Apple cider vinegar, or ACV for short, is one of the newest health trends on the internet. Like every other natural remedy that pops up online from time to time, the list of alleged apple cider vinegar benefits is long.
A few items on the list are plausible, like soothing an upset stomach. But ACV has also been (falsely) rumored to protect against cancer and even cure COVID-19.
The line between myths and facts is incredibly blurry. This guide will clear up the benefits of ACV as well as dispel all of the falsehoods surrounding the drink.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For You?
The short answer for this is: yes, ACV is good for you in moderation.
When we look at the nutrition facts label of ACV, the picture is pretty bleak. In 100 milliliters of ACV, up to 94% is composed of water. 1% is carbohydrates with no fat or protein. It contains no macronutrients (vitamins) and a negligible amount of micronutrients.
All in all, ACV isn’t the most nutritious drink out there. But the kicker is that up to 5% of the drink is made up of acetic acid. This chemical compound is how ACV gained the status that it has today.
Acetic acid is the primary ingredient behind every kind of vinegar (not just ACV). It is the reason why different types of vinegar have that distinct sour taste. The “stronger” the vinegar and the more tart it is, the more acetic acid it contains.
It is responsible for the many benefits that vinegar has. According to research, acetic acid is:
- Able to control blood glucose level
- Regulates lipid metabolism
- Promotes weight loss
- Has anticancer property (anticarcinogenic)
This list is the reason why ACV grew in popularity and, over time, turned into a mythical panacea.
Unfortunately, the specific research on Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits that we have available isn’t reliable. Most studies are conducted on a small scale and have short durations. Therefore, it’s difficult to tell for certain what ACV can do for your body in the long term.
Due to this reason, we do not recommend you to pursue an ACV diet as a serious medical treatment. At best, use it as a supplement. It’s better to trust your GP and their prescriptions for your conditions.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Protect Against Cancer?
These are some of the many dubious claims that float online about ACV.
Research into the anticancer effect of vinegar is quite limited. In this small pool, yes, vinegar showed a positive effect against cancer cells. But this is not solid evidence.
Additionally, no research is specific to the anticancer property of ACV in particular.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss: Is It Possible?
The most heavily advertised Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits is that it can help with weight loss. In this case, it is very plausible.
In 2009, a study was conducted with 175 participants over the course of 12 weeks. The study involved a group of people drinking a beverage with 0.1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar every day.
After 12 weeks, the group that consumed vinegar experienced a modest loss in weight as well as lower blood sugar levels. A newer study published in 2018 also ended up with roughly the same conclusion.
None of these studies involved ACV. Both of them used plain vinegar. Therefore, even though there’s a good chance that using ACV will also replicate the same effects, more research is needed.
Can Apple Cider Vinegar Lower Blood Pressure Immediately?
Among the many alleged Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits is the ability to lower blood pressure. Multiple pieces of research exist on this and seem to corroborate this claim. However, be warned that the majority of them are done on animals, not humans. Most of the studies below weren’t conducted with ACV, either, but with plain vinegar.
A healthy dose of skepticism should be given to the following studies.
1. Antiglycemic Effect
Acetic acid — as we mentioned earlier — has been determined to regulate blood glucose levels. In a study conducted on mice, vinegar was found to be antiglycemic. In other words, it can lower blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can increase blood pressure, so this effect is desirable if you have hypertension.
Metformin, a first-line medication for treating Type 2 diabetes, was also found to have similar antiglycemic effects.
Consequently, many people have attempted to join the two. More research is required to confirm this link, however.
2. Lowered Renin Activity
Renin is an enzyme secreted by the kidney. Its job is to regulate the arterial blood pressure of the body.
In a study conducted on mice, researchers found that vinegar was able to limit the production of renin. This also results in the mice having lower blood pressures than before.
3. Lower Weight & Sodium Intake
There is an intimate link between hypertension and obesity.
Because ACV contains very little fat, substituting other condiments with ACV in your meals can make a positive impact on your weight. By extension, it will also influence your mean blood pressure.
Excessive sodium intake is also strongly linked to hypertension.
Fortunately, ACV contains only 5 milligrams of sodium per 100 milliliters. It can drastically cut your sodium intake if you were to use it in place of saltier condiments (in salads, for example).
Ultimately, is ACV helpful for lowering blood pressure? Possibly.
We cannot be certain since the research is so limited. But considering the fact that all of the research is positive and there’s no harm in trying, you can use it as a supplement.
But, again, do not count on an ACV diet as a serious course of treatment.
Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse: Should You Wash Your Hair with ACV?
No research currently exists on whether ACV is helpful in hair care. At this stage, it’s mostly conjecture.
People locked onto two properties of vinegar to rationalize the use of ACV as a haircare product: its high acidity and its antimicrobial property.
Research shows that shampoos with high pH levels (alkaline shampoos) can increase the negative charge between hair fibers. This, in turn, increases the friction between each fiber, making them more vulnerable to breakage and frizzing. If the pH value of your scalp is high, you’re more likely to suffer from dandruff as well.
ACV has a very low pH value (between 2-3). The idea is to lather ACV onto the scalp and hair to lower their overall pH value, effectively restoring their health.
There’s also the antimicrobial property of ACV. It’s claimed that ACV can eliminate bacteria and fungi that irritate your scalp.
Although both have not been scientifically verified, there’s really no harm in trying.
To use ACV in your hair care routine, mix a tablespoon or two of ACV with water. Always use diluted ACV, never use it “straight”. ACV is highly caustic and, if undiluted, can irritate your scalp, skin, and eyes.
After you have shampooed and conditioned your hair, rinse your hair with the ACV mixture. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before washing it off with water.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects
ACV has a few side effects that you must watch out for.
The very first thing that you must know about ACV is that it is caustic and an irritant. It can irritate exposed skin, burn the eyes, or — if you use it as a hair care product — sting the scalp.
In high concentration, it can even cause injury. There is a published medical case of a woman who drank an ACV tablet that got stuck in her throat and burst. She suffered from a throat burn that gave her regular pain and difficulty swallowing for six months thereafter.
Always “water down” ACV before using it.
2. Bloating, Nausea, and Irregular Bowel Movement
Drinking ACV may cause bloating and nausea in some people.
ACV has also been on the record for causing gastroparesis — a condition wherein food stays too long in the stomach. If you’re on certain medications that require a fast absorption rate such as insulin, do not use ACV.
3. Tooth Decay
Acidic beverages are foods that have been proven to cause damage to tooth enamel. A published medical case that involved a 15 year-old girl who drank 1 cup of undiluted ACV per day for weight loss showed extensive dental damage.
This is yet another reason why it is so important to dilute ACV before you drink.
4. Adverse Drug Interactions
ACV is known to cause certain interactions with certain classes of drugs.
The first class includes diabetes medications such as insulin, metformin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, and glinides, to name a few.
Diabetes medications can cause your blood potassium levels to drop. ACV also causes a decrease in blood potassium levels.
When taken together, they can cause your blood potassium levels to drop dangerously low, leading to a condition called hypokalemia (abnormally low blood potassium levels).
Hypokalemia can lead to low blood pressure, heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and other complications.
Diuretics are the second class of medication to watch out for. Common diuretics can also cause a decrease in blood potassium levels and possibly hypokalemia.
Thiazide diuretics, such as hydrochlorothiazide, are infamous for this problem.
But even if you use “potassium-sparing” diuretics like spironolactone or triamterene, it’s still recommended that you steer clear of ACV. It’s not worth the hassle.
Laxatives and Enemas
A high dosage of any laxative or enema will cause your body to rapidly lose potassium via your stool. If you’re on any, avoid drinking ACV.
Asthma Inhalers & Nebulizers
The active chemical compounds in asthma inhalers like albuterol, ProAir, and proventil also cause low blood potassium.
If you use nebulizers like salbutamol, they’re known to drop your potassium levels even harder than inhalers.
To conclude, if you’re asthmatic, ACV isn’t for you.
Pseudoephedrine (or Sudafed) is a popular over-the-counter nasal decongestant
One of its effects is that it pushes potassium out of your blood and into your cells. With this in mind, do not use pseudoephedrine in concert with ACV.
Important: pseudoephedrine is sometimes mixed with popular OTC antihistamines such as loratadine and cetirizine to treat hay fever.
If you take your antihistamines daily, make sure that the brand you choose isn’t a mix-match with pseudoephedrine before you take your ACV. Antihistamines that are mixed with pseudoephedrine will have a “-D” suffix (Claritin-D, Zyrtec-D, and so on).
Risperidone and Quetiapine
Hypokalemia is a rare side effect of antipsychotic medications like risperidone and quetiapine. Avoid ACV if you’re on either of these medications.
Overuse of ACV has also been known to cause:
- Low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalemia)
- High concentration of renin in the blood (hyperreninemia)
- Brittle bones (osteoporosis)
No need to worry, however. The patient (28 year-old woman) in the aforementioned case consumed 8 ounces of diluted ADV daily for 6 years. This is 8 times higher than the recommended amount, which is a maximum of 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) diluted in 17 ounces of water a day.
In moderation, using ACV is perfectly fine.
While there is no clear evidence supporting apple cider vinegar’s benefits, there’s no harm in trying it out. Make sure that you handle ACV correctly, use it moderately, and you should be okay!
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.