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If you’ve ventured into “natural health,” you’ve likely heard of using apple cider vinegar for health purposes or know someone who does. Apple cider vinegar is a pantry staple among many in the natural health community, but why? This article will discuss some of the top apple cider vinegar health benefits to give you a better idea of apple cider vinegar’s mystique and actual health value.
I first heard about apple cider vinegar as a supplement about twenty years ago, when someone mentioned it could prevent fat accumulation. Since the Internet was more primitive back then, I didn’t have the same level of resources to verify this claim as I do today. Thus, I decided to simply try apple cider vinegar for myself and took a couple of capsules daily for a year or two.
Later, I heard about apple cider vinegar’s ability to kill bacteria and to fight illnesses, so would often gargle apple cider vinegar when I felt a sore throat developing, just in case it was bacterial. I also occasionally downed a shot of apple cider vinegar just for the sake of it. (You should check out our Amazing Fire Cider Recipe, a popular health tonic featuring apple cider vinegar.)
Yet, you might wonder whether any research actually substantiates any of these anecdotal claims and uses. We will evaluate these popularly touted apple cider vinegar health benefits and more.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is, as the name suggests, vinegar derived from apples. Different methods exist on making apple cider vinegar, but all involve using apple pieces.
A very basic homemade method is to submerge chopped up apples in water and then wait for the sugars to break down and cause fermentation. Some recipes add cane sugar, while others rely on the apples’ sugar.
Two types of fermentation are required to make apple cider vinegar: yeast fermentation and acetic acid fermentation.
Without getting too technical, yeast fermentation occurs when yeast converts sugars into alcohol, whether the yeast is naturally occurring from the environment or is added yeast. (Note: if you read our Beginner’s Guide: Proven, Easy Sourdough Starter Recipe, you will recall our discussion of yeast fermentation there as well!)
Acetic acid fermentation occurs next, where acetic acid bacteria convert the alcohol made from yeast fermentation into acetic acid. Acetic acid content is provides vinegar’s characteristic “tangy” flavor and is what qualifies the liquid as “vinegar.” The fermentation creates many of the characteristic apple cider vinegar health benefits.
What Qualities Should You Seek in Apple Cider Vinegar?
If you look at apple cider vinegar bottles, you may notice terms like “raw” and “mother.” We will explain what these terms mean and what actual qualities you should seek to maximize apple cider vinegar health benefits.
Apples are always among the top fruits listed for containing pesticides, so you should buy organic apple cider vinegar to minimize any possible pesticide content. Pesticides are mostly found on apple skins, and manufacturers include apple skins when making apple cider vinegar, so any pesticides on the apples will likely make its way into the vinegar.
Also, organic fruit is shown to have more nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown fruit. So, organic apple cider vinegar is bound to have more nutrients and antioxidants as well.
Raw apple cider vinegar refers to unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Unless labelled as “unpasteurized,” vinegars are usually pasteurized. Pasteurization can serve two purposes: to prevent any linger acetic acid bacteria from continuing to ferment the liquid, and to prevent harmful bacteria or mold from growing in the product.
However, pasteurized vinegar will obviously lack beneficial bacteria that is otherwise contained in “the mother” (see below).
With the Mother
Raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar will contain a cloudy mass called “the mother,” that many proponents tout for amplifying apple cider vinegar health benefits. The mother consists of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that contributed to fermentation, along with other micronutrients like antioxidants.
If you’re familiar with the process of making kombucha, the mother is akin to the SCOBY that forms while fermenting kombucha. (You can read about and even learn the process in our Easy Beginners Guide: How to Make Your Own Kombucha.)
Thus, to summarize, best to get an organic, raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother included.
Bragg (image above) fits all of the above criteria and is one of the most popular and widely recognized brands for apple cider vinegar and for people who promote apple cider vinegar benefits. You can find it in most local stores or online (feel free to click on the Bragg link or image for the convenience of online purchasing!).
Top 4 Inspiring Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits
This study confirmed the antioxidant effects of apple cider vinegar, where rats who drank apple cider vinegar showed increased plasma concentration of magnesium, calcium, Vitamin E, and copper, among other positive reactions.
If you read our article, 6 Incredible Health Benefits of Green Tea, we also discuss antioxidants by way of polyphenols, which are the plant compounds also found in apple cider vinegar. Polyphenols generally help combat DNA and cell damage that can eventually cause disease and other ill health effects.
This research article concludes that the fermentation process transforms polyphenols normally present in apples into smaller phenolic molecules that are more biologically active than regular polyphenols. Thus, apple cider vinegar may be able to combat conditions like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes better than simply accessing polyphenols from unfermented apples.
Thus, apple cider vinegar’s enhanced antioxidant profile makes for one of the more interested apple cider vinegar health benefits listed.
2. Weight Loss
Since I mentioned learning about apple cider vinegar for its weight loss properties many years ago, you probably wonder whether research has supported that purported claim. Well, apple cider vinegar’s ability to promote weight less is, indeed, another one of the more interesting apple cider vinegar health benefits we discuss.
This study determined that among obese participants, those who ingested apple cider vinegar over the 12-week period showed notable reduction in the following areas versus participants who did not consume apple cider vinegar: body weight, body mass index (BMI), visceral fat area, and waist circumference. Most changes started after four weeks.
Another study similarly found that participants who consumed apple cider vinegar over 12 weeks lost more weight and had lower BMI, hip circumference, visceral fat, and appetites than participants who did not consumer apple cider vinegar. As an aside, this study used participants who were following calorie-restricted diets, so all participants showed some reductions by fact of the diet alone.
Regarding apple cider vinegar’s ability to suppress appetite, this study found that the acetate in apple cider vinegar triggers appetite suppressing signals in the brain.
Thus, whatever the exact mechanism, apple cider vinegar health benefits includes promoting weight loss and body fat reduction. At least now I don’t feel like I took those apple cider vinegar capsules in vain!
3. Glycemic (Blood Sugar) Regulation
Really, all of these apple cider vinegar health benefits are quite interesting. Here is another: the ability to reduce the body’s glycemic (i.e. blood sugar) response to high-glycemic meals. This study determined that participants who ate a high glycemic-load meal with vinegar experienced about a 55% reduction in glycemic response in the hour following the meal than participants who ate the meal without vinegar.
Note that the above study only found notable effects in participants who ate high-glycemic meals, meaning meals with a lot of carbohydrates or sugars. Thus, if you already eat low-glycemic meals, apple cider vinegar would not have as large a task to perform, so changes in glycemic response would not be as notable.
Another study found that type 2 diabetics who consumed apple cider vinegar before bedtime showed reduced glucose levels upon waking up the next morning. Thus, apple cider vinegar can help regular blood sugar and glycemic responses in individuals.
4. Antibacterial and Antifungal
Regarding the habit of gargling apple cider vinegar to try to stave off a sore throat, does any research support this practice?
Not directly. Unfortunately, no formal study has evaluated apple cider vinegar’s ability to combat or stave off a sore throat. However, research has supported apple cider vinegar’s ability to fight bacteria, which can be responsible for a sore throat.
This study showed that apple cider vinegar inhibited the growth of E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Apple cider vinegar also enhanced the response of white blood cells to the bacteria.
Similar effects were shown against the fungus, Candida albicans, in the above study. Another study supported apple cider vinegar’s ability to combat Candida fungus.
However, you should keep in mind that the above studies were done on petri dishes or objects, so using apple cider vinegar directly for bacteria or fungus on or in your body may produce different or less dramatic results.
You also have to remember that the polyphenols in apple cider vinegar can generally increase your health to promote your ability to stay healthy or to fight off illnesses. So, although apple cider vinegar may not directly address an infection, it can at least indirectly assist.
Summary on Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits
So, there you have it: our analysis of the top four apple cider vinegar health benefits. You may have heard of other apple cider health benefits or uses, but targeted ones with at least some scientific backing.
Like with many other remedies or substances we discuss on this site, you should not take the lack of specific research on the matter as proof that anecdotal benefits are bunk. It simply means that no one conducted any formal study.
If you have any positive experiences with apple cider vinegar that we didn’t discuss, or even want to comment on the apple cider vinegar health benefits we listed, please comment below.