Vinegars from different food sources have been around for centuries and some, such as those made from red or white grapes, plums, coconut, potatoes, malt and rice are products of specific countries. Apple cider vinegar stands out as it is not native to any one country but is a universal vinegar that is produced in many different countries throughout the world. (1)
The word vinegar, however, has its origins from a French word vin aigrethat actually means sour wine. So apple cider vinegar is actually a sour wine! While it is not a wine that accompanies meals, there are many health claims associated with the consumption of apple cider vinegar or ACV. But before diving into the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and how safe and effective it is, let's see how it is made.
Apple cider vinegar is made from whole apples in a series of steps. First, the apples are crushed and pressed to extract the juice. In the next step, sugar in the apple juice is fermented into ethanol by the addition of yeast in a process called alcoholic fermentation that converts the apple juice to cider. In the last step, the cider is converted to vinegar by the addition of acetic acid bacteria that convert the alcohol in the cider into acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main component in vinegar and is responsible for the strong flavor and sour taste associated with apple cider vinegar. (1,2)
Unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar contains a cloudy substance floating in it that is called the 'mother of vinegar', which is a cluster of enzymes, yeast and bacteria. Mother of vinegar is a probiotic and may be beneficial for digestive health. Mother of vinegar has considerable amounts of bioactive substances, contains gallic acid and chlorogenic acid as the main phenolic compounds, and is rich in iron.(3) You can easily tell if the ACV contains the mother of vinegar just by looking at it. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is cloudy, with string-like matter floating in it, while pasteurized and filtered apple cider vinegar is transparent and clear because it does not contain the mother of vinegar.
Like all vinegars, acetic acid is the key component in apple cider vinegar. It also contains other organic acids some of which include lactic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, succinic acid, and citric acid. Apple cider vinegar also contains several phenolic acids such as gallic acid, catechin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, epicatechin, and p-coumaric acid. Polyphenols work as antioxidants in the body and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.(1,4)
Use of vinegar as medicine to clean wounds to fight infection, treat sores, and as a treatment for cough when combined with honey dates back to the times of Hippocrates around 420 BC. However, recent research has drawn attention to the health benefits of taking apple cider vinegar for weight loss and to improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
There is scientific evidence that regular intake of apple cider vinegar helps weight loss. A study on 175 obese but otherwise healthy participants who consumed 15 ml to 30 ml of apple cider vinegar for 12 weeks lost 2 to 4 pounds in body weight compared to the control group who didn't drink ACV. The study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry reported that other than the addition of ACV in their diet, the participants maintained their regular diet and routine. (5)
So how does vinegar work its magic? According to research, vinegar increases satiety or feeling of fullness in participants taking ACV so they consumed 200 to 275 fewer calories for the rest of the day. (6,7) Another study reported that subjects who consumed 30 ml of ACV in addition to going on a calorie restricted diet that was reduced by 250 calories per day for 12 weeks significantly reduced body weight, BMI, and appetite as compared to the group on restricted calorie diet alone. (8)
Insulin resistance interferes with the uptake of glucose from blood causing high blood sugar levels that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Improving insulin sensitivity means insulin is able to lower blood sugar to healthy levels and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Intake of ACV has been reported to lower blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity in subjects with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. (9) Another study found that subjects with type 2 diabetes who took 2 tablespoons of ACV at bedtime woke up with lower fasting blood glucose levels. (10) Additionally, improved fasting blood sugar levels were observed in subjects with type 2 diabetes who took 20 ml of ACV in an 8-week study. (11) These studies indicate that taking ACV may be beneficial for lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
Based on research conducted on ACV and its history of use, apple cider vinegar is safe to consume in amounts recommended by the manufacturer. When selecting ACV, look for raw, unfiltered ACV with mother of vinegar made from organic apples. This will ensure that you have a product that is not only free from preservatives and additives but also contains beneficial bacteria present in the mother of vinegar.
It is important to note that as ACV is very acidic. There are some who worry that it may cause side effects such as eroding the enamel of your teeth if taken undiluted. Similarly, it may aggravate acid reflux and stomach ulcers due to it acidity. It may be best to dilute ACV in water to reduce the acidic impact of apple cider vinegar on the teeth. Apple cider vinegar drinks are also a great way to consume apple cider vinegar. You can alternately use apple cider vinegar as a salad dressing, add it to smoothies or include it in homemade sauces to make it more palatable.
For those looking for another way to get the amazing benefits of apple cider vinegar, look at apple cider vinegar pills as a great option. Apple cider vinegar pills that contain raw apple cider vinegar with the mother may provide the same amazing benefits of ACV without the strong acidic taste. Apple cider vinegar pills have additional benefits, including:
If you are taking any medications, we recommend that you consult with your healthcare practitioner, as studies show that apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar levels.
The take home message – apple cider vinegar may be a safe and effective way to help you lose weight, support healthy digestion, increase satiety, and lower blood sugar levels when used in addition to a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
About the author
Sukhsatej Batra has a Ph. D in Foods and Nutrition with a passion for motivating people to improve their well-being and achieve results through healthy lifestyle changes. Previously, Sukhsatej has worked as a Senior Research and Development Scientist and college professor.
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