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Is Apple Cider Vinegar the Remedy You Need?

Written by Erin Clason
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applesApple cider vinegar (ACV) has been used for centuries as a folk remedy to treat everything from warts and the common cold to acid reflux and arthritis. There has been renewed interest in this mysterious amber liquid and it seems that every time I turn around a friend is talking about it, or yet another Dr. Axe article about ACV shows up in my Facebook feed. I use it regularly and sometimes wonder if the scientific findings show that it’s actually making a difference, or if I’m just benefiting from the placebo effect. What exactly is ACV and which claims hold up under scrutiny?

Apple cider vinegar is made from adding yeast to crushed apples, which ferments the sugars and turns them into cider (alcohol). Bacteria is added to the alcohol solution, which promotes further fermentation and turns it into acetic acid. If you choose to use organic unfiltered ACV, like Braggs (my personal favorite), it also contains “the mother,” which are strands of proteins, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria. It gives the ACV a cloudy appearance. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Most recommendations are to drink a tablespoon in a cup of water before meals.

A study completed by Dr. James Brown of Aston University set out to test the big 4 claims of ACV: regulates blood sugar levels, reduces cholesterol, supports weight loss, and produces an anti-inflammatory effect. Brown’s study showed significant improvements in regulating blood sugar levels, which may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease among other things. It showed positive changes in reducing cholesterol, but only minor changes in weight loss and reducing inflammation.

Although not the “magic pill” of weight loss, other studies have shown that ACV can be helpful as an appetite suppressant. Also, Brown’s study found only a minor anti-inflammatory effect, but other studies have found ACV to be significant in reducing inflammation. Arthritis, osteoporosis, acne, and chronic fatigue are all associated with inflammation, which results from an acidic environment in the body. Apple cider vinegar, though an acid, helps reduce acidity by producing an alkaline effect. 

As you might expect, the claims about ACV are more robust than the research. It seems to me that there are at least two reasons for this. On the one hand, bold claims about a cheap and nearly magical health remedy generate clicks. A simple internet search will deliver pages of blogs that are loaded with paid ads. On the other hand, the scientific community has not really investigated ACV in a thorough enough way. The research that exists is generally too thin to support or refute the claims.

In the end, taking small amounts of ACV diluted in water on a daily basis is not harmful, but you should consult your doctor on this and any other dietary supplement before starting. I have personally benefited from ACV on many occasions when fighting a cold and sore throat. Because of its high pH, it thins phlegm and helps clear the throat. It has also relieved symptoms of acid reflux when I’ve taken it before a meal (neutralizes acids in the stomach). Sure, part of my good experience with ACV might be due to the placebo effect, but there’s enough research to suggest that there’s more to it than that. 

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