a dietary mineral. Keeping your levels of potassium stable is vital to the proper functioning of your body. A deficiency of this mineral may cause an abnormal heartbeat and impaired muscle function — and it is sometimes fatal.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple Cider Vinegar Diet: Does It Really Work?"
- University of Illinois: "How Is Vinegar Made?"
- Colorado State University: "Beware Apple Cider Vinegar Claims"
- University of the Pacific: "What Causes Oral Health Problems?"
- University of Washington: "Beyond the Hype: Apple Cider Vinegar as an Alternative Therapy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss Seems Far-Fetched. Does It Work?"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Insulin Replacement Therapy"
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: "Potassium" "