New Research Finds That Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar May Promote Mental Health
Vinegar has long been lauded as a gut-supporting pantry staple, and recent research confirms that taking a swig of the stuff may support healthy blood sugar and glycemic control. And for its latest accolade? According to a new study published in the journal Nutrients, the fermented beverage may help our mood1, as well.
Studying vinegar's effect on mood.
The Arizona State University team behind this new research had previously studied whether drinking red wine vinegar could promote blood sugar balance. After coming up with promising results, they wondered if vinegar could also play a role in mental health given the gut-brain connection.
To dive into this previously unexplored topic area, they gathered 25 healthy college student volunteers during the peak of the pandemic last winter. Over the course of a four-week, placebo-controlled trial, about half of the students drank a liquid apple cider vinegar beverage (2 tablespoons vinegar diluted in 1 cup of water) twice daily with meals. The other half consumed a low-dose vinegar pill once daily. This pill did not have enough acetic acid—the main active ingredient in vinegar—to be considered to elicit a health effect. However, it was described as a vinegar pill and had the stench to prove it, so the control group that received it thought they were getting the real deal, making this a placebo-controlled, blinded study.
Over the course of the four weeks, the students' diet and exercise routines remained the same. They were all instructed to complete validated questionnaires about their mood before the study started and after it wrapped up. They also provided urine samples for testing before and after the study.
The results of this small study suggest that sipping vinegar is a smart move for mood and brain health. At the end of the four weeks, researchers noted a 20 to 34% reduction in poor mood in the group that got the liquid vinegar but a slight increase in poor mood in the control group.
As to why that is, the urine sampling data provides a clue. It suggests that the beverage affected certain metabolic pathways that affect the brain. Specifically, the vinegar group had a healthier hexosamine pathway (relates to cognitive functioning and brain health) and an improvement in glycine and threonine metabolism. These amino acids promote neurotransmitter balance in the brain and stimulate the production of feel-good hormones like serotonin.
Preclinical research has previously linked the acetic acid in vinegar to enhanced cognitive function in rats2, but the study authors write that "to our knowledge, this is the first study to link daily vinegar ingestion in healthy young adults with improved mood."
Since this study was on the small side and only focused on college students, more research is needed to validate its promising findings. However, given all the other health benefits of vinegar, we wouldn't blame you for whipping up a sweet ACV ginger shooter, turmeric spiced ACV juice, or just a glass of 2 tablespoons ACV (5% acidity) in water, as the study did. The aftertaste won't be so pleasant, but a good mood might not be far behind.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.