Apple Cider Vinegar - is it really worth all the hype?
By Doralise Halepis, Nutrition Student
Have you heard about apple cider vinegar and its weight loss benefits? Chances are, that if you have access to the internet, a television or even a newspaper, you have heard about this latest craze. But can a little vinegar in our diet really promise a major health boost?
Why apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar differs from your ordinary white vinegar due to its higher acidity level. Regular vinegar is often distilled from alcohol or grains, whereas a cider vinegar is the by-product of making a fruit-based cider, offering a much milder, fruitier taste and making it much more preferred in the kitchen. A high quality apple cider vinegar will be ‘cloudy’ in appearance and contain a small amount of fibrous looking threads (often known as the ‘mother’), containing proteins, and friendly bacteria (similar to those of kombucha).
Consuming apple cider vinegar just before a meal, or during, allows a greater quantity of enzymes to assist in the breakdown in food. When food is broken down at a more regular pace, the feeling of ‘fullness’ is likely to trigger a lot sooner, preventing you from regretfully over-eating. Although not yet scientifically proven, many people suffering from constipation have found apple cider vinegar to be a great alternative to a laxative, a much more natural, ‘friendlier’ alternative to stimulate your bowels!
ACV, like most vinegars, have a particularly high volume of acetic acid, great for absorbing nutrients such as calcium. Our bodies often find it hard to extract calcium from non-animal sources, so pouring a bit of ACV on your greens is great for keeping our bones in check and preventing that all-too-common osteoporosis diagnosis later in life!
The most accurate study done in humans on apple cider vinegar and its weight loss benefits did find a minor drop in fat in the non-placebo subjects. By weight-loss, we’re talking an average of ½ a kilo in 3 months, which was quickly regained after the daily consuming of vinegar ceased. Scientists are yet to understand why this minor fat loss occurs, though it has been theorised that there became an increase in enzymes that oxidise fat cells. Consuming this vinegar only for its weight loss purposes, only to have the weight come back after it is ceased...sounds like another ridiculous fad diet to me! By all means, vinegar is a great thing to have in your diet, but if you’re going to be using it as a weight loss supplement and let it encourage yoyo dieting, my advice is to steer clear!
There is much ongoing research into apple cider vinegar, though still in its early stages there has been some evidence to suggest it may lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure in those that suffer from abnormally high blood pressure.
Blood Sugar Levels
You may have heard that apple cider vinegar will lower blood sugar levels, making weight loss that little bit easier and decreasing cravings. Essentially this vinegar will only slow glucose absorption into the bloodstream, not lower the amount of glucose absorbed, which is great for diabetics! But if you don’t have diabetes, it is important to remember that it will only delay sugar entering the bloodstream, not prevent it.
Due to its highly acidic nature, apple cider vinegar has been used throughout history as a highly effective cleaning agent. It’s a much more natural household cleaner, lighter on the wallet and free of those pungent chemicals. Although highly controversial, there have been some success stories on using vinegar to treat blemishes and acne when applied topically- who doesn’t love a beauty trick out of the kitchen cupboard?
The Not So Good Side
When consuming vinegar, it is always best to dilute in water prior to consumption. This prevents the acid from eroding teeth and causing decay. A vinegar as a dressing should do any harm, but it always best to clean your teeth after a meal when possible.
There has also been some concern over the safety of apple cider vinegar in tablet form, some people have found to have oesophageal issues due to the extreme acidity levels. If vinegar is going to become a regular part of your diet it is best to be consumed in its natural form to avoid any unnecessary complications.
The Bottom Line
Not enough evidence exists yet as to whether apple cider vinegar offers greater health benefits to ordinary vinegar. Vinegar is an ingredient that offers versatility in the kitchen. It adds flavour to salads, vegetables and many other ingredients with virtually no calories, and has proven to be free from harm (when consumed correctly!). There really is no reason not to add this delicious ingredient to your diet! ACV can be used during cooking or mixed in a glass of water- a great substitute to a sugary beverage!