An Evidence-Based Look At Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

With the growing interest in apple cider vinegar, the vinegar is frequently promoted as a type of health tonic – something that you can take every day to help boost your overall health.

One area of particular interest is, what does apple cider vinegar do for weight loss?

After all, so many of us want to lose weight, even though we don’t always do so well at reaching that goal.

The path to being successful at losing weight is often promoted as eating right and doing enough exercise, but most people will tell you that it never is quite that simple.

Natural products do have the potential to help with weight loss, such as by helping the body to be a little bit more efficient or helping to suppress appetite. You certainly won’t find a miracle weight loss product in the natural world (or in the lab for that matter), but it is often possible to find something that makes the journey a little bit easier.

Apple cider vinegar is one example of a natural product that does have the potential to offer some advantages for weight loss.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar


Often shortened to ACV, apple cider vinegar is a specific form of vinegar that contains a large amount of nutrients and enzymes, many of which have the potential to have positive impacts on human health.

Like other types of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is produced through a process of double fermentation, where the first fermentation produces alcohol while the second fermentation creates the vinegar.

Interesting, the name for vinegar actually means sour wine, which honestly does describe the taste pretty well, and also reflects on the fermentation process.

In general, vinegar contains acetic acid, somewhere between 4% and 18% acetic acid, depending on the specific type of vinegar. That acetic acid is important for the taste of the vinegar and also for some of its health impacts.

Apple cider vinegar’s popularity originally arose in the United States around the 1950s as the result of a book that discussed the health benefits of folk medicine.

Apple cider vinegar has been historically associated with curing a wide range of ailments, even though many of these claims are exaggerated or inaccurate, which isn’t unusual.

However, there is still the potential for some of the positive health impacts of apple cider vinegar to actually be true.

As with most natural medicines, scientific research on the uses of apple cider vinegar has been relatively limited.

Despite this, some studies have indicated that apple cider vinegar may offer some health benefits.

Research into Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider

There is considerable emphasis on apple cider vinegar as a way of improving health overall, but the amount of research into the vinegar is limited, especially in relation to weight loss.

To be honest, I find this a little surprising, because there has been growing popularity in using apple cider vinegar as a way to promote weight loss.

Does it have any fat burning effects?

The truth is, we really don’t know because the research just hasn’t been done. However, some research does indicate that apple cider vinegar may play a role in the control of blood sugar levels, helping people to control diabetes (1).

Likewise, vinegar itself can play a role in lowering the blood sugar responses and improving insulin sensitivity (2,3,4). This may provide a mechanism for apple cider vinegar to promote weight loss, as controlling for spikes in blood sugar can play a role in promoting weight loss.

Vinegar has also been associated with helping to decrease some of the risk factors for heart disease (5,6). Nevertheless, the research is still in its early stages and most of it has been in animals or has been observational in nature.

Apple cider vinegar

An additional perspective is that the acetic acid that is part of vinegar could help to reduce the accumulation of fat in the body and the vinegar can also act as part of a detox, helping to clear out potentially harmful chemicals from the body.

There is also another reason why apple cider vinegar may help to support weight loss, and this one has a bit more support.

I am talking about the fact that beverages are often an approach to decrease hunger because they make people feel people feel full for a short period of time.

Realistically, this is an approach that applies to any drink, but it is worth trying with apple cider vinegar, simply because of the potential for other weight loss benefits.

While research has been very limited, there have been a few studies focusing on the potential of vinegar in weight loss specifically.

For example, one study found that supplementation with vinegar was able to increase satiety following a meal (7).

Another study found that supplementation with vinegar was associated with reduced body weight and body fat mass (8)

However, the amount of studies on the topic has been pretty low and they haven’t focused specifically on apple cider vinegar, just on vinegar in general.

Acetic Acid and Health

There has also been some research into acetic acid, which is a key component of any type of vinegar.

For example, acetic acid has antimicrobial properties, which makes it a common traditional choice for cleaning and as a food preservative (9,10).

In the weight loss and vinegar study discussed above, the observed effect was thought to be the result of acetic acid playing a role in reducing fat accumulation (11).

Drinking the Mother in Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar with mother

Many people who are passionate about apple cider vinegar promote the idea of drinking the mother – which can be a confusing statement for the uninitiated.

The mother of vinegar refers to a substance that is present in vinegar, particularly when vinegar is pasteurized. Specifically, the mother is made up of bacteria and cellulose that are part of the fermentation process.

The term mother isn’t always used, and sometimes people will refer to the vinegar as being unpasteurized instead, or say that the vinegar still has its enzymes present.

One of the challenges with the inclusion of the mother in vinegar is that it doesn’t look all that appealing. It has a cobweb-like appearance and people often get pretty grossed out by the idea of drinking it.

For example, you can see the mother in a bottle of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.

The company also highlights the mother, promoting it as the beneficial component of its product.

To be honest, I suspect most people simply avoid trying the mother because of its appearance, without ever finding out whether it is as bad as it looks. In reality, the mother is relatively easy to drink and it’s certainly worth it for the added benefits.

Often commercial apple cider vinegar will remove the mother because it doesn’t look that nice and many people feel that this must mean that it is unhealthy.

In reality, the living enzymes that are present within the mother may be responsible for some of the health benefits that apple cider vinegar offers.

This means that in general, apple cider vinegar that contains the mother may provide more health advantages than apple cider vinegar that does not have that the mother.

In many ways, the idea of drinking the mother is similar to eating probiotic yogurt or fermented food. The microbes that these products contain can potentially play a key role in helping to improve your gut health by promoting healthy gut microbiota.

One simple trick to make drinking the mother easier is to agitate the vinegar slightly before using. This helps to disperse the enzymes and helps to prevent any settling in the vinegar. By doing this, you can help make sure you don’t end up with a mouthful of the mother.

Apple Cider Vinegar Weight Loss Recipe

Apple cider vinegar can seem a little off-putting to some people because of the strong taste of vinegar.

However, as a general rule, apple cider vinegar isn’t something you have on its own, but it can easily be combined with other ingredients to make a healthy and tasty recipe.

I do know people who actually choose to take apple cider vinegar as a shot instead of as part of a recipe.

This does have the advantage of being faster, but it can be a little challenging for some people at first. That approach also isn’t advisable for reasons that I will discuss later in the article.

I have included some recipes for drinks using apple cider vinegar for people looking for inspiration.

Recipe 1:
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    One full glass of water
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    Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
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    One teaspoon cinnamon
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    Two tablespoons of lemon juice
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    One teaspoon sweetener (e.g. sugar or swerve)

The amount of apple cider vinegar used in this recipe is about the same amount that people typically consume in a given day to get the health benefits.

Cinnamon is a good ingredient to add because it is a strong antioxidant and also has some weight loss properties.

Lemon juice also plays a key role because of its health advantages.

Recipe 2:
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    One full glass fruit juice (preferably grapefruit, orange or pineapple)
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    One teaspoon of honey
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    Two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

This recipe is a relatively common approach to taking apple cider vinegar, and can be particularly appealing as it drowns out much of the vinegar flavor. The sweetness of the honey also works well here. 

However, it is important to note that by using juice as a base instead of water, the amount of sugar and calories in this recipe is considerably higher than in the first one.

This might be an issue for people trying to lose weight, but if the additional calories are taken into account then this recipe can be a good option.

It has the additional benefit of having high levels of vitamin C from the juice base and nutrients from the honey. Some people might also find that the addition of cinnamon complements this recipe also.

You can also find recipes to make your own apple cider vinegar, such as this one from Wellness Mama.

Other Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar

Another way to get apple cider vinegar easily into the diet is to use it as an ingredient in salad dressing.

Vinegar is very common in salad dressings. As a general rule, you can pretty much replace the vinegar in any salad dressing with apple cider vinegar.

One of my personal favorites is making a raspberry vinaigrette using apple cider vinegar instead of normal vinegar. You can also make a basic apple cider vinaigrette using a recipe like this one from A Clean Bake.

Using apple cider vinegar in making salad dressings may have the additional benefit of convincing you to make salads more often, particularly if you stumble across one you enjoy.

It can be quite fun to experiment with different recipes and find out what suits your own taste while improving your health and weight loss in the process.

Supplements of Apple Cider Vinegar

There are also apple cider vinegar tablets available, but personally, I would not recommend taking these.

Because supplements are not controlled or monitored by the FDA there is always some risk involved in using them (12).

However, if you are careful with choosing brands and reading reviews of supplements, you can normally use them safely. In the case of apple cider vinegar, there have been indications that supplements do not even always contain apple cider vinegar, and vary significantly in the quality and quantity of their ingredients (13).

The other thing is that supplements work best for things that are very difficult to get in the diet any other way.

However, it is relatively easy to include apple cider vinegar in the diet, whether this is part of a drink, an ingredient in a salad dressing or used in some other type of recipe. So, taking supplements for apple cider vinegar simply does not make sense.

Safety and Precautions with Apple Cider Vinegar

Woman holding apple cider vinegar

Regardless of the health benefits attributed to it, at the end of the day, apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar. This means that you need to be careful and sensible about how you use it.

Vinegar is a particularly intense product and has acidic properties.

This means that if you drink it straight, you risk eroding your teeth. At the same time, the acidic properties can burn your throat and they make the process of drinking the vinegar straight a considerable challenge.

Besides all of that, there aren’t any health advantages to drinking apple cider vinegar straight, compared to diluting it in some way. The only real advantage of drinking it straight is time, and you really shouldn’t be compromising your dental health just to save a little bit of time.

Additionally, apple cider vinegar can be a bad choice with some medical conditions.

For example, one study suggests that apple cider vinegar can create issues for people with gastroparesis (which is a common issue that people with diabetes experience).

With this condition, the muscles in the stomach do not work as they should and the stomach does not empty properly. Apple cider vinegar may make this worse, further delaying the emptying of the stomach (14).

It’s likely that apple cider vinegar may also have impacts on other conditions although this isn’t an area that has been researched in much depth.

With that in mind, you should remember that apple cider vinegar is a pretty harsh liquid. If you have a serious health condition, or if you simply have concerns, it’s best to speak to a healthcare professional about the implications of taking the vinegar. That is also true if you are on any medications.

Other Considerations

When it comes to using apple cider vinegar, such as in an apple cider vinegar weight loss recipe, taking the organic option is always better.

Like many crops, apples are frequently sprayed with chemicals and these chemicals can potentially end up in the apple cider vinegar.

Multiple brands of apple cider vinegar do offer organic options, so these will tend to be a better choice for health overall.

Apple cider vinegar is often promoted as a health tonic – with an emphasis on many benefits, including the potential to promote weight loss
Research into apple cider vinegar has been relatively limited, however, its potential to lower blood sugar responses may be part of a mechanism for promoting weight loss
Despite the limited research, there are many anecdotes about success with apple cider vinegar, suggesting that it may still be worth pursuing
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