Dear Davey H
It’s time for another installment of Dear Davey H, an ongoing series of posts in which I respond directly to reader questions. This week, JF asks:
What’s your take on the apple cider vinegar rage? Does it aid weight loss or toxin removal or is it crap?
Good for you for being suspicious of the natural health rumor mill in its promotion of apple cider vinegar. The lead image for this post shows one example of amazing health claims from apple cider vinegar proponents. It sounds too good to be true. Is it?
The short answer is that if taking a daily swig of apple cider vinegar is something you enjoy doing, there’s no harm for most people. There are a few well-studied benefits in doing so and even more wild and crazy unsubstantiated gossip. But, in some cases, vinegar should be avoided. I’ll get to that later in this post. But first, let me do some mansplaining as I am often prone to do.
Also, I think it helps with context.
Why Apple Cider Vinegar?
Why not just any vinegar? Let’s start with what vinegar is.
Vinegar is one of the oldest processed and fermented foods known to humankind. It’s made using a three-step process.
- Ferment a sugar containing food with yeast until the sugar turns to alcohol. For wine-based vinegar (e.g., red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, etc.) the process starts with grapes. In fact, in France, vinegar literally means “sour wine.” White vinegar comes straight from the corn squeezin’s used to make moonshine. Rice vinegar is made from rice. For apple cider vinegar they use…wait for it…apples.
- Add bacteria (also called mother) to the fermented substance in step 1 to convert the alcohol to acetic acid. Proponents of consuming vinegar credit acetic acid for all its miraculous applications. Most of the vinegar used in food is between 4-8% acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar tends to be on the high side and that is the reason it’s the star attraction in the vinegar lineup. And no, acetic acid is not the same thing as Hasidic acid which is what I assume is going on in this photo.
- Filter the vinegar to remove remnants of the mother before bottling the final product for distribution. Some vinegar makers, however, such as the cult-status Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, skip this step and that is why vinegar sometimes appears cloudy.
There are those who claim the mother actually is where the health benefits reside but no research backs this up.
Given the above process, inquiring minds want to know:
- Dude, you already had wine and hard cider and stuff. Why did you bother to continue to step 2?
- How do you think mother feels about you naming the stuff that ruins perfectly good booze, a literal buzzkill, after her?
But these questions will probably remain unanswered so let’s finish the quick lesson on the origins of vinegar and move onto purported health benefits.
Apple Cider Vinegar. Huh. What Is It Good For?
Absolutely some things (with apologies to Edwin Starr).
But does it do all the things in that featured image above? It depends.
Apple Cider Vinegar Does This
The best application for apple cider vinegar is for control of blood sugar. This is a benefit to people who have diabetes and to others with insulin sensitivity and high blood sugar issues. There are oodles of relevant studies with real people as subjects (as opposed to cells or non-human subjects) that confirm this. The mechanism isn’t fully understood but the cause and effect is clear.
Furthermore, strong evidence exists that vinegar suppresses appetite. And, while there isn’t a whole lot of research about it, acids such as vinegar, are known to help with itching. So, as the image above implies, vinegar can soothe bug bites.
Apple Cider Vinegar May Do This
There is weak or no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar does the other things on the list above.
In some cases, research on human cells or rats suggest there may be something to the claim. In other cases, the studies actually were done on humans but they were observational and observational studies don’t prove cause and effect. Potential benefits of vinegar in this class include:
- Lower Cholesterol
- Decreased Risk of Heart Disease
- Protecting Against Cancer
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence with little or no research of apple cider vinegar helping with:
- Fungal Infections
- Skin and Scalp Conditions Including Psoriasis
- Acid Reflux
- Kidney Stones
- Wart Removal (which I assume is what is intended when the graphic says “Removal of Wants”)
Apple Cider Vinegar Won’t Do This
Well, I wish I could say it’s true but vinegar will not “get rid of wants.”
Vinegar doesn’t regulate pH balance in the body either. Your body does that without the benefit of miracle superfoods. To learn more about the rubbish circulating about acid and alkaline foods, listen to Episode 0015 of The Foodcast, “Celebrity Davey H”.
Finally, vinegar won’t detoxify your body. Healthy livers and kidneys are what detoxifies your body. It’s an old Karma Sense saying that the best way to detox is to don’t-tox.
So What’s the Call on Apple Cider Vinegar? Buzzworthy or Bullcrap?
After consulting the Karma Sense Bullcrap Detector the reading is a respectable…
What Would Davey H Do?
- Update the annoying graphic.
- Vinegar is a healthful and tasty addition to many foods. Feel free to add it to whatever meals or snacks make sense to you.
- If you want to get on the vinegar drinking bandwagon, search the internet for various concoctions containing water, herbs, spices and so on. Just be mindful that those additional ingredients can also have negative side effects. That vinegar and Red Bull cocktail you may find is probably going to do more harm than good. Look for recipes with daily dosages that range from 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 mL) to 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL).
- Feel free to consume vinegar, apple cider or otherwise. While apple cider vinegar may have more of the healthful compounds the difference is negligible.
- Even when it comes to the benefits that research supports, don’t expect miracles from consuming vinegar. Nothing combats blood sugar related issues better than overall good nutrition and exercise. If you need help with that, you know who to contact.
- If you have any health conditions, consult a doctor before adding a daily vinegar habit. Because vinegar is an acid, people with stomach ulcers should probably avoid it. Furthermore, since acid rots teeth, take care of your choppers.
- Because vinegar regulates blood sugar, people on medications that manage blood glucose levels need to be careful. Again, consult your physician.
Thanks for asking JF. Great question
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