Why Are People Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar?

This month a bodybuilder, a pastor and a pilates instructor each told me they drink apple cider vinegar every day. The bodybuilder said he kicks back a shot of it in the morning for its alkalizing properties to help offset the acidic effects of a high protein, low carb diet. The pastor dilutes 1tbs in 8oz of cold water and drinks it down to manage hunger and for weight loss. The pilates instructor sips on a diluted solution and swears by its ability to improve digestion and gut health. I did some poking around the Interwebs and asked some trusted experts for their thoughts on the stuff. Is this a case of placebo or is apple cider vinegar a true miracle elixir? Let’s explore.

A simple Google search for “Should I drink apple cider vinegar?” confirms that this long touted home remedy is a favorite among the homeopathic community and is winning over more mainstream health professionals including some dietitians, PhDs and MDs. There is limited scientifically significant or “definitive” research (but some exists) compared to vast numbers of anecdotal reports. Evangelists for the stuff credit it with a wide variety of benefits including weight loss, hunger management, blood sugar management, improved gut health, improved immune response (fighting off illness from the flu to cancer) and even removing warts.

My take? There may be subtle benefits to drinking apple cider vinegar in terms of weight, blood sugar, gut health, pH and immune system management. But those who decide to include it in their daily health regime should do so with caution. It is not such a miracle worker that it can negate a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and inadequate rest and recovery. So if you think you can just take a shot from “The Mother” every day and sit on your bum and eat what you want, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. Michael Dansinger, MD, director of Tufts University’s diabetes lifestyle coaching program says it beautifully in this article: "Trying to use vinegar to treat diabetes is like trying to bail out a flooded basement with a teaspoon."  

One area of concern is its potential impact on teeth. Experts warn it could harm enamel and damage the esophagus if taken straight. It’s generally recommended to dilute 1-2tbs in a glass of water and kick it back versus slowly sipping. I asked my amazing client and dentist Kim her thoughts. If you’re going to drink the stuff, be sure to rinse with water right after and do not eat for about 20-30 minutes afterwards. The effects will be different on everyone depending on the natural strength of your enamel.

Everyone considering taking apple cider vinegar should consult a qualified healthcare provider before doing so (or more than one). I personally would ask my primary care doctor as well as a dietician or nutritionist and my dentist. This is especially true for anyone with an illness or condition such as diabetes or pre-diabetes. Don’t just trust the Interwebs. Talk to experts first! It’s your body and health we’re talking about after all.  Want to hear what others are saying about this topic? Check out the conversation on Facebook.