For centuries, “vinegars” have had the reputation of be-ing the ultimate DIY potion for all things household, ranging from shiny bathtubs to eliminating the nastiest of odors. So, what is so special about apple cider vinegar (ACV), and how did it top the health charts after the advent of social media? ACV is fermented apple juice, and the medicinal properties found in ACV can be attributed to both its “probiotic”-like nature resulting from the fermentation process and the presence of “mother,” a concentrated solution of proteins and enzymes. To the naked eye, mother is a cloudy mass and is commonly found in unpasteurized and unfiltered ACV. Devoid of “mother,” ACV will not have the same medicinal benefits.
It is true that cider vinegars have historically been used as health elixirs; in fact, the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, used cider vinegars to treat various health dis-orders, ranging from cough and cold to skin and digestive disorders. The most common ACV claims today are: It is the magic potion for weight loss, and it can reverse Type 2 diabetes, beat the bloat and prevent skin disorders such as acne and hyperpigmentation. Let’s dive in and break it down to fact vs. fiction and arm you with educational information backed by clinically proven facts.
Keep in mind that ACV can interact with many medical treatments and drugs. Studies have shown that ACV can interfere with a variety of medications such as those used for management of blood pressure, heart health, thyroid health and diabetes, among others.
Similarly, be wary of consuming undiluted ACV. The acidity of ACV can erode the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, especially in those with pre-existing conditions. ACV acidity can also erode tooth enamel and cause enhanced sensitivity in teeth and gums.
Optimally, ACV should be diluted with water before consumption. Mixing ACV with tea or caffeine will negate its benefits. ACV is not recommended for pregnant and/or nursing women.
Proven Benefits of ACV
There are a few scientifically proven benefits of ACV that might make this elixir worth including in your daily routine. This is what is known.
Destruction of harmful bacteria
The most talked-about property of vinegars is that they can kill pathogens and harmful bacteria. A similar philosophy exists when we discuss bacteria in relation to human health. The acetic acid found in ACV is known for its bacteria-reducing properties; therefore, it is often used as a wound-healing agent. Diluted ACV can help reduce, treat and prevent skin infections such as acne by reducing and/or destroying the bacterial colonies responsible for the undesirable infections. Topical use of diluted ACV can also help reduce the appearance of scars and sun damage such as hyperpigmentation stemming from acne scarring or dam-age caused by exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
Assisting in the reduction of blood sugar
Studies have shown that ACV, when added to a Type 2 diabetes treatment regimen focused on reversing the disease through diet and exercise, appears to help reduce blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity at the same time. Studies have also shown that diluted ACV can help reduce postprandial (after meals) blood sugar in those who manage their Type 2 diabetes by utilizing a healthy eating pattern, along with managing and reducing cravings. It should be noted that treatment and prevention of Type 2 diabetes must begin with diet and lifestyle management. ACV alone cannot reverse Type 2 diabetes. ACV should not replace prescribed medications and insulin in diabetic patients
Beating the bulge and bloat
One of the most talked-about benefits of ACV is its ability to induce weight loss and reduction in bloating. Although there is no instant fix that is safe and appropriate for long-term use when it comes to weight loss, the addition of ACV can help expedite the weight-loss process for those who are diligent in exercise and diet management. ACV can help one feel more satiated. It also has properties to balance post-meal levels of glucose and insulin, which are the two determining factors of weight gain and fat storage.
Cholesterol reduction and heart-healthy benefits
Studies indicate that ACV might have the potential of reducing levels of triglycerides (TG) in the blood. TG are fatty acids that are affected by the type and quantity of fats and carbohydrates consumed and easily elevated in those consuming diets rich in processed foods, alcoholic beverages and refined carbohydrates, and in those who smoke. ACV can have a positive effect on TG and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels; however, the effects of ACV will not produce significant results in conjunction with poor diet and lifestyle habits.
Seasonal health issues
The acetic acid in ACV can be used as a powerful agent against seasonal colds, the flu and other irritants. The bacterial-destructive properties of ACV can be used as a preventive tool in the management of seasonal acute disorders; however, ACV should not replace prescribed medications for the flu. In addition, ACV can interfere with the dosage and effectiveness of antibiotics or antivirals.
There is no miracle treatment. Nutritional remedies, when used correctly, can treat and prevent some diseases at their roots. ACV contains beneficial properties; however, in the absence of a healthy lifestyle, ACV will not generate the desired outcomes, will not be long-term and might leave you with undesired side-effects. Apple cider vinegar is a promising dietary addition for those looking to reverse Type 2 diabetes and lose stubborn weight or fat. But can ACV perform miracles in the absence of a healthy diet? There is no clinical evidence to support that. Once you embark on a healthy lifestyle, the addition of ACV can produce desirable results and prove to be beneficial in the long term.
Dr. Suman Ahuja completed her education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and at Texas Tech. She has a doctorate in clinical nutrition with an emphasis on obesity treatment and prevention. This article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.