The Truth About Apple Cider Vinegar – 5 Things You Need to Know

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you’ve probably typed ‘does apple cider vinegar work’ into your google search bar at some point during your history of internetting only to be left more confused about this “health” supplement than when you first started…?

Yeah, we’ve been there too.  For years now, this acidic brown liquid has been touted as some sort of elixir.  A one stop treatment for all of life’s ailments from sore throats to lack lustre locks, the secret to fat loss and even the holy grail of hangover cures.

But while these thoughts and notions aren’t exactly new, they seem to be having a bit of a resurgence in mainstream media all thanks to reality royalty (AKA Kim K and her sisters) shouting about it, “oh my god, you guys, this apple cider vinegar has, like, so many health benefits, my grandma said so…

(Look it up)

But does it really work?  Or is it just a whole load of hyped-up Hollywood mumbo jumbo geared towards making you spend your hard-earned cash on something that has absolutely no benefit whatsoever?

Read on to find out…

But First – Apple Cider Vinegar, A (very) Brief History

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples in vinegar and turning them into acetic acid, which gives it a sour taste and a not altogether appetising brown hew.

While it may be the darling of modern health supplements, its supposed virtues have been loftily held in high regard since the days of Julius Caesar himself.

From stimulating tonics to antiseptics and even a remedy for internal bleeding, body odour and / or plaque, it has been used to cure and fix seemingly everything that could go wrong with a body!

This trend continues to today with many believing it to free them from diseases, fatigue, mental health issues and digestive complaints.  

Now, time for the science-y bit…

Does it Boost Digestion?

The belief

Drinking apple cider vinegar with meals can help improve digestion. It does this by stimulate digestive juices, increasing bile flow and promoting the breakdown of fats in the digestive tract. People who suffer from indigestion or acid reflux often find relief by incorporating apple cider vinegar in their diet.

The truth

Because apple cider vinegar is naturally acidic, it may help raise the stomach acid levels in people with low stomach acidity, thus leading to better digestion.  This, in turn, may help prevent gas and bloating, but realistically only in people who have low stomach acidity which is estimated at about 22% of the adult population.

That said, this is still very much a theory with very little evidence to suggest if it does, or does not, work.

In fact, according to a 2019 study conducted by Philippe Marteau et al. you’ll likely get better results from including some form of pro-biotic into your diet, switching up your diet altogether, going for a walk or enjoying some peppermint tea.

Does it Control Blood Sugar?

The belief

Apple cider vinegar can help control blood sugar levels by decreasing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This can be beneficial for people who have diabetes or are at risk of developing it.

The truth

This one has some weight behind it!  Researchers found that drinking 20g of apple cider vinegar after a meal of a bagel, orange juice and butter significantly lowered post-meal blood glucose levels.

This is good news as diabetes cases here in the UK continue to steadily rise year on year.  This is by no means a cure for the condition, but it may help keep blood glucose levels in check thus making things a little easier to manage.

Does it Aid Weight Loss?

The belief

This one is the biggie (and the one I’ve no doubt the reason why many of you are here reading this right now!)

But you’ve been warned, it’s a bit of a minefield, so buckle up folks… Many people drink apple cider vinegar to aid weight loss. Advocates for this believe that apple cider vinegar may suppresses their appetite, increase metabolism, and reduce belly fat.

The truth

In short – science says no.  In fact, the study that apparently “supports” this was conducted on obese rats and mice – not humans.  And the study that WAS conducted on humans (all 175 of them) found that after 3 months of ingesting 1-2 tablespoons daily lost a measly 2-4 lbs over that time, hardly ground-breaking.

At the end of the day, if you wish to lose weight, you’re best to get yourself into a calorie deficit, eat healthy, whole foods and exercise.

Apple Weight

Does it Improve Skin Health?

The belief

Apple cider vinegar has astringent, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce acne, skin blemishes, and dandruff. It also helps balance the skin’s pH levels, resulting in healthier skin.

The truth

This one might just work!  It’s believed that its antibacterial and antifungal properties can help kill bacteria and yeast that is commonly associated with conditions like eczema, acne and dandruff.  That said, the experts recommend you always dilute the apple cider vinegar with water as its high acidity may irritate the skin.

Does it Help with Allergies?

The belief

People believe that apple cider vinegar can help alleviate allergy symptoms. It’s thought that its high potassium content can help prevent the mucous membranes in the nose from becoming too dry, which can lead to congestion and other allergy-related symptoms.

The truth

There is very little evidence to support this one, I’m afraid.  In fact, there are none.  Legitimately not one research paper has been published about this.  Not.  One.

You see, Most people with seasonal allergies use medications, such as antihistamines, which prevent compounds called histamines from attaching to cells and causing allergy symptoms. But apple cider vinegar doesn't have any antihistamine properties.  Therefore – it’s useless for treating seasonal allergies.

Better to stick to tried and tested medicines and remedies to ease symptoms like staying hydrated and inhaling steam to help clear mucus.

Final thoughts...

So, no harm to apple cider devotees, there’s just not enough scientific evidence to support title of “most versatile remedy.”  

In fact, it’s probably more accurate to pop this one under “hyped up Hollywood BS” or, in a nicer way, a very, very tall tale.  Think Tim Burton’s Big Fish level of tall tale.

Plus, it’s important to note that there are quite a few nasty side effects associated with consuming too much of it.

It can lead to tooth enamel erosion, digestive problems and may interact negatively with certain medications. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating any new supplements into your diet.

But, you’re adamant you want to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your daily routine, you’re probably better keeping it for topping a salad than trying to use it medicinally.

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh Tosh

Ashleigh - writer by day, reader by night, self-professed foodie at all times... A former broadcast journalist, she's been writing for the health & wellness industry for over 10 years and is passionate about all things food & fitness. When she's not clickety-clacking on the keyboard, you can find her in the gym, in the kitchen or up a Munro.


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