Apple Cider Vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar.
Image: caymia/123RF.COM

Recently there has been an upsurge in my broader network of people sipping on diluted apple cider vinegar. Perhaps the most notable was a lady who was doing so out of a stunningly well-designed wine glass, while her partner sipped on Pinotage.

This is nothing new. There was quite a surge in apple cider vinegar mania in about 2017. The most common reason people add apple cider vinegar to their days is to lose weight, or specifically, fat. The other reason is that it is said to contain antioxidants, which fight dangerous free radicals that can cause a host of problems such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Cue: wonder supplement. Cue: fancy brands with fancy installations at retail or pharmacy outlets. All they’ve done is add their name to something our grandmothers have used for decades. It’s genius though, like people who rebrand jumping on a trampoline as a breakthrough fitness activity and sell thousands of small trampolines. You know, the type that were in our school gymnasiums and PT classes for decades.

The not-so-bitter truth about apple cider vinegar is that it is not a wonder supplement that will melt off the fat and keep you young forever without changing other aspects of your lifestyle, including eating the correct number of calories and doing regular exercise. No, it is not a cure for diabetes or cancer either — comments like those are dangerous. It can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth if taken raw and the high acetic acid content will do things to your throat, stomach and kidneys you would rather not have done.

So, it is bad, then?

No. While it is not a wonder supplement, it is a useful little invention that won’t cause harm if used in moderation and may well help your journey towards wellness.

Does it cause weight loss? It appears so, but maybe not in the way you think.

This is actually interesting. Anecdotally, people swear by it. While there aren’t hundreds of studies to back this up — because it’s not pharmaceutical and there’s probably little incentive other than manufacturers looking to sustain their increased sales — there is some exciting news.

A randomised clinical trial published in Journal of Functional Foods in 2018 found that apple cider vinegar does have weight-loss properties. The results showed that over a period of 12 weeks, a group that consumed 15mg of apple cider vinegar with lunch and dinner lost on average 8.8 pounds (4kg) whereas a group that did not, lost on average five pounds (2.27kg). Both groups reduced daily calories by 250 and exercised. The researchers think that the vinegar works by reducing appetite. It would, however, be a mistake to think that drinking 30ml a day in lieu of exercise and eating properly would do anything.

A mixture of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar reduced Salmonella to almost undetectable levels in salads.
A mixture of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar reduced Salmonella to almost undetectable levels in salads.
Image: Serezniy/

Does it control blood sugar? It appears to have a moderate effect on this, but not enough to replace medication.

The Journal of the American Association of Diabetes ran the results of a small study about 17 years ago. After feeding participants a meal including a bagel, one group got some apple cider vinegar and the other got a placebo. After measuring blood glucose levels up to an hour after the meal, the researchers found that those who had taken apple cider vinegar had lowered blood sugar levels.

This is an important point to dissect: lowering, to any degree, is not the same as controlling. The University of Chicago Medicine site says that apple cider vinegar should never replace diabetes treatment. The problem with making things like this known is that uncritical people become dogmatic and the next thing you know, once someone starts popularising half the story, millions take Ivermectin instead of being vaccinated. Don’t risk your health — if you need medical intervention, get it. Diabetes is real.

Does it kill germs in salad? Yup, apparently so.

A study a few years back tested homemade “sanitisers” to fight salmonella. The results? A mixture of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar reduced Salmonella to almost undetectable levels. Again, don’t think that sprinkling a homemade brew over tainted food will save you, but it may well add an extra layer of safety to your salads.

Should you drink it?

Apparently, it’s of no use for lowering blood pressure and while it contains anticancer properties there is no evidence it can fight or prevent cancer. Some people use it on their skin with positive results, but the more one reads, because of the high acetic acid content it needs to be diluted. There are studies that show it can improve heart health in animals but no conclusive evidence of such in humans.

There is some evidence that people with weak kidneys may struggle to deal with processing too much of it.

Let’s stop the wonder supplement discussion in its tracks once and for all. We all know someone, or know of someone, who will use anything they read not to seek legitimate medical attention. Let’s not fuel their fire.

For the rest of us: it may help us manage our appetites and lose more weight if we follow a healthy diet and exercise, and a good dose of antioxidants is better than not getting none at all. If your eczema reacts well to rubbing some diluted vinegar on your arms, then good for you. It does have a pungent smell, though, so be aware of that. It’s a great addition to the kitchen but don’t expect miracles.

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