Food for Thought
Question: I have heard that drinking apple cider vinegar is good for weight loss. Is that true, or is it too good to be true?
Answer: Apple cider vinegar has a cure-all reputation for helping with weight loss, cholesterol, diabetes, acne, digestive problems and other issues. The truth is somewhat less impressive, but apple cider vinegar does have proven health benefits.
Some small studies have found that vinegar can aid weight loss (Kondo et al. 2009). The vinegar may reduce food intake either by increasing satiety (Ostman et al. 2005) or by leaving people feeling nauseated (Darzi et al. 2014), which seems like a pretty miserable way to lose weight.
Vinegar has long been a folk remedy for diabetes, and recent science supports the association. Drinking about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal helps to control blood sugar in healthy adults as well as adults with diabetes (Johnston et al. 2013). The effect seems to happen because vinegar reduces the digestion of carbohydrates (Johnston et al. 2010).
Apple cider vinegar has impressive antibacterial and antifungal properties, including against pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli that cause foodborne illness (Yagnik, Serafin & Shah 2018). Vinegar has been used for centuries to clean wounds and disinfect surfaces.
One caution: Vinegar is quite acidic (about 5% acetic acid) and can irritate the skin, mouth and throat. It can also harm tooth enamel. If you drink it, dilute a tablespoon in at least a cup of water. Better yet, use vinegar as an ingredient in food: vinaigrettes for grain salads, green salads and other vegetables. I use apple cider vinegar in my everyday salad dressing because I love its fresh, fruity flavor, but other vinegars likely have similar health benefits. Balsamic vinegar pairs beautifully with strawberries and is delicious with olive oil for dipping whole-grain bread.
Unpasteurized vinegar still contains the “vinegar mother,” or the bacteria that converts wine into vinegar. Consider looking for unpasteurized brands, as those probiotic bacteria may have additional benefits.