Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good For You?
Some claim that apple cider vinegar is the key to health and longevity. In this article, I’ll share the science behind these claims and answer the question, is apple cider vinegar good for you?
Was Apple Cider Vinegar the Key to Jeff’s Longevity?
Every time Jeff came in for his annual cardiology visit, I was amazed at his health. Even though he had atrial fibrillation, his health was otherwise perfect at age 92.
Without missing a day, Jeff either went on a long run or to the gym. He only ate the healthiest of foods. He also didn’t stress too much, slept great at night, and regularly volunteered in his community.
On one of his clinic visits I asked, “what’s the secret to your amazing health and longevity?”
Expecting to hear it was his healthy diet or daily exercise regimen, I was surprised to hear Jeff’s answer.
“Apple cider vinegar,” Jeff said.
“What?” I asked.
“Yes, apple cider vinegar,” Jeff said. Over the years, a number of my patients have shared with me that apple cider vinegar was the secret to their health and longevity.
Knowing that this was more than just a coincidence, I wanted to learn more. Either healthy people are attracted to apple cider vinegar or apple cider vinegar has some health benefits.
The 7 Health Benefits of Vinegars
Based on my review of all medical studies from credible medical journals, here are the seven main health benefits.
1. Blood Sugar Control
Of the purported health benefits of vinegar, the strongest scientific data are for blood sugar control. While vinegar alone won’t prevent or treat diabetes, it may help.
For example, in one study, researchers gave white bread to study participants. As you know, store bought bread is rapidly converted to sugar by the body. Even though bread spikes blood sugar levels sky high, vinegar neutralized 31% of this sugar spike.
In another study, a nighttime dose of two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar was shown to decrease fasting blood sugar levels by 4% in people with diabetes. Other studies have shown that vinegars improve insulin sensitivity, delays gastric emptying, and changes the way carbohydrates are metabolized.
For optimal effect, studies show that it is best to eat vinegars with meals. This is especially true if the meal includes a lot of rapidly digested carbohydrates.
2. Weight Loss Help
As vinegar lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, then it only seems natural that it would help with weight control as well. Interestingly, some studies report that vinegar helps with appetite suppression, digestion slowing, and the prevention of fat accumulation.
Indeed, one study showed that consuming vinegar with a high carbohydrate meal made study participants feel full enough that they ate 200 to 275 less calories for the rest of the day. In addition, a Japanese study showed that two tablespoons of vinegar daily caused a four pound weight loss after 12 weeks.
3. Lowers Triglycerides and Cholesterol
Given that half of all adults in the US have high cholesterol, anything to bring it down naturally would be helpful. Vinegar may be one possible way.
With regards to triglycerides, the blood sugar and insulin lowering effects of vinegar also lowered triglycerides by up to 22% in one study. For LDL (bad cholesterol), the reduction was much less at just a 2% to 12% lowering.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
As 90% of Americans will have high blood pressure by age 55, once again anything that can bring it down would be welcomed. Through an unknown mechanism, one study reported a reduction in systolic blood pressure by 6 mmHg. Considering that the typical blood pressure drug only lowers systolic blood pressure by 8 points, vinegar is almost as good as a drug.
5. May Prevent Heart Disease
When it comes to your heart attack risk, one study of 76,283 women noted that vinegar lowered the risk by 54%. As most of these women used vinegar as part of a salad dressing, it is hard to know if the heart attack protection was from the salad or the vinegar. Personally, I suspect it was both.
6. Kills Cancer Cells in a Test Tube
What happens in a test tube often doesn’t reflect what happens in the body. Interestingly, studies show that vinegar does a pretty good job of stopping cancer cells in the test tube environment. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence yet that vinegar will lower your cancer risk.
7. Vinegar is a Great Natural Disinfectant
For thousands of years, vinegar has been used as a natural disinfectant in the home. Given the possible health concerns of cleaning chemicals, vinegar could be a safe and natural alternative. Indeed, we have used vinegar to disinfect our counter tops for years.
Are there any risks of apple cider vinegar?
When used as part of a homemade salad dressing, or other sauces, vinegars are generally very safe. Although vinegars are well tolerated this way, some people may have digestive challenges.
Where people may get in trouble with vinegars is when they start drinking it or putting it on their skin. Remember, vinegar is an acid. Thus, you shouldn’t be alarmed to see reports of tooth erosion, esophageal burns, skin burns, and low potassium with bone loss when used this way.
Is apple cider vinegar different than other vinegars?
While apple cider vinegar was Jeff’s favorite, there is no clear evidence that apple cider vinegar is any better for you than other vinegars. As each vinegar has a different taste, we use many different vinegars in our home.
We not only love vinegar in our homemade salad dressings but our stir-fry sauces as well. For example, if you looked on our shelf right now, you would see apple cider vinegar, dark and white balsamic vinegar, white and red wine vinegar, and rice vinegar.
Take Home Message
Of the many purported health benefits of vinegars, the scientific data are strongest for the blood sugar lowering effects of vinegar. While Jeff’s favorite was apple cider vinegar, this type of vinegar has never been shown to be better for you than other vinegars.
As store purchased salad dressings may completely undo any health benefits of salads, the very best use of vinegar is with homemade salad dressings. For ideas on different ways you could use vinegar in salad dressings and stir-fry sauces, please check out my wife’s recipes.
For optimal effect, incorporate vinegars into your meals that are high in carbohydrates. Also, to minimize any potential side effects, it is probably best not to drink it or put it on your skin.
What is your take on vinegars? Please leave your thoughts and questions below. I’ll do my best to answer any questions posted within 24 hours.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.