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Medically reviewed by
Constance Tambakis Odom, MD graduated in 1987 with her Doctorate of Medicine from the New York Medical College, and was an Anesthesiologist Resident from 1988 to 1991 at the Brookdale Medical Center PGY II (CA-I)-PGY IV (CA-III). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology since 1998 and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 2002. Constance Odom, MD is affiliated with the American Medical Association, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiology, Georgia Society of Anesthesiology, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, North Carolina Society of Anesthesiology, and Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia.
From the pantry to the medicine cupboard, apple cider vinegar has transitioned from a normal consumable to a popular organic remedy that has gained widespread consumer attention. Although it seems quite unbelievable that this commonly used salad dressing can benefit the body in any way, research shows otherwise. ACV has been considered a health tonic for thousands of years, with numerous claims stating it helps with everything from stabilizing blood sugar to hormone levels. But one claim that has sparked the interest of medical professionals and consumers alike involves apple cider vinegar and weight loss.
Below we take a better look into the properties of apple cider vinegar and dissect health fads to verify if the agent could really work as a weight loss aid:
What is Apple Cider Vinegar
More popularly referred to as ACV, apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made from fermented apple juice. The product is made using a two-step fermentation process. First, cut or crushed apples are mixed with yeast. This transforms the sugar in the apple into alcohol. Thereafter, bacteria is added into the mix to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid, also known as ethanoic acid. Acetic acid is the active compound in ACV, which fuels its effects and abilities. This active ingredient also gives ACV its sour taste and strong odor.
Like other wine or cider-based vinegar, ACV contains a fair amount of acidity. Due to its multi-use status, ACV can be found anywhere from the local supermarket to the drug store. There are different types of ACV, the most common being distilled, which is clear and transparent. Others include raw, unfiltered, or unpasteurized, which is cloudy and yellow-brownish in color. This version has a stringy substance floating in it which often induces fear in some, but it's completely safe to consume.
In fact, this version is the "mother" of all ACVs as it contains natural enzymes from fermentation. All types or varieties of ACV contain approximately 5–6% acetic acid. It also has trace amounts of other acids, such as malic acid and water. When diluted, ACV contains an insignificant amount of calories per serving. It has almost no carbohydrates, fat, protein, or fiber.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits for Weight Loss
Acetic acid, the active ingredient in ACV, is considered a short-chain fatty acid which is the main reason behind its benefits. Its overall health benefits include reducing cholesterol, eradicating harmful bacteria that fester in wounds/infections/foods, and weight loss. The weight loss benefits are attributed to ACVs effect on different body processes.
Below we take a closer look at the primary weight loss benefits associated with ACV use:
Lowers blood sugar levels and decreases insulin levels
Acetic acid slows down the conversion of complex carbs into the bloodstream. This process prevents unwanted blood glucose spikes, which means that insulin production is lowered. A study showed that acetic acid enhanced the liver and muscles' ability to absorb sugar from the blood, which lowered blood sugar levels. It also reduces the amount of insulin the body produces, which favors fat burning.
Improves metabolism/burns fat
Acetic acid increases metabolism levels by enhancing the activity of enzymes that break down fat. Evidence from a PubMed study showed that acetic acid activates an enzyme called AMPK, which boosts fat burning, increases metabolisms, and decreases fat/sugar production in the liver. Another study showed that acetic acid increased genes responsible for fat burning when combined with a high protein diet.
Reduces fat storage
Acetic acid blocks certain enzymes from creating fatty acids in the body, which stops lipogenesis (fat storage) and burns fat. In a study, acetic acid increased gene expression, reducing belly fat storage and liver fat. It also reduced the probability of weight gain.
Suppresses appetites and promotes feelings of fullness
Acetic acid slows stomach emptying, which prolongs the sense of fullness after a meal. This reduces and prevents overeating/cravings. A PubMed study also showed that ACV suppresses centers in your brain that control appetite, leading to reduced food intake.
These benefits have almost a cascading effect on weight loss. Each benefit plays a specific role in the weight loss journey and leads to the consumption of fewer calories. Due to these benefits, ACV use has become more mainstream, with some opting for the traditional liquid option and others using ACV capsules, tablets, and gummies. However, ACV supplements are not as potent as liquid ACV.
The Downside to Trying Apple Cider Vinegar For Weight Loss
Many individuals often assume that natural remedies for weight loss carry no risk due to their origin. However, this is not the case. Natural remedies such as ACV carry an equal amount of risk as pharmaceutical options. These risks typically need to be weighed against their efficacy to make a solid choice of whether the solution is worth trying or not.
There is a fair amount of evidence that shows that ACV does help accelerate weight loss. However, long-term use can cause acid levels to rise in the body, which can cause adverse effects. These effects include:
Stomach issues, especially for people with gastroparesis, a disease that occurs when the stomach is unable to empty itself in a normal way
Esophageal burns, throat irritation
Increases risk for hypoglycemia when used with insulin
Interactions with other medications
Decreased potassium levels
These side effects, of course, aren't very prominent at the beginning of ACV use. However, they do start to show as ACV is consumed more frequently.
A Look Behind Apple Cider Vinegar Weight Loss Claims
From oral solutions to tablets and even topical agents, the weight loss market is filled with thousands of aids that claim to help reduce fat stores. One of the more recent additions to the weight loss market is ACV. With a growing number of individuals claiming that the agent helps eliminate unwanted fat, research was conducted to assess its effectiveness.
Most studies show that the active compound in ACV, acetic acid, can promote weight loss through appetite suppression and blood sugar regulation to an extent. Research shows that regulating blood sugar levels drops insulin production, which sends the body into fat-burning mode. While appetite suppression lowers calorie consumption which leads to weight loss. Clinical evidence also suggests that ACV promotes feelings of fullness, further decreasing calorie intake—fat loss. Together the widespread evidence points directly to ACVs benefit list.
Below we dissect the data from studies that used ACV as a weight loss agent:
In a small study with 11 healthy participants, those who took ACV with a high-carb meal showed a 55% lower blood sugar response 1 hour after consuming their meal. The participants also consumed 200–275 fewer calories for the day. This displays ACVs appetite suppressing effects.
In a small-scale study involving 20 healthy participants, those who took ACV with a starchy meal experienced stomach emptying at a significantly slower rate. This displays one of ACVs other benefits—increased feelings of fullness and lowered blood sugar and insulin levels.
Results from a study with 144 obese participants who took ACV for 12 weeks, with their usual diet/activity regime and restricted alcohol intake, achieved an average of approximately 3 pounds of weight loss.
The studies mentioned above were all short-term clinical trials that spanned a few weeks. The long-term effectiveness of ACV has not been extensively researched. However, there are cases where extended use causes adverse effects while fat reduction remains stagnant. This is one of the reasons long-term use of ACV is not recommended or encouraged.
When it comes to the latest diet fads, a bit of skepticism is needed when rapid or significant results are associated with natural remedies. Organic products are indeed quite effective in manipulating the body and mind into carrying out processes naturally. However, their effects are sometimes exaggerated, especially regarding weight loss. ACV is one of those remedies that must be examined in finer detail before consumption. Although there are a number of studies showcasing the product's effect on weight loss, more research is needed to assess its efficacy. After investigation, we did find that ACV can only be used in short-term and low doses, which means that it cannot carry out fat burning to maximum capacity.
This makes it relatively mild and unable to fuel significant weight loss. Increasing dosage, frequency, or duration of use, is not considered an option when it comes to this product, as pushing those boundaries can cause adverse effects that can damage the body and an individual's overall health. ACV can, however, set the stage for standard weight loss and toning in healthy individuals with no underlying issues or pre-existing health concerns. In these cases, ACV is used as an accelerant to produce better results from diet and exercise initiatives. The efficacy of ACV as a weight loss agent is verified, but the circumstance for use has to be ideal and expectations flexible.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.