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What are the Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?

You may have seen apple cider vinegar showing up in a variety of healthy recipes and have heard people extolling its virtues. Drinking it straight, however, is a difficult endeavor as it imparts a strong burn. But its versatility and its nutrient-dense profile makes it a new staple. 


Food chemists and authors of one review about culinary vinegars explain, “There are many types of vinegars worldwide, including black vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar. All these vinegars are produced using different raw materials, yeast strains and fermentation procedures, thus giving them their own unique tastes and flavors. The main volatile compound in vinegar is acetic acid, which gives vinegar its strong, sour aroma and flavor. Other volatile compounds present in vinegars are mainly alcohols, acids, esters, aldehydes and ketones.”


Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is distinct in its chemical profile, its phenolic compounds are gallic acid, catechins, epicatechins, chlorogenic acids, caffeic acids, and p-coumaric acids. 


Acetic acid, contained in ACV and other vinegars is a bacterium that is created during fermentation of substances, and in ACV’s case, apples. To make ACV, apples are crushed into a liquid to which yeast and bacteria are added, activating fermentation. This turns the apple material into alcohol; the alcohol undergoes another simple process where acetic acid transforms it into vinegar.


True ACV is raw, unfiltered and unrefined, and contains a substance called the “mother.” This is a “blob” of cellulose material containing enzymes, pectin and trace minerals and is natural byproduct of apple fermentation. According to one source, consuming ACV with the mother “will provide your gut with healthy bacteria and probiotics.”


ACV (with “mother”) both organic and conventional, have been shown to contain beneficial bacteria. In one biochemistry analysis, researchers found that the species Acetobacter pasteurianus was dominant and they also found species Komagataeibacter oboediens present. In organic apple cider vinegar the species Acetobacter ghanensis and Komagataeibacter saccharivorans were also detected. 


As stress is a factor known to degrade health and have widespread impacts on the human body, ACV has been studied for its ability to modulate the stress-induced pathways that directly contribute to illness. In one study of ACV and stress markers, researchers found that ACV stimulates excitatory/inhibitory enzymatic activity and higher antioxidant potential that they believe may be effective against neurological complications.  They write, “All the cellular, biochemical, behavioral, and histopathological data revealed that ACV had high antioxidant potential. Our findings suggest that the addition of ACV as a food additive in the daily diet may reduce the threat of multiple neurodegenerative diseases.”


ACV and Cardiometabolic Support

Cardiometabolic insufficiency can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Factors begin to assert themselves in middle-age (and even sooner).  Jos Ordovs, PhD, a research director at Tufts University, explained, “Cardiometabolic risk factors include, at minimum, abdominal obesity (waistline 40 inches or more in men, 35 inches or more in women); high fasting triglycerides, low ‘good’ HDL cholesterol; and elevated blood pressure. When two or more of these risk factors coexist, it doubles the risk of heart attack and stroke and increases the risk of diabetes by a factor of 5.”


A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to validate the efficacy of ACV consumption on parameters of cardiometabolic health, chiefly high lipid levels and impaired glucose functioning.


The researchers analyzed data from 9 studies, finding that ACV consumption significantly reduced serum total cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and HbA1C concentrations. However, ACV consumption did not appear to have any measurable effect on low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, or fasting insulin concentrations.

 

The analysis revealed a significant reduction of serum total cholesterol and total glucose in participants with type 2 diabetes, especially in those who consumed approximately 15 mL/day of ACV, and those who consumed ACV for 8 weeks, respectively. Additionally, 8-week or longer studies have shown that, ACV consumption significantly reduced FPG levels. Further, ACV intake appeared to elicit an increase in FPG and HDL-C concentrations in apparently healthy participants.



A randomized clinical trial examined if ACV consumption could impact dietary modifications to manage body weight and serum metabolic profiles in overweight or obese individuals. The 39 participants were randomly assigned to consume either 30 mL/day ACV plus restricted calorie diet with a 250-calorie deficit, or only the reduced diet.  Compared to the diet-only group those in the diet-plus-ACV group had significantly reduced body weight, BMI, hip circumference, visceral adiposity index and appetite score. 


Additionally, plasma triglyceride (TG) and total cholesterol (TC) levels significantly decreased and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) concentration significantly increased in the ACV group in comparison to the control group. The researchers concluded that adding ACV into a moderate calorie-reduced diet could result in favorable weight loss, and improved cardiometabolic profile in overweight and obese individuals.

ACV may also help stimulate reduction in abdominal fat. In one 12-week study, participants consumed either 15 mL of ACV, 30 mL ACV, or placebo. Study authors found that both ACV group participants had significantly lower body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels than in the placebo group. They concluded that such reductions are useful in lowering risk of metabolic syndrome.


One study included nondiabetic subjects who were either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant and 10 subjects with type 2 diabetes consumed either an ACV water beverage or placebo after fasting. Post meal (“post-prandial”) consumption changes in insulin were monitored, and were significantly reduced by ACV in control subjects, and postprandial fluxes in glucose and insulin were significantly reduced in insulin-resistant subjects. The authors concluded that ACV may significantly improve insulin sensitivity after meals in those who are insulin resistant.

 

Two separate studies (here and here) suggested mechanisms of action of ACV in improving glycemic status.  ACV may delay gastric emptying, enhancing cellular glucose utilization and lipolysis, suppressing hepatic glucose production and lipogenesis, and facilitating insulin secretion. ACV consumption might reduce serum TC concentrations; where the effect of ACV on lipid profiles might be attributed to its stimulation of acid bile excretion, increasing lipolysis and decreasing lipogenesis.


Conclusion

Good news is, there are many ACV supplements, such as gummies and capsules, in case you just can’t handle the burn of it straight or simply the flavor of it even with water.  More good news is that you can use it as an ingredient for salad dressings, marinades, chutneys and more. It’s versatile enough to consume every day.

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