In a world of instant gratification and miracle cures, people are always looking for the next trend to fix their health problems. But one that has been around for quite a while is apple cider vinegar (ACV). Almost everybody has a friend (or a friend of a friend) who claims they've benefited from daily doses of it. From promoting weight loss to regular bowel movements to a healthy heart, this unassuming liquid allegedly does it all.
Despite its popularity in the modern wellness world, apple cider vinegar has been an active player in the arena of natural remedies for millennia. Hippocrates believed it to be a remedy for a variety of ailments, including the common cold. And vinegar, in any form, has been used for countless purposes throughout human history, including the disinfection of wounds on the battlefield and the prevention of the bubonic plague; in fact, its medicinal uses date back to Biblical times.
With so much history behind it, this miracle liquid makes a strong case for itself. Luckily, we live in an age of science-based medicine, in which facts can be easily separated from fiction. So is apple cider vinegar really an age-old cure-all—or is it all just hype?
1. Weight loss.
Apple cider vinegar has recently made a name for itself in communities searching for a weight loss "magic bullet." It has been featured on Dr. Oz and endorsed by celebrities such as the Kardashians. Don't get too excited, though; experts are saying that expecting to lose weight just by drinking apple cider vinegar is unrealistic. You will probably experience "very, very modest weight loss," only 2 to 4 pounds in three months. This finding is seconded by the Mayo Clinic. Currently, the only proven and reliable way to lose weight is to exercise and burn more calories than you consume. However, apple cider vinegar can be incorporated into a diet for better results. Add it to salad dressing or meat sauces for an easy boost to your diet.
2. Teeth whitening.
Many people suggest that apple cider vinegar is an all-natural way to whiten your teeth. And while this may be true, dentists and orthodontists warn against this hack. Rubbing acid on your teeth can break down their enamel over time and leave you vulnerable to cavities.
Apple cider vinegar contains a fiber called pectin, which may aid in digestion. However, thus far, no credible studies have found a significant connection between apple cider vinegar and constipation relief, so the jury is still out on this one.
4. Cardiovascular health.
Because cardiovascular disease is a serious epidemic in the United States, research has been boundless. Apple cider vinegar shows potential in preventing heart disease and maintaining cardiovascular health due to the chlorogenic acid it contains.
Because apple cider vinegar may have a positive effect on blood lipid levels, which are also a factor in cardiovascular health, it has been recommended as an affordable method for managing hyperlipidemia, which is connected to diabetes. Regular consumption of any vinegar can help lower blood sugar levels by "blocking the absorption of starch." There is a caveat to this good news, however: Apple cider vinegar can interact with some diabetes medications, so definitely talk to your doctor before mixing the two.
6. Cognitive effects.
Apple cider vinegar often contains high levels of acetic acid, which has been connected to increased cognitive functioning. Further studies are needed in order to draw conclusions, but preliminary research suggests that fermented foods, such as apple cider vinegar, may preserve cognitive functioning as we age and even protect against some forms of dementia.
While this is not a comprehensive analysis of the claims made by apple cider vinegar proponents, these are some of the most popular uses for the liquid. Clearly, not all of the claims are justified. In fact, the only science-backed uses for apple cider are for managing diabetes, preventing heart disease, and lowering risk for dementia. While these are fascinating findings in the medical world, the average trend follower is probably not interested in these health benefits. Still, there is no harm in adding apple cider vinegar to your health routine by combining it with sauces or dressing for a more well-rounded diet. Because it's highly acidic, avoid swallowing undiluted capfuls of it, as is widely suggested by trend-followers. Instead, incorporate it into your lifestyle and manage your expectations.
Derek Kren is VP of sales at MediKeeper Inc., a leading provider of SaaS-based health and wellness portals. Prior to joining MediKeeper in 2013, Mr. Kren served as RVP and vice president of operations at Summit Health Inc. and was instrumental in the company’s growth from startup to one of the nation’s largest providers of population health management services. A former biomedical sciences corps officer with the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Kren holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology and has extensive operational, business development, and sales experience in the health care industry.