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Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits, Side Effects & Safety Information

Published: 26th January 2018. Last updated: 21th July 2019.

Shaun Ward MSc ANutr

Editor & Fact Checker


What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

We’ve all heard the term “an apple a day keeps the doctor way”, well the same could hold true for Apple Cider Vinegar (maybe).

Apple Cider Vinegar (often referred to as ACV) is an ingredient that’s been taking the supplement industry by storm, with more and more companies producing it and marketing it as a surefire way of boosting your health and longevity.

While it originally began as a popularized ‘home remedy’ for cleaning and wound healing, it is now best known as a food product that -apparently- can offer consumers a wide range of health and weight loss benefits.

While the hype for it has only exploded very recently, Apple Cider Vinegar itself is nothing new; it has been around for thousands of years, documented to have been used by Hippocrates in 400BC to prevent disease! Apple Cider Vinegar was also used during the American Civil War for disinfecting the wounds of injured soldiers.

This type of vinegar is made by combining crushed apples with yeast, then adding bacteria to ferment the mixture and form acetic acid.

Acetic acid is the main active component of Apple Cider Vinegar at a concentration of ~5%.

This organic acid is responsible for identifying a product as vinegar and is what creates the tart flavor and strong odor that vinegar is commonly known for.

Other constituents of vinegar are vitamin B, vitamin C, amino acids, and phenolic compounds.

The Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar

Below we have broken down the main health benefits, proven by science, that apple cider vinegar can provide:

It May Help Improve Your Lipid Profiles

Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar has shown to decrease the amount of fatty acids in the blood when they are elevated above normal concentrations, such as in diabetics [1]. However, this has mainly been reported only in animal models.

However, there is a small amount of evidence that shows 8 weeks of Apple Cider Vinegar consumption can significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and fatty acids in the blood in humans with diagnosed hyperlipidemia [2].

In fact, Apple Cider Vinegar seems to have more prominent health effects compared to other types of vinegar; grape, sugarcane, palm, and artificial vinegar.

Some animal study results have even been comparable with lipid-lowering drugs such as Atorvastatin.

The acetic acid content of Apple Cider Vinegar is reported to cause this improvement by inhibiting lipogenesis (storage of fatty acids) in the liver, and thus decreasing triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations [3].

Specifically, regarding the changes in LDL and HDL concentrations, this may be possibly attributed to the polyphenol content within apples suppressing the secretion of intestinal lipoproteins – responsible for transporting fatty acids [4].

Flavonoids within this vinegar, such as Quercetin, may also exert protective abilities to stabilize lipid levels, with a documented inverse correlation between flavonoid intake and the concentration of total cholesterol in the blood.

This protective effect from flavonoids is based on the prevention of LDL oxidation and the improvement of endothelial functioning – the protective barrier of blood vessels. [5].

It May Support Blood Glucose Levels

In animal studies, consuming Apple Cider Vinegar has beneficial effects on reducing average blood glucose levels [1]. This indicates it may be helpful for preventing or treating diabetes.

Improved blood glucose levels from this product are predominantly thought to be due to the effect of acetic acid on lowering the glycemic index of a meal and, in turn, improving glycemic control.

Acetic acid within vinegar is thought to affect glucose levels by delaying gastric emptying – time for food to empty from the stomach - by suppressing the activity of enzymes which break down complex sugars such as disaccharidases.

Another mechanism may be an enhancement in the rate that glucose is taken up by certain tissues to be converted and stored as glycogen, subsequently reducing blood sugar levels [6].

It May Have Possible Nootropic Effects

Claims have been made that Apple Cider Vinegar possesses a nootropic effect; improved cognitive function, memory, creativity, or motivation.

The evidence is limited, although there are signs that high doses (~2ml/lb bodyweight) can enhance the memory of mice compared to lower doses [7].

Although the specific component is unknown, it is hypothesized that a compound within Apple Cider Vinegar may inhibit the activity of enzymes which break down neurotransmitters – chemicals that transmit signals. Theoretically, this would increase neuronal firings in the brain and improve brain function.

Other evidence suggests that the flavonoid (gallic acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid) and polyphenol content of Apple Cider Vinegar is responsible for improving brain circulation, metabolism, and memory.

It May Be Helpful For Supporting Fat Metabolization

Apple Cider Vinegar primarily owes its new popularity to the supplement industry marketing it as an effective weight management ingredient. While often we're highly skeptical, there are studies to show that the effects of ACV can be beneficial for those who are actively looking to burn fat.

A Japanese study on the effectiveness of Apple Cider Vinegar for weight loss was conducted on 144 people who were classed as "overweight" or "obese" on the BMI, it showed that 15ml of Apple Cider Vinegar each day for 12 weeks produced an average of 2.6lbs of weight lost, which increased to 3.7lbs for those that were consuming 30ml of Apple Cider Vinegar each day. [8]

Scientists believe that these results are due the appetite suppressing qualities of Apple Cider Vinegar, as well as its ability to increase AMPK enzymes, which help support fat and glucose metabolism.

While these aren't exactly mind-blowing results for a period of 12 weeks, the study does not state that participants made any changes to their diet in terms of caloric intake (meaning we can likely assume the participants were still eating an above-average amount of calories each day).

It is widely believes that, when combined with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise, Apple Cider Vinegar could be highly useful for the purposes of weight loss. Ultimately, the study concluded that "daily intake of apple cider vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity."

How To Take Apple Cider Vinegar?

As popular as Apple Cider Vinegar is, we unfortunately have yet to establish exactly how much an individual should consume - at this time there is just not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate daily dosage, but good estimates have been calculated.

If you've got a liquid version of Apple Cider Vinegar, it is advised to consume 1-2 tablespoons (15-30ml) of Apple Cider Vinegar, mixed with 3-6 ounces of water, every day.

If you're consuming a powdered supplement version of apple cider vinegar, recommended daily amounts range between 500-1,000mg each day - most manufacturers do not advise coming amounts higher than 1,500mg within a 24 hour period.

As Apple Cider Vinegar is acidic in nature, it is advised that you take these servings with or before the highest carbohydrate meals of the day - this is mainly to reduce any sort of stomach discomfort or acid reflux, however this may also be more important for individuals aiming to reduce their blood sugar levels.

Is It Safe?

The general consensus is that Apple Cider Vinegar is very likely safe when consumed in sensible amounts, and when used in the short-term for medical purposes.

We believe that there is a cause for concern if an individual was to consume excessive amounts of Apple Cider Vinegar, as it could potentially cause dental problems (liquid-form only) and digestive issues, however there have been no official studies conducted on abusive intake of ACV.

As for using Apple Cider Vinegar over the long-term, sadly the data is yet to be established, although no current evidence suggests a reason why it would be unsafe to consume for longer periods.

What Are The Side Effects?

Side effects are not common when Apple Cider Vinegar is used in the recommended amounts, although there is potential for potassium deficiency when consuming 8 ounces or more per day for long periods. Those who plan to use ACV for periods longer than 90 days are recommended to increase their intake of Potassium by 1,000-1,500mg per day.

In addition to this, there has also been a case study where 250ml of Apple Cider Vinegar a day caused damage to the tooth enamel and dental erosion - this was caused by acetic acid. Although damage to teeth appears to be a rare occurrence, if you are drinking daily Apple Cider Vinegar servings it is highly advised that you clean your teeth directly after consuming this product.

Conclusion

Apple Cider Vinegar is a fermented product from apples, yeast, and bacteria. The main active component is acetic acid, which comprises ~5% of the product and is responsible for the tart flavor and strong odor that vinegar is commonly known for.

It is a highly popular ingredient that many advocates claim has a wide range of health benefits - it's commonly found in weight loss supplements, but is also available as a stand-alone in both liquid and powdered form.

As beneficial as ACV is, there's also a lot of misinformation on what it is and is not capable of; consumers should always be wary of sellers making false or misleading claims.

Nearly all the scientific research that supports the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar has been conducted on animals, but there is potential that the acetic acid and polyphenol content of the vinegar can help to improve lipid profiles, support blood sugar levels, improve cholesterol levels, contribute towards weight loss, and brain function.

Overall Apple Cider Vinegar could benefit those with diabetes, those who are struggling to lose weight, those with hypertension or high cholesterol levels, or anyone who's looking to enhance their neurological function; it shouldn't be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

It is advised to consume 1-2 tablespoons per day, ideally before high-carbohydrate meals.

When used in the recommended daily amounts, experiencing side effects from the vinegar seems to be uncommon, although there is potential for potassium deficiencies and dental erosion when taken at high doses for long periods - as there's a lack of study into the health effects of long term usage, we advise you exercise caution.

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