Apple cider vinegar gets a good amount of praise for being an effective weight-loss tool, among many other things (skin toner, mouthwash, household cleaner—the list goes on). But are there any facts to back up ACV’s supposed waist-trimming benefits? We called up a few experts and dug into the research to get a definitive answer.
What’s Behind ACV And Weight Loss?
“The main theory is that apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which can aid weight loss by helping your body burn fat for fuel,” says Carlyn Rosenblum, R.D., founder of MTHR Nutrition, a concierge nutrition service for women. “Some studies show that acetic acid helps stimulate a particular metabolic pathway called PCG-1, which may increase fatty acid oxidation. However, most of the studies showing positive results have been done in animal populations.”
There is some research on apple cider vinegar and weight loss in humans. One of the most commonly cited trials is a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, in which obese (but otherwise healthy) Japanese participants ages 20 to 60 consumed either vinegar or a placebo mixed with water every day for 12 weeks. They didn’t make any other change to their lifestyles.
The researchers found that those who consumed the vinegar experienced “statistically significant weight loss.” The total number of pounds they dropped isn’t jaw-dropping—but it’s something. “The study reported that those who consumed ACV lost two to four pounds in that three-month period,” says Rosenblum.
ACV And Bloating
For those who’ve experienced weight loss in connection with ACV, some of it could be due to its ability to flush out excess water in the body, says Molly Kimball, R.D., nutrition manager at the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans. So while a person may not be shedding fat, they could be seeing reduced bloating.
Another way ACV may ward off bloat: Its acidity supports digestion. Acid helps us break down food, says Rosenblum, so drinking a teaspoon of ACV mixed with water at mealtime could speed up the digestive process—especially for those who have lower levels of stomach acid, who may feel like food moves through the system slowly and deal with bloating often.
ACV And Blood Sugar
Though ACV may not be a weight-loss magic bullet, it’s especially helpful for those who struggle with regulating their blood sugar. “Studies show that consuming apple cider vinegar before a meal helps stabilize the spike in glucose levels that occurs after eating,” says Kimball. This effect is especially notable when ACV is paired with complex carbs (like whole grains, legumes and beans) and starchy vegetables (like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas), which typically cause larger blood sugar spikes, adds Rosenblum. (Some research suggests it has the same effect on bagels and juice, too.)
Maintaining stable blood sugar can help ward off cravings for sweets and carbs and, in turn, support weight loss. So if blood sugar issues get in the way of your weight-loss success, ACV may have an indirect benefit.
ACV And Appetite
And about that whole ACV reducing your appetite thing? One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that sipping the vinegar can reduce your appetite—but not because of some magical ingredient or a biological mechanism at play. The researchers concluded that the highly acidic, pungent taste of apple cider vinegar simply squashed some people’s desire to eat.
The Bottom Line
Rather than rely on ACV as your sole weight-loss savior, Rosenblum suggests building it into a more comprehensive weight-loss plan that’s focused on research-backed techniques, like eating a veggie-focused diet and exercising regularly.
If you’ve got those pieces in place, try adding ACV to your morning routine for an extra boost. Dilute about a tablespoon of vinegar in eight ounces of water, add a little cinnamon and/or raw honey to make it more palatable (if needed), and enjoy it hot or iced, suggests Kimball.
A few rules to keep in mind:
- Avoid drinking ACV straight up.
- Do not consume more than one tablespoon at a time.
- Do not down more than two tablespoons per day.
Doing any of the above could contribute to digestive issues, erode your esophagus, and damage your tooth enamel.