Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits

April 21, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is said to have boatloads of health benefits. So many, in fact, that our “too good to be true” skepticism kicks in. Stop cancer? Lose weight? Relieve arthritis? Whiten teeth? So, let’s take a closer look at what’s real and what’s hype.

Let’s start by broadly categorizing ACV’s three types of claimed benefit:

  • Protective/preventive benefits help keep you free of disease
  • Curative/medical benefits fix you up when you’re in poor health
  • Curative/cosmetic benefits improve your appearance

It’s no surprise that nearly every ACV health claim has been labeled a myth or a scam by someone, somewhere. I’m sure Big Pharma plays a role in keeping skeptics well fed with doubts.

In the case of ACV, there’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence I’m more than fine with. It’s the inescapable fact that millions of people, over thousands of years, all over the world, say the same thing about ACV.

It works. In lots of ways.

So let’s learn more about it. Then I’ll put my seal of approval on some of the most common ACV claims in each category. Too many to do them all.

Ground rules:

  • I approve of ACV only in its raw, organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized form, with the cloudy “mother” visible in the bottle
  • If there’s no hard proof of any given claim, that doesn’t mean it’s untrue—there are lots of folks behind centuries of folk wisdom

So, let’s dive in…

How ACV works

ACV contains more than 90 different nutrients, including:

  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Chlorine
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Fluorine
  • Acetic acid
  • Sodium

But wait, there’s more:

  • Trace minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Fiber from apple pectin
  • An abundance of vitamin C
  • Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E

Now sprinkle generously with probiotics, essential enzymes, and ACV’s polyphenols, which have potent antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

With a nutrient-dense tool chest like this, it’s no wonder ACV comes with so many exciting health benefits.

Preventive/protective claims

Anti-cancer and cardiovascular diseases

  • ACV’s antioxidant beta-carotene repairs free radical damage that can lay the groundwork for many types of cancer.
  • A 2011 Swedish study found that the phenolic compounds in apples [and ACV] can prevent different chronic disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • There’s increasing evidence that ACV’s polyphenols can also have favorable effects on the incidence of other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and neurodegenerative disease.

Blood sugar

  • The American Diabetes Foundation found that taking ACV before meals significantly increased insulin sensitivity and dramatically reduced the insulin and glucose spikes that occur after meals.
  • ACV slows the digestion of carbohydrates, giving the body more time to convert them to sugar, making potentially dangerous blood sugar spikes less likely.

High blood pressure

  • ACV has been shown to cause a significant reduction in high blood pressure (hypertension)

Bone health

  • The potassium and magnesium in ACV help increase calcium absorption from our foods, especially green vegetables.

Cholesterol

  • ACV has been shown to lower bad cholesterol (LDL).

Curative/medical

Overweight/obese

  • In an appealingly un-complex study, participants ate white bread alone or with 3 portions of ACV. Feelings of being full were more pronounced in the ACV group, meaning the desire to continue eating was reduced, meaning fewer calories ingested, meaning an aide in weight loss. The estimate was that the vinegar group consumed 200-275 fewer calories than the non-vinegar group. That’s good health.

Fatigue

  • ACV’s amino acids neutralize the build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream that occurs after stress or exercise. Researchers believe that regular use of ACV can help combat fatigue—even debilitating chronic fatigue—and give you an energy boost without caffeine.

Anti-toxins

  • An ACV detox has been shown to lower blood sugar, insulin levels, and blood pressure during cleansing. Whether those results stayed on after cleansing isn’t clear—but that doesn’t mean an occasional cleanse isn’t a fine idea.

Allergies, colds

  • ACV’s anti-inflammatory properties and abundant vitamin C are recognized as an effective front-line defense against allergy symptoms. Gargle equal parts ACV and water every half-hour to relieve a sore throat.

Arthritis

  • Arthritis is all about the pain of inflammation in the joints. Mineral deficiencies can exacerbate the pain. ACV’s potent load of magnesium, potassium, and anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve the pain.

Curative/cosmetic claims

Let’s be clear that glowing skin, glossy hair, clean breath, and the like all have origins in good health and hygiene. Compared to life-or-death protection against cancer and cardiovascular threats, these cosmetic issues are relatively minor. That said, feeling good about yourself is some of the best medicine around.

Healthy scalp and hair

  • Dandruff is caused by the fungus malassezia furfur. ACV’s anti-fungal properties get rid of it. Rub into scalp, wait 30 minutes, shampoo.
  • Instead of a chemical cocktail conditioner, a few minutes of ACV mixed with water on the scalp after shampooing will eliminate buildup from environmental pollutants and hair products, and result in softer, stronger, shinier hair.

Healthy skin

  • Healthy skin comes from a healthy gut, which ACV encourages by improving digestion. ACV is also known to improve liver, kidney, and bladder function, which helps keep the body detoxified.
  • Acne is often caused by toxins clogging the pores. ACV’s astringent and antiseptic properties help release those toxins and keep skin clear. Other skin ailments ACV will help relieve include eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
  • As an astringent, ACV splashed on the face—think aftershave—can tone and firm the skin.

Varicose veins

  • Varicose veins are an occasional, but rare, medical issue, so I’ve put curing them here in the cosmetics aisle. Massaging them with ACV at bedtime and on arising has long been recommended as a way to reduce their size and prominence.

Candida

  • Candida and other fungal infections are gut-based. ACV acts as a prebiotic for healthy bacteria, which can ease symptoms from the inside and can also be applied topically to treat symptoms.

Easy going

There’s so much more…but I hope this modest review has given you some assurance that ACV is a great alternative to many mainstream meds—no side effects, easy to find, and inexpensive.

Even better, it’s wonderfully easy to enjoy its powers: two tablespoons in a glass of water every morning, before meals if you’re trying to lose weight, and occasionally during the day. Also at bedtime if you have blood sugar issues.

While this seems to be a “what could go wrong?” moment, you should always let your doctor know your intentions.

Take good care.

References

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