Log onto Instagram and you’ll see everyone from beauty bloggers to nutrition experts using apple cider vinegar. Whether they’re putting it on their face, adding it to their salad dressing, or drinking it straight, the stuff is literally everywhere. But just how safe is it to slam shots of ACV? We asked the experts for the definitive answer.
Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
Super-pungent ACV has become so popular because of the slew of health benefits it offers. For one, it’s been shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels. One European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, for example, found that those who consumed ACV before eating white bread experienced 31 percent smaller spikes in blood sugar than those who ate bread but no vinegar.
Research also suggests ACV can help support insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes or insulin resistance, says Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. (Basically, this means the body is better able to use insulin to transport sugar from the bloodstream to the cells.)
How? Acetic acid, one of vinegar’s main components, decreases the activity of an enzyme that breaks complex sugars into simple sugars, says Axe. It’s also been shown to increase levels of glucose-6-phosphate, a compound that helps convert glucose (the simple sugar in our blood) to glycogen (a form of sugar stored in our muscles and liver to be used as energy). Both effects contribute to vinegar’s potential blood sugar benefits.
Not to mention, acetic acid has also been shown to offer heart health benefits. In fact, one Japanese study found that acetic acid promoted healthy blood pressure levels. Meanwhile, early animal research suggests ACV may have some cholesterol-related benefits—but more to come there.
It may also offer some immune perks. “Some research also shows that apple cider vinegar can increase levels of proteins and cells involved in immune function, which could be beneficial for boosting immunity,” Axe adds.
The Downside Of Drinking ACV
Despite all of ACV’s benefits, it has one very notable drawback: It’s incredibly acidic. Apple cider vinegar has a pH of between two and three—just slightly lower than that of lemon juice.
ACV’s acidity isn’t an issue when you’re using it in salad dressing or other recipes. However, it can be if you’re drinking it straight—and swathing your teeth in it—regularly.
“Apple cider vinegar has a strong effect on the teeth because of its acid content,” says holistic dentist Tom Valmadre, D.D.S.. “Exposure can increase risk of decay, sensitivity, and erosion.” Not to mention, it can burn the heck out of your throat and damage its lining over time.
For those reasons, Valmadre recommends his patients avoid drinking straight ACV. He also warns against swishing the vinegar around in your mouth.
The Best Way To Consume ACV
That doesn’t mean you can’t make ACV a regular part of your health and wellness routine! Just keep a few rules in mind…
- Always dilute ACV in water (eight ounces of water for every one to two tablespoons of vinegar) before drinking
- Always drink ACV-containing beverages through a straw to minimize contact with your teeth
- Wait at least 30 minutes after consuming ACV before brushing your teeth (they’re more susceptible to acid-induced damage in this window)