It’s great for salad, but what about weight loss and cleaning your teeth? Is apple cider vinegar good for your health? Is it the cure-all that some people want you to believe?

A Google search of ‘apple cider vinegar benefits’ yields a rage-inducing (for me, at least) load of total garbage, mostly from people like our favorite ‘Dr. Axe’, who plays fast and loose with actual scientific evidence (read: these people are total charlatans, quack quack quack). From ‘cancer prevention’ (seriously?) to a ‘candida cleanse,’ to a ‘body detox’ (omg, THIS AGAIN!!?), ACV is knee-deep in claims. And it’s not just Google: Pinterest is like the land of the magical ACV detox drink.How’s about a little ACV smoothie? Nothing says ‘self care’ like trusting your friendly neighbourhood Pinterest board for some important health information.

Pretty much every nutrition MLM has an ACV-containing product, too. Shocking, I know.

What is ACV, exactly?

Apple cider vinegar is made by crushing apples and using bacteria and yeast to ferment the resulting liquid. Some ACV (the more expensive types, I’ve noticed), has the ‘mother’ in it – which renders the vinegar probiotic. Probiotics are good, right?

The acetic acid in ACV (and in all vinegars) is supposedly the ingredient that is the magic wooowooo cure for everything that ails you – and for thousands of years, ACV and other vinegars have been used as homeopathic remedies for pretty much anything you can imagine. Luckily though, medicine has evolved. Because, you know, SCIENCE.

It’s a cheap purchase, that’s for sure. I mean, if you’re going to cure your cancer or heal your genital herpes (I know you’re shocked that this is also an ACV claim), might as well spend the $5 and get it done right. Um, except no.

ACV is obviously available in liquid form, but it can also be purchased in gummy and pill form. ACV gummies I think are up there in the list of biggest health scams in the 21st century. 

How can something that’s basically candy, with an ‘active ingredient’ that’s basically useless, do anything for anyone? And let’s not get into the price of these things. Crazy time.

acv benefits
Thanks TIU, but your ACV gummies don’t do any of these things..and they’re $18 a bottle.

What are the claims that are made about apple cider vinegar?

ACV and blood sugar.

Well, this one is actually TRUE! OMG!

In a review of studies, it was found that ACV can help improve insulin response and decrease post-prandial (after meal) blood glucose. The way it does that is by the acetic acid blocking some of the starch that’s in the meal. And by starch, I mean bread and pasta, not Sour Patch Kids and ice cream. When you take it with a meal that contains no starch, the ACV has no effect on blood sugar.

Recommendations range, but one that’s frequently given is to consume 1-2 tablespoons of diluted ACV a few minutes before every meal (not too long before).

It’s also important to note that this benefit is not actually exclusive to apple cider vinegar. Improving blood sugar with a proper diet is probably a better option. And please don’t use ACV to control your blood sugar. If you’re diabetic, you likely need more than just vinegar to do that.

ACV and weight loss.

File this one in the ‘maybe’ category, but with strings attached.

Drinking vinegar has only been shown to cause MILD weight loss. And by mild, I mean like 1/3 of a pound a week – maybe from slightly improved fat oxidation, and maybe from some of the aforementioned starch-blocking activity, which can cut calories. I imagine that if you drink cups of ACV and eat nothing but crackers all day, you’re gonna lose a lot of weight, but who does that? In any case, the research on this is really sketchy.

That’s not all, either. Have you ever taken a shot of pure vinegar? Abbey Sharp and I did it for one of our videos. My eyes watered. I felt like throwing up and screaming at the same time.

I actually continued to use ACV in this way for a few weeks afterwards to see what would happen, and holy WOW it was disgusting. I think I did lose a bit of weight – probably because I burned the shit out of my stomach lining and that made me feel nauseous. Just the thought of ACV today elicits a pavlovian pre-vomit response from me. Even writing this, over 6 months later, I can still taste it.

If you’re unconvinced that taking apple cider vinegar for weight loss is relatively useless, then just be sure you dilute it before you swallow it. There have been cases of esophageal injury – as in, acid burning your esophagus, ouchie – from pure ACV. Even ACV tablets can injure your tissues, so don’t think pills are safer.

ACV and bloating. 

Are you changing anything else about your diet while you’re taking the ACV? Because there’s absolutely zero reasons why vinegar would decrease bloating (unless you’re eating less because you’re tearing up your stomach lining, so you’re less bloated because you’re less FULL). 

We should also stop pathologizing bloating when it’s not serious. Read my post about bloating and what causes it here.

Cleaning your teeth with ACV.

What you’re doing when you brush with an acid, is eroding your tooth enamel. You’re grinding acid into your enamel. Period. Bad idea. Drano will clean your teeth too, but you wouldn’t brush with it. Use toothpaste. Also: ACV breath.

ACV and low stomach acid.

This is true! Vinegar is acid, so if you don’t have enough acid in your stomach, ACV (and any vinegar) may help with digestion. But if you have too much stomach acid, vinegar can exacerbate that and make your symptoms – like reflux – worse. You don’t need to take tablespoonfuls of vinegar to help with digestion; using some on your salad can work, too.

ACV and candida.

I assume we’re talking about systemic candida, which many alternative practitioners swear you have, but you probably don’t. Systemic candida, also known as Invasive Candidiasis, is actually a really serious infection that you need a hospital stay and antibiotics for, not something you buy in a supermarket.

Candida normally and very happily lives in our bodies and usually doesn’t bother us at all; if you get a yeast infection or oral thrush, that’s candida overgrowth in those areas, but please don’t use ACV there! OMG OUCH!! I think I need a moment to get over that thought.

Read my post about the candida diet here.

Drinking vinegar will not help candida in any fashion. Acetic acid may be a disinfectant of some sort, but it’s not going to disinfect your blood or your body parts that are itchy. No, no, no. See a doctor for that stuff, okay?

And FYI: if you want probiotics, don’t use ACV for them; eat a yogurt or take some actual probiotics that don’t come with a side of BS. ACV is not regulated, so you never know what type or dose of probiotic you’re actually getting with it. The probiotic effect of ACV has also never been proven.

(Do you need to take a probiotic? Read my post on it here)

acv and weight loss
This is pretty much the TL;DR of ACV

ACV detoxes/alkalizing.

This doesn’t even make sense. Let me give it to you in point form:

  1. Your body doesn’t need a detox
  2. Your liver and kidneys detox your body perfectly well
  3. Stop believing that ‘detoxes’ ‘clean’ you after eating a lot of ultra processed food. That’s not the way your body works
  4. There is nothing in ACV that would detox you, even if your liver and kidneys didn’t work (actually, drinking ACV would probably kill you in that case)
  5. Nothing you eat affects the pH of your blood – I wrote a blog on that sham, read it here.

Using any type of vinegar in your food can make it taste good, but there’s no magic in apple cider vinegar. If you want probiotics, take probiotics. If you want to cure your yeast infection, go to the doctor. And please, please, please – do NOT drink vinegar – any vinegar – straight.

If ACV really cured anything at all, don’t you think we’d be onto it by now?

Hard pass for apple cider vinegar…unless you’re using it for salad dressing.