Published 30th May 2022

Apple cider vinegar and weight loss: The truth

Many websites and online resources suggest that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss. However, the evidence is not conclusive. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the available research so you can make the best decision for your health.

Before we start, it’s important to note that what constitutes an optimal moderate weight range will be different for everyone. If you are considering losing weight, work with a healthcare professional to find out what weight range is best for your health.

Also, losing weight can be incredibly challenging, and many factors play a part.

For instance, at ZOE, we know that the billions of bacteria living in your gut are vital for good health. Our scientists have identified 15 “good” gut bacteria associated with positive health measures and 15 “bad” gut bacteria linked to worse health, including excess weight.

Our unpublished research shows that people who closely followed our personalized, gut-healthy nutrition program lost an average of 9.4 pounds after 3 months, and around 80% of participants didn’t feel hungry and had more energy.

If you would like to learn about your gut microbiome and how to boost your “good” bugs, take this free quiz today.

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What is apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice. When manufacturers make apple cider vinegar commercially, they harvest, grind up, and press whole apples until they extract all the juice. Then, the juice undergoes a two-step fermentation process.

First, manufacturers add yeast. The yeast reacts with the sugars in the apple juice and creates an alcohol called ethanol. Then, a type of bacteria called acetobacter converts this ethanol into acetic acid, which produces vinegar. 

Apple cider vinegar consists of 5–6% acetic acid, water, and small amounts of other compounds.

Manufacturers then filter and age the vinegar before bottling.

While apple cider vinegar is most commonly found in liquid form, other options such as pills or gummies are also available.

What is the apple cider vinegar diet?

Taking apple cider vinegar has become a popular diet trend in recent years. Some people believe that the “apple cider vinegar diet” can help with weight loss, particularly by reducing belly fat. 

There aren’t any set recommendations for how much apple cider vinegar to take, but many people take 1 or 2 tablespoons before or with meals. Often, people mix their apple cider vinegar with water.

Does apple cider vinegar aid weight loss?

The main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid. It’s produced when bacteria react with the alcohol in fermented apple juice.

What do animal studies show?

Some animal studies suggest it might help with weight loss. 

In one animal study, scientists used an acetic acid-based treatment on rats with obesity-linked type 2 diabetes. At the end of the study, these animals had improved body fat levels and blood sugar responses. 

In a similar study involving mice, researchers found that mice receiving acetic acid had lower body fat and less fat in their liver than mice who did not receive treatment.

While animal studies like these can provide clues, their results don’t necessarily translate to humans.

Although many claim apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, very little evidence supports this. While there have been a few human studies, the evidence is not strong. 

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Do human studies tell us anything?

In one study involving 175 human participants, researchers noted that after 12 weeks, those who took either 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar saw a small decrease in weight, belly fat, and blood fat levels.  

While this may sound promising, this study has limitations. The participants only included people with obesity (as defined in Japan) and no other health conditions. Therefore, the results may not apply to different groups of people. 

And, since the study was only 12 weeks long, we don’t know what would happen in the long term. However, as soon as the participants stopped consuming apple cider vinegar, they regained most of the weight and belly fat they had lost, and their blood fats returned to their original levels. 

This suggests that to sustain any small improvements, you need to keep consuming apple cider vinegar. 

However, when the Japanese study was combined with six others in a recent meta-analysis, the benefit of vinegar on weight disappeared.

The results of the pooled studies showed that consuming vinegar did not lead to weight loss, for either people with a moderate weight or people with overweight/obesity. 

Another commonly referenced study claims that apple cider vinegar may help control appetite. The authors found that those who consumed apple cider vinegar slightly reduced their calorie intake for the rest of that day.

However, this very small and short-term study observed only 11 people for 1 day. 

Other benefits of apple cider vinegar

Many health claims are associated with apple cider vinegar, such as helping with weight loss, lowering blood pressure, curing cancer, and improving skin and hair health.

While there isn’t any solid evidence supporting these claims, there is some evidence that suggests apple cider vinegar might help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels. 

In addition to acetic acid, vinegars also contain other helpful compounds, such as polyphenols —  health-benefiting substances found in plants. Some researchers believe these compounds could be beneficial.

Vinegars also have antimicrobial effects. Many people use vinegar for cleaning and preserving foods since vinegar can help kill Escherichia coli and other potentially harmful bacteria.

ZOE’s research has shown that everyone responds differently to foods. For example, even identical twins can have different blood sugar responses to the same meal.

If you would like to know how your blood sugar and blood fat levels respond to different foods, start by taking our free quiz.

Are there any risks?

Consuming apple cider vinegar in foods — such as using it to top a salad — is generally safe. However, taking it alone or in large amounts can have unwanted side effects.

Apple cider vinegar, along with other vinegars, is acidic. Because of this, drinking straight apple cider vinegar can erode tooth enamel — the outer layer of your teeth that protects against decay and cavities.  

Also, applying vinegar directly to your skin — a suggested remedy for acne or other skin issues — may not be safe. Because it’s acidic, direct contact with your skin can easily lead to painful chemical burns, sometimes in as little as 1–2 days.

Long-term use of apple cider vinegar may lower the amount of potassium in your blood over time, although the research supporting this is very limited. Not having enough potassium in your body could lead to various health complications, such as constipation, muscle spasms, and abnormal heart rhythms. 

Apple cider vinegar can also interact with certain medications, such as:

  • digoxin

  • insulin

  • diabetes medications

  • diuretics

If you take any of these medications, talk with your healthcare provider before combining them with apple cider vinegar.

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Summary

Although apple cider vinegar is commonly used to help with weight loss and other health conditions, the evidence is weak. 

Taking apple cider vinegar also has potential health risks, such as weakened teeth, skin irritation, and possibly lowered potassium levels. Apple cider vinegar can also interact with certain medications, so make sure to talk with your doctor.

Although there isn’t strong evidence for apple cider vinegar’s health benefits, there’s no harm in adding it to a diverse, healthy diet.

We know that weight loss can be challenging and, unfortunately, there’s no magic pill or quick-fix remedy. 

ZOE’s scientists have shown that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition, and we know your body is unique. Our at-home test analyzes your blood sugar and blood fat responses to food, as well as the unique range of bacteria that live in your gut. The ZOE program then provides tailored nutrition advice that suits your body’s needs.

To learn more, take our free quiz today.

Sources

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Acetic acid upregulates the expression of genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes in liver to suppress body fat accumulation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (2009). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19469536/

Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific Reports. (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/

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Chemical burn from vinegar following an internet-based protocol for self-removal of nevi. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479370/

Effect of dietary acetic acid supplementation on plasma glucose, lipid profiles, and body mass index in human adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2021). https://www.jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(20)31529-X/fulltext

Hypokalemia, hyperreninemia, and osteoporosis in a patient ingesting large amounts of cider vinegar. Nephron. (1998). https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/45180

Improvement of obesity and glucose tolerance by acatate in type 2 diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. (2007). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17485860/

Lactic acid bacteria in fermented foods. Advances in Probiotics. (2021). https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/acetobacter

Low blood potassium. (2021). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000479.htm

Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: a review. Food Chemistry. (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814616318076

Vinegar and peanut products as complementary foods to reduce postprandial glycemia. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. (2005). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16321601/

Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. (2014). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1271/bbb.90231

Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. Medscape General Medicine. (2006). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/