Charlotte Personal Trainer for Women Explains: What’s the deal with apple cider vinegar?

Happy Spring! As the weather warms we get more and more questions about losing weight faster, which are often prompted from something on social media. Here’s a recent question and some facts…

Q & A: What’s the deal with apple cider vinegar? I’ve seen that it can almost double weight loss on a reduced calorie diet, is that real? Will it help me lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and/or blood sugar?

A:  The short answer is no. Undiluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) might make you nauseous, and this usually helps people eat less.  However your dentist will not be happy about you drinking undiluted ACV because that might weaken your enamel. 

More Claims and a Bit More Depth

Weight Loss
There’s one study showing that 2 groups of people on a reduced calorie diet lost weight, and that the group given over 2 tablespoons of vinegar lost more than the group not given vinegar.  There are several problems with this study:
1.     It hasn’t been replicated. If other people can’t get the same results as you with the same set up, it is likely that your results were a fluke and/or the result of mistakes that were intentional or not.
2.     There was no control.  A controlled study would be where you have a placebo group, and, well, you can’t really hide who’s drinking enough vinegar to puke. 
3.     Not blinded. You can’t hide who is and isn’t drinking vinegar, so every participant and researcher knows who is doing what. We humans are very biased, and many of us want to nudge things in the direction that we expect they should go, and this is why we do blinded studies because we can’t trust ourselves to be anything more than human.

Are pills or gummies the same as liquid ACV?
No research on the pill or gummy form of ACV exists, so there’s not reason to believe pills are better, and more likely than not they won’t work at all.  The most likely way that drinking vinegar reduces calorie intake (causing weight loss) is that it makes you nauseous, and if you don’t taste it, then it’s not going to make you think about puking. 

Nausea is an effective way to lose weight.  The migraine prevention medication Topamax has been shown to be very effective for weight loss – especially in curbing nighttime eating – because it makes people feel sick to their stomach (aka nauseous).  This isn’t the best marketing slogan, but it is a tradeoff that makes a lot of sense and/or is a godsend for some people.

No nasty taste = no effect, so pills are probably worthless.

Yes.  High acidity will kill or inhibit many microbes.  I don’t know about the practical use of it because who wants to smell like and/or live somewhere that reeks of vinegar.  I use it to clean my microwave sometimes, but, damn, it smells awful for hours… but that does make me want to eat less.

Blood Sugar
There’s some research on rats showing that when given high calorie foods that the rats forced to drink huge quantities of vinegar had lower fasting glucose levels.  By “huge quantity” I mean the equivalent of a human drinking 6 ounces.  If this doesn’t sound that bad, try chugging this much vinegar “beer bong” style and see if you don’t vomit.  In the research they refer to “gavage” administration of vinegar, but that’s a fancy way to say “beer bong style.”

The rats forced to drink lots of vinegar also gained less weight, and this alone easily explains the better numbers on their labs.  The vinegar rats weighed about 15% less, and in type 2 diabetes, losing 15% of one’s body weight will massively reduce fasting glucose levels.

Acid Reflux/Heart Burn
Maybe.  To explain the maybe we need a little background. Conventional thinking on acid reflux is not exactly logical. 

One issue is that heart burn is more common with age, however, stomach acid production declines with age.  In other words, we are told that heart burn is caused by an over production of stomach acid at a time of life when stomach acid production has been on the decline for a decade or more.  It would seem more logical that small children who are at peak stomach acid production would be the victims of heart burn, and that this would dissipate with age as acid production declined.

A second issue is that stomach acid production is regulated by negative feedback.  Meaning that the cells that make the acid are like a thermostat for your AC whereby they turn off when the temperature get low enough. Giving medicines that neutralize acid or lower the pH of someone’s stomach will cause the stomach to produce acid over a longer period of time.  This is similar to turning on the AC and opening all the windows on a hot day – the AC will stay on, your power bill will go up, and you will still be uncomfortable.

Back to ACV, for some people adding extra acid to their stomachs after or during a meal can help the pH of their stomach get low enough so that internal stomach acid production can turn itself off.  Out of respect for your teeth this is better accomplished through a pill.

Bottom Line
Apple cider vinegar as a health revolution is meh. 

It is, however, excellent to add acid flavor to balance the flavor profile of your braised green beans, especially with some onions, chicken stock and herbs.  Additionally, it can make nice salad dressings, especially if you use 2-3 parts vinegar to 1 part oil to keep the calories lower than they’d be otherwise.

Oh and someone else asked about getting new 👟 tennis shoes. If you’re in the market this might interest you: Time for New Shoes?

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