The arrival of apple cider season has sparked renewed interest in a long-standing wellness trend: apple cider vinegar.
From social media posts praising the supposed benefits of consuming this fermented liquid to gummy forms marketed as health supplements, advocates claim it can help with everything from skin health to gut health, and even weight loss.
But how beneficial is it for our health, really? While more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of apple cider vinegar, experts say they have seen some evidence supporting certain health goals, albeit there are aspects to consider if you decide to try it.
Revival of Apple Cider Vinegar: Myth or Health Reality?
Laura Ligos, a registered dietitian nutritionist and specialist in sports dietetics, clarifies that “it’s not a magic cure or a quick fix to any health problem.”
However, she has observed that consuming apple cider vinegar before meals can be useful in aiding digestion, “to simulate stomach acid and break down your food appropriately.”
It’s known that this type of vinegar contains certain acids capable of eliminating harmful bacteria, along with natural probiotics that might foster gut health, though studies on the real extent of these potential benefits are still needed.
Small studies have also looked at apple cider vinegar’s effect on blood sugar. Ligos explains that “it may be helpful in reducing the blood sugar response when taken with or after a meal.”
On the other hand, some are turning to apple cider vinegar not for internal use, but external — using the liquid for skin and scalp care. Dr. Azza Halim, a physician and board-certified anesthesiologist, mentions that apple cider vinegar contains multiple elements that might aid certain skin concerns.
The “acidic nature of apple cider vinegar helps restore the natural pH of the skin to reduce inflammation. It also contains alpha hydroxy acid and antioxidants which all help to exfoliate, brighten, and smooth the skin,” she says, also noting its antibacterial and antifungal properties that might help in the “balancing of scalp pH to ward off dandruff and other scalp buildup since much of scalp conditions are overabundance of yeast growth due to imbalance of pH.”
However, Halim advises not to rush incorporating it into your skin routine without guidance or a patch test, as some people with sensitive skin might develop irritation.
If you’re thinking of giving apple cider vinegar a try in your diet, experts have some important tips. Primarily, it’s not recommended to take it solo as a shot.
“Always dilute it,” Ligos advises. “It is acidic and may cause issues with tooth enamel or your esophagus lining.”
Drinking it straight could also irritate your stomach lining, Halim notes, which would have the opposite effect for someone looking to support their gut microbiome with the healthy bacteria it contains.
Regarding the gummy versions, Ligos warns about the popular — and pricey — gummy supplements, both for the lack of regulation around supplements and potentially lower efficacy.
“Gummies are also notorious for having lower absorption rates, so for most people, I would just recommend using the actual vinegar,” she suggests.
Gummies might also contain added sugars, and there are uncertainties about whether they offer accurate dosing, Halim adds.
“Though it would be convenient to have a gummy version and not have to mix or dilute — until we have more data, it’s hard to say what amount is actually in the gummies,” she says.
For a better taste experience, Ligos suggests that there are ways to incorporate the liquid form that are a little more appetizing than just diluting it with water.
“You could add it to a tea, use it in a dressing or marinade, or cook with it in your actual meal,” she suggests.
With information from CBS News