No, belief in the health benefits of apple cider vinegar is not a New Age fad, although many New Age enthusiasts include this product on their list of “natural” cures. This is one of the few products on this list that actually holds some promise.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the so-called wonder ingredient in apple cider vinegar is acetic acid which has been found to reduce absorption of starches and to slow digestion which can lead to a sensation of a full stomach. Hence the claim that it can help weight loss.
However, “studies on weight loss and appetite suppression have mostly involved mice, which is a long way from proving effectiveness in people.”
Another use has been to reduce blood sugar levels, but this too is not quite meeting the standard in laboratory testing. “ . . . [T]he reduction in morning blood sugar levels after drinking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar the night before over several days was quite small,” Harvard reports.
According to Dr. Gabriel Neal, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Texas A&M University, this vinegar could hold promise, but studies to date have just been too small to extrapolate much meaning for the general public.
“The most reliable evidence for the health benefits of vinegar come from a few humans studies involving apple cider vinegar,” he writes. “One study demonstrated that apple cider vinegar can improve after-meal blood glucose levels in insulin-resistant subjects. In 11 people who were ‘pre-diabetic,’ drinking 20 milliliters, a little more than one tablespoon, of apple cider vinegar lowered their blood sugar levels 30-60 minutes after eating more than a placebo did. That’s good – but it was only demonstrated in 11 pre-diabetic people.”
Similarly, in another study on 155 obese Japanese adults, researchers looking for the effects of apple cider vinegar to reduce weight separated the adults into groups and gave one group 15 ml of vinegar a day. Another group got 30 ml a day. A third group received a placebo. All three groups were studied for weight, fat mass, and triglycerides. In both the 15 ml and 30 ml group, there was a reduction in all three markers. Even though this was a promising result, a larger study would be needed to verify it.
The good news is that apple cider vinegar isn’t harmful to your health (unless you drink it in excessive amounts). But people should be careful not to use it to whiten their teeth because it has been found to damage tooth enamel.
Also, be careful about what you read on the Internet about using this vinegar to remove unwanted moles. “Although a mole may be removed with repeated applications, scarring and skin pigmentation can remain, and the vinegar may even burn the skin,” Harvard warns.
“Studies in animals, mostly rats, show that vinegar can potentially reduce blood pressure and abdominal fat cells. These help build the case for followup studies in humans, but any benefit claims based only on animal studies is premature,” Dr. Neal concludes.
“In all, the health benefits we suspect vinegar has need to be confirmed by larger human studies, and this will certainly happen as researchers build on what has been studied in humans and animals to date.”
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