Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a reputation like no other when it comes to health benefits. Unpasteurized and unrefined, it features the combined powers of fermented apples, probiotics, proteins, enzymes and acetic acid, so it certainly packs a punch!
That's not the end of the story, however. Influencers and celebrities everywhere have been carrying on about their 'ACV diets,' how much weight and body fat they've lost and how great they feel. Could promoting weight loss be another benefit of this miracle product? It certainly seems like it!
Let's take a deep dive into ACV and ACV diets, to find out more about the science linking it to weight loss.
What is ACV?
ACV is produced by fermenting apple juice, converting sugars first into alcohol then acetic acid. Like any fermentation process, making ACV requires cultures of live bacteria, which are visible in unpasteurized, unrefined raw ACV as 'The Mother.' This floating, web-like cloudy mass, although it sounds downright disgusting, is in actual fact the source of many of ACVs health and weight loss benefits.
The Mother contains heaps of probiotics, proteins and enzymes which actively boost your overall health. They promote gut symbiosis and cellular functions, thereby playing a role in everything from immunity to hormone regulation!
Other benefits come mostly from acetic acid, which is a significant component of ACV. The acid is anti-viral, bacterial and microbial and interacts favourably with stomach acids secreted during digestion, as well as having an impact on calories, carbs and fat storage.
With all of this goodness, is it any surprise people are raving about it?
What Constitutes an ACV Diet?
Despite hearing so much about 'the ACV diet,' you should know that there is no such thing. Everyone does it differently! There's no set way to include ACV in your eating routines: use it as salad dressing, add it to smoothies, dilute it in water, take supplement pills, pickle some veggies - your ACV diet, your way!
The only thing that people tend to agree on is the recommended dosage. Two tablespoons a day, spread out over a few sittings and taken before or with meals, is the generally accepted healthy helping. Ingest too much, and you might damage your tooth enamel or mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach lining! Acid reflux and burns are not pleasant experiences...
How Can ACV Promote Weight Loss?
Keep in mind that most of the studies relating to ACV and weight loss were performed on rats, and the few human studies comprised very limited test groups. Nonetheless, the results we have look promising in a variety of areas!
ACV has been shown to prolong feelings of fullness and curb cravings. When taken before or with meals, it also made people feel fuller faster, therefore limiting their calorific intake.
This is in part due to the fact that ACV slows gastric emptying, decreasing the rate at which food moves out of your stomach. Consequently, people find that they feel fuller for longer after having eaten, thus reducing illicit snacking. As well as this, ACV decreased this test group's blood sugar response after a high-carb meal, helping people maintain a constant blood sugar level and reduce inter-meal cravings.
The acidic content of ACV could boost your stomach's naturally occurring digestive acids, thereby improving your digestive powers and nutrient absorption. This reduces symptoms such as bloating, gastric discomfort and constipation. ACV's anti-microbial nature also means that it's effective against bacteria build-up in your stomach when you're having trouble digesting particular foods.
Improving Your Metabolism
This study on diabetic mice showed that acetic acid increased their synthesis of the enzyme AMPK, which boosts fat burning and decreases sugar and fat production in the liver. Along with promoting effective digestion, ACV's metabolism-boosting and fat-burning properties all contribute to your weight loss efforts.
Managing Blood Sugar
Studies on mice and humans have shown that ACV decreases your fasting blood sugar levels, as well as generally reducing sugar spikes and crashes. This means you're less likely to succumb to inter-meal cravings and hunger pangs, and it makes managing blood sugar levels much easier for people with diabetes.
What actually happens is that ACV improves the ability of your muscles to absorb sugar from your bloodstream, thus reducing and maintaining blood sugar levels and speeding up the metabolism of glucose.
Reducing Fat Storage
The most significant research exploring ACV's effect on body fat was a 2009 study on 144 obese Japanese adults.
The participants were split into three groups: those consuming one tablespoon of ACV per day, two tablespoons of ACV per day or no ACV. Other than the added ACV and lowering their alcohol consumption, no other dietary changes were made.
After 12 weeks, the results were as follows:
One tablespoon -
- Weight loss: 1.2 kg
- Decrease in body fat percentage: 0.7%
- Decrease in waist circumference: 1.4 cm
- Decrease in triglycerides: 26%
Two tablespoons -
- Weight loss: 1.7 kg
- Decrease in body fat percentage: 0.9%
- Decrease in waist circumference: 1.9 cm
- Decrease in triglycerides: 26%
No ACV -
- Weight gain: 0.4kg
- Slight increase in waist circumference.
Studies on mice seem to corroborate these findings. One six-week study exposed groups of mice to high-fat, high-calorie diets. One group also received a high dose of ACV, one a lower dose and one no ACV. The high-ACV group gained 10% less fat than the control group, and 2% less fat than the low-ACV group! Another study found that acetic acid prevented weight gain in diabetic mice.
There's definitely evidence to support the notion that ACV has an impact on weight loss. Even though most of the studies are animal studies, and human studies are few and minimal, it's safe to say acetic acid and fat, hunger and blood sugar are all linked.
However, ACV is not a miracle cure! It won't magically melt the kilos and inches away.
On the other hand, it's strongly suggested that ACV is an excellent tool for promoting or supporting your weight loss efforts. Used in conjunction with a healthy, balanced lifestyle, it could amplify your results.
Either way, it can't hurt. On the contrary, it's good for so many things other than weight loss! So go ahead and toss it into your salad, blend it into that smoothie or, for the brave souls out there, chug that vinegary water.