Drinking vinegar is not most people's idea of a good time. But in the quest for belly fat loss, people will try almost anything. Although drinking apple cider vinegar after meals may have a slight effect on weight loss, it's not a magic bullet. A healthy diet and exercise are still the best way to target tummy fat.
Some research has shown that apple cider vinegar may control appetite and improve glucose metabolism after a meal, but there is not enough scientific evidence to confirm these effects. Drinking apple cider vinegar after meals also has downsides that may outweigh any slight belly fat-loss benefit.
Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar
Often referred to as just "ACV," apple cider vinegar comes from crushed, distilled and fermented apples. Its active component is acetic acid, which is found in all types of vinegar, regardless of the source.
ACV is widely promoted in the alternative medicine world as a cure for type 2 diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. While there is some evidence to support these claims, most of the studies have been small — fewer than 100 participants — and most have examined the effects of vinegar in general, not ACV specifically.
Two small studies, one published in June 2015 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the other in the May 2015 edition of Journal of Diabetes Research found that consuming vinegar before a meal had beneficial effects on carbohydrate (glucose) metabolism. This improved blood sugar and insulin uptake, both of which are closely linked with the development of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
In a 12-week study in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry published online in May 2014 involving 175 obese Japanese subjects, those who consumed from 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar each day lost more weight (2 to 4 pounds) than those who did not consume vinegar.
A small study published in April 2018 in the Journal of Functional Foods randomly assigned overweight and obese participants a calorie-restricted diet or a calorie-restricted diet supplemented with 2 tablespoons of ACV daily. At the end of 12 weeks, the researchers reported that the ACV group had significantly reduced body weight, BMI, hip circumference, belly fat and appetite.
ACV After a Meal
These are positive results, but the lack of large-scale studies means it can't be recommended as a reliable belly fat-burning option. Additionally, there are potential downsides to drinking apple cider vinegar after meals.
ACV is very acidic. This can irritate the throat as well as the digestive system. In a small study published in the International Journal of Obesity in May 2014, vinegar was shown to suppress appetite and calorie intake; however, these effects were largely due to nausea after ingestion. Because of this, the researchers concluded that vinegar's promotion as an appetite suppressant isn't appropriate.
ACV's acidity also poses problems for dental health. An in vitro study published in Clinical Laboratory in 2014 examined the effects of 30 types of vinegar on dental erosion. The vinegars were incubated with human wisdom teeth for up to 8 hours. In all cases, there was a loss of minerals, with some losses up to 20 percent. However, the researchers cautioned that numerous factors influence enamel surface outside the laboratory and that these findings may not translate to real-world consumption.
Lastly, Mayo Clinic reports that ACV can interact with certain supplements or medications, including diuretics and insulin. This can lead to a loss of potassium, which can be potentially life-threatening.
Read more: 7 Common Weight-Loss Myths Debunked
Your Best Option
Many of the unwanted side effects of ACV come from excess consumption. Taking 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV once a day isn't likely to cause any problems worse than indigestion for most people. However, taking that amount — or more — after every meal probably isn't a good idea.
A better idea is to tackle belly fat with the tried-and-true method of diet and exercise. Reduce your calorie intake and get your calories from healthy foods. You could drink ACV after eating carbs in the hopes that it will aid metabolism and blood sugar, or you could just choose low-glycemic, complex carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which are high in fiber and promote lasting satiety. Lean protein from chicken, fish and beans is also a crucial component of satiety and appetite control, according to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2015.
If you want to include more ACV in your diet, try using it to dress salads, vegetables and meat instead of using store-bought dressings and sauces, which are often high in fat, sugar and calories. ACV is virtually calorie free and offers a satisfying tanginess that livens up any healthy dish.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple Cider Vinegar Diet: Does It Really Work?"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Acetic Acid on Glucose Uptake and Blood Flow Rates in the Skeletal Muscle in Humans With Impaired Glucose Tolerance"
- Journal of Diabetes Research: "Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes"
- Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry: "Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects"
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Beneficial Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index and Lipid Profile in Overweight or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Influence of the Tolerability of Vinegar as an Oral Source of Short-Chain Fatty Acids on Appetite Control and Food Intake"
- Clinical Laboratory: "In Vitro Study on Dental Erosion Caused by Different Vinegar Varieties Using an Electron Microprobe"
- Mayo Clinic: "Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss Seems Far-Fetched. Does It Work?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance."