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Beyond the Hype: Is Apple Cider Vinegar a Miracle Cure-All?

November 11, 2018

If you’re A) alive, and B) have access to the internet, you’ve probably noticed an increased fascination with apple cider vinegar that stretches far beyond the dressing on your salad. Some swear that it has improved their hair, skin, and nails while others can’t go without a daily “ACV shot” to smooth out their digestion. At the same time, there are people who won’t get behind the idea because of the strong smell and taste. Digging a bit deeper, I found no less than fifteen uses for apple cider vinegar on various sites and blogs including this Reader’s Digest article for dandruff and hiccups! But is there real science to back up these uses and claimed benefits? Could this inexpensive, universally-available, raw, unfiltered vinegar be our one-stop-shop health and beauty elixir?


Like other health trends we’ve seen in 2018, apple cider vinegar has actually been used medicinally for thousands of years. It’s even believed that the “Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates, prescribed vinegar to cure the common cold and other ailments. So evidently, just like overalls and chokers, some things just keep coming back around, ya know? Before you start imagining Hippocrates wearing overalls (and a choker? slay), let’s dive into the science driving the three most popular uses of ACV and my personal discoveries with each.


1) Weight management:


The Theory: Arguably the most popular reason people use apple cider vinegar is for weight loss. Most scientific studies involving vinegar and its effect on weight have been conducted on mice and rats over the years. Therefore, the hard evidence is pretty weak, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. Still, people have reported stabilizing of their blood sugar and losing a small amount of weight by incorporating apple cider vinegar into their diet. How? CNN reports that the key is in the acetic acid property of the vinegar. The acid blocks the absorption of starches, and when less starch is digested, blood sugar levels don’t rise as high. Additionally, dietitian Carolyn Johnston’s research with diabetic and prediabetic subjects showed promising results when using vinegar to help control their higher blood sugar levels. A more stabilized blood sugar level is certainly positive but doesn’t automatically correlate with weight loss if that’s the desired outcome.


The Result: I’m skeptical. I don’t believe in a “magic pill” for weight loss, so I can’t imagine that a daily TBSP of vinegar would actually alter things on its own. As for blood sugar, I don’t eat a whole lot of starch and (most days) I try to keep my blood sugar level stable with balanced meals of protein, fat, fiber, and greens. It sounds like I can get the same nutrients from any kind of vinegar, so I’ll continue incorporating a variety of them into dressings and meals when I feel like it. That said, you might catch me drinking an ACV cocktail on Thanksgiving Day when the pants are feeling tight... If you choose to join me, make sure you properly dilute a small amount (1 TBSP) with a full glass of water, otherwise the acidity could damage your teeth, throat, or stomach.


2) Natural toner for skin:


The Theory: Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has concentrations of malic and lactic acids, which can help remove excess oil and bacteria on the skin. The antibacterial quality of ACV is not unlike some products possibly already in your skincare lineup. Toners, for example, are helpful and sometimes necessary for people with oily skin and those who wear heavy amounts of makeup and product. It sounds like the properties of ACV should work effectively to unclog pores by removing oil and traces of dirt, right? My dermatologist friends told me that while they don’t prescribe vinegar, the acidity could reduce and balance the pH of the skin. Others advise caution as it can burn or irritate sensitive skin.


The Result: I diluted a tablespoon of vinegar with water (a 1:4 ratio) in a small, travel-size bottle. Spraying it evenly on my face between my cleanser and light nighttime moisturizer, I was glad that the acidic smell disappeared in just a few minutes as it dried. Only once did my husband lovingly comment that I smelled “like a troll.” Love ya, hun. After 10 days, I noticed that my pores looked smaller and my skin looked just a little tighter and more even. While I’ve admittedly been indulging in food and drink that causes hormonal breakouts, I do think that the ACV is helping to keep any bacterial breakouts at bay. Instead of shelling out cash for a clean beauty toner, I’m going to continue using my little homemade concoction 3-5 times a week for now.


3) Cold & sore throat relief:


The Theory: If apple cider vinegar is made from apples, then it contains some amount of vitamins B, C, and E, folic acid, and other healthy nutrients found originally in the fruit. Healthline describes the fermentation process of the vinegar: sugars are first converted into alcohol, and then once bacteria is added to the alcohol solution it becomes acetic acid. Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar like Bragg’s also contains strands of proteins, enzymes, and healthy bacteria from the process. That’s what gives the bottom of the bottle that murky appearance, much like your favorite kombucha. It’s these probiotic bacteria that have an immune-boosting effect on your system, helping to thin mucus and loosen congestion.


The Result: Last week, I returned from Spain with a nasty virus, high fever, and sore throat. Seriously, who gets a fever at 30 years old? It ROCKED me. My body needed tons of rest and fluids, so I stayed in bed all day and drank my weight in liquids several times over. I also took things up a notch: a few times a day, I added a tablespoon of raw honey and apple cider vinegar to a big mug of hot water to soothe my throat. Totally worked. Not only did my throat instantly feel calm and my dog bark, I mean, cough subside, but two days later I was feeling dramatically better all around. All of the sleep I got certainly helped speed up the process, but normally it would have taken twice that amount of time for my throat to heal. I’ll definitely be using this trick in the future!



With any health and wellness trend, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different and our reactions to food, medication, and other treatments can vary. Even when something has been scientifically tested or proven to produce a result, that still doesn’t mean it will or will not work for you. The best we can do is pay attention to our bodies, do the research, make safe choices (what is this, sex ed class?), and analyze our results intentionally. I like to think of these kinds of “experiments” as self-care… and I have fun with them! And remember, while it’s important to do your research and consult multiple sources (or let me do that for you), be sure to consult a doctor with any serious issues or questions that may arise.


If you’re trying apple cider vinegar this week, be sure to pick up a raw, unfiltered version, like Bragg’s Organic ($5.99 for 32 fl oz at Kroger). Let us know what you think!


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