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Apple Cider Vinegar: Miracle Food?
Okay, I admit it. At first I thought apple cider vinegar was a total scam, as I’d never seen any convincing research to back up its many supposed “benefits.” However, although it certainly doesn’t have evidence for the majority of claims, it has a few potential noteworthy benefits.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by allowing apple juice, sugar, and water to ferment, forming alcohol, and then to oxidize, creating the acetic acid that gives it its acidity and distinctive taste.
In a recent, loosely controlled, unpublished, yet unbiased trial, ACV was given to subjects before a high-carb snack and compared to malt vinegar and to water. Surprisingly, it lowered blood sugar by 35 percent. So it’s either making insulin work better or (more likely) slowing or delaying the digestion and absorption of starch.
This effect probably does have benefits for health if used regularly. Moreover, when it was taken for several weeks, it reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, again probably conferring some health advantages. However, remember that this wasn’t a high-quality study that has been appraised by other experts in the field, as is the usual course of action with good research, so these results have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
That being said, a 2007 study also suggested the delayed digestion angle was legit but this time in patients with type 1 diabetes and other diseases. So there’s a good chance that something’s going on here.
So what about other claims made about the health benefits of ACV, such as treating joint pain, acid reflux, sore throat, and heartburn? Well, the unpublished study mentioned above showed no evidence for the oft-made claims that ACV can cause weight loss or reduce inflammation. Nor does there seem to be anything to back up the other claims. So, most claims for ACV are not legit!
Here are a few important points you should be aware of when it comes to this pungent liquid:
First, many of the initial claims seem to have come from a couple of naturopaths who have made outrageous and unsupported claims not only about apple vinegar but also various other health and nutrition topics (they also, coincidentally, sell a brand of apple cider vinegar).
Second, several advocates of ACV are also advocates of the alkaline diet! Vinegar is one of the most acidic—that is, non-alkaline—foods you can consume! And don’t be fooled by any of the preposterous claims that it somehow has alkaline effects once it’s consumed!
Third, excessive, long-term use (there’s no data on moderate or “normal” use) has been shown to cause the medical conditions hypokalaemia (potassium deficiency in the blood) and osteoporosis (excessive bone loss/weakening). Osteoporosis usually only occurs when people are in their 60s or later, but in this case study, it happened to a 28-year-old woman who took ACV for six years! No one knows the extent to which lower dosages may cause these effects.
Finally, it has been known to cause esophageal injury because of its high acidity.
So, although ACV may have limited uses, most of the hype is without any good basis in evidence.