Untrending: Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Weight‑Loss? Sort Of
In Untrending, we side-eye the latest fads so we know what we’re getting ourselves into — and what (if anything) we’re getting out of them.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Sounds like the sort of fancy pantry staple one would add to their Waldorf salad, or tart up deviled eggs with. However, this vinegar, made of fermented apples and water, is more often gulped down like a shot of tequila with breakfast, to curb weight gain and activate a host of benefits like weight-loss, increased immunity, and controlled blood sugar.
For thousands of years, apples were too bitter to munch on, and their only value was the fermented cider one could harvest from it. From ancient Egyptians to Babylonians to Romans, apple cider spread fast. The more recent history of apple cider vinegar as a wellness trend can be traced to Folk Medicine, a 1950s book by a U.S. based doctor who endorsed apple cider vinegar as a cure-all. More recently, the apple cider vinegar trend took off again in the 2010s, owing its resurgence to the DIY home remedy and clean beauty trends — specifically the no-shampoo movement, which chose to switch out alkaline shampoos with products like baking soda and apple cider vinegar.
Like all wellness trends, ACV as it is colloquially called, blew up. Magazines extolled its benefits, calling it magic — as a cleaning agent, as a wellness drink, and as a beauty tool – selling it bottled up, or even as capsules. More importantly, the internet grew more and more fascinated with the apple cider vinegar’s magical weight-loss properties — that it inhibited appetite, cravings, and helped drop the pounds. However, research does not quite agree as enthusiastically about ACV’s weight-loss elixir status.
Does apple cider vinegar have any health benefits?
Though the doctor who wrote Folk Medicine swore by ACV, modern medical practitioners are a lot more cautious when it comes to declaring it a cure-all.
Research has found that ACV is capable of improving blood sugar levels in individuals with insulin resistance, but the study involved only 11 people. Another stated that ACV helps reduce body weight and fat, but that too tested around 150 obese individuals only. Though these studies do illustrate that apple cider vinegar may have some small benefits, larger-scale research, and inquiry is necessary before one can conclusively say that it has solid health benefits.
A clinical trial from the Journal of Functional Food stated that ACV did help reduce weight — participants who drank ACV lost around 9lbs (4kgs) over 12 weeks and had decreased cholesterol levels, as compared to those who drank placebos. However, the kicker is that the participants also ate at a significant caloric deficit, which also aided the weight loss in question.
More research states that ACV helps kill one’s appetite and cravings by making the stomach feel full. However, this too is a temporary benefit, depending on the different appetites of different individuals. Plus, apple cider vinegar shots cannot be used frequently, as they might cause acid reflux (heartburn), and erode tooth enamel when consumed often.
Essentially, apple cider vinegar may help boost weight loss if combined with exercise and healthy food intake, but it’s hard to know how strong of a factor it may be. On its own, it cannot cause weight loss at the scale desired by an individual who wants to get slimmer. Plus, apple cider vinegar should only be consumed diluted, and around twice a day maximum, in order to make sure it does not harm the digestive system.
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Does apple cider vinegar have any beauty benefits?
Beyond internal health benefits, ACV is also touted as quite the beauty hack. Now a bankable ingredient in multiple shampoo and conditioning products, plus as a part of homemade hair masks, ACV is said to help itchy scalps and hair breakage.
ACV can inhibit the growth of certain fungal infections, which makes it a good anti-dandruff resource. Its acidic nature can also balance the pH of hair previously damaged by alkaline shampoos containing cleaning agents like sodium lauryl sulfate. However, ACV can harm one’s hair and scalp if used without dilution, also due to its acidic nature. ACV also helps strip hair off excessive oils, which makes it a bad bet for dry hair.
Similarly, for skin, ACV is used as a toner, which helps balance the skin’s pH level, and helps fade acne scars and warts. However, when utilized without proper dilution, it can lead to chemical burns on both facial and scalp skin.
As a natural health and beauty remedy, ACV — though effective on a small scale, and not dangerous — can cause harm if over-utilized, and without proper dilution. The key here, as with all things health, is moderation.