What Is the Apple Cider Vinegar Diet?

apple cider vinegar for weight loss

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In a market saturated with weight loss products and diet plans, the apple cider vinegar diet has gained a foothold as one of the most popular methods to lose weight. According to some reports, it was one of the fastest-rising health searches on Google in 2017.

But the apple cider vinegar diet isn't a "diet" in the traditional sense. If you search for it online, you are not likely to find a list of food restrictions, recommended meal plans, or timing guidelines. To follow the program you simply drink an apple cider vinegar drink a few times each day.

Unfortunately, there is no strong scientific evidence to support this program. While some research has been conducted investigating the relationship between apple cider vinegar and weight loss, the results have not been impressive. And some studies even indicate that apple cider vinegar may cause harm when consumed in large amounts.

What Experts Say

"According to science, drinking apple cider vinegar has not been shown to help with weight loss. In fact, it can actually erode your teeth due to the higher acidity, as well as cause nausea."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

Background

If you do an online search, you'll find countless variations of the apple cider vinegar diet. But you will not find a specific credentialed nutrition expert or authoritative resource (such as a book or a website) associated with the plan. Instead, you'll find YouTube videos, blogs, and other anecdotal stories about how using apple cider vinegar has produced weight loss results.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made from fermented apple juice. When consumed in very small amounts it provides no substantial calories or nutrients. The tangy sour taste comes from acetic acid and citric acid (by-products of the fermentation process).

This vinegar has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Some say that apple cider vinegar use dates back 5000 years. And some reports say that Hippocrates used apple cider vinegar as a healing elixir, an antibiotic, and for general health in 400 BC. There are even reports of U.S. Civil War soldiers using apple cider vinegar to disinfect wounds.

The purported benefits of apple cider vinegar are wide-ranging. Some believe that the liquid can regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve skin health, control blood sugar, and provide other health advantages. There is little scientific evidence to support these uses.

Those who promote apple cider vinegar as a weight loss aid say that it can help you to lose pounds quickly. For example, one source claims that you can lose seven pounds of fat in seven days. Another boasts that you can lose up to 15 pounds in just one week. Video bloggers often claim that it can reduce bloating and increase bowel movements.

Scientific evidence to support these claims is lacking.

How It Works

On the apple cider vinegar diet, there are no compliant or non-compliant foods. Many find this program appealing because you can continue to follow your typical eating pattern and food choices. There is no calorie counting, portion control, or time-restriction for meals.

The only requirement on this diet is the consumption of an apple cider vinegar drink several times each day.

What to Eat

You'll find different recipes for the apple cider vinegar diet drink. Most often, the recipe includes at least one tablespoon of vinegar, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one half to one cup of water. Apple cider vinegar pills are also used by some fans of the diet. And some forgo the drink recipe and drink straight spoonfuls of ACV.

Research investigating the apple cider vinegar diet has used similar concentrations of the beverage in their investigations. For example, in two separate studies, test subjects consumed 30 milliliters per day (two tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar divided into two 15 mL (one tablespoon) doses. 

Apple cider vinegar can be purchased in any market or grocery store. However, some bloggers recommend that you buy apple cider vinegar that specifically claims to contain "mother." Vinegar with mother may be harder to find.

Mother has been described by researchers as "nontoxic slime composed of yeast and acetic acid bacteria." It can develop during extended fermentation. It may also develop in opened apple cider vinegar if it is stored for a long time.

Some believe that the mother bacteria is necessary to gain health benefits. But it also makes the vinegar looks cloudy. For that reason, many store-bought commercial vinegar brands do not contain these bacteria. The health effects of mother are unsubstantiated.

Recommended Timing

When you follow the apple cider vinegar diet, you consume the tangy beverage several times during the day. Most variations of the diet recommend that you drink one beverage in the morning after waking and once at night before bed. Other variations of the diet suggest that you consume one cup of the drink before each meal.

The duration of the apple cider vinegar diet is not specifically defined in many posts and blogs about the program. In fact, some seem to indicate that drinking the beverage can be a long-term plan for weight loss and maintenance. However, the safety of this habit has not been verified.

In fact, long-term use of apple cider vinegar may have negative health consequences, especially when it is consumed in large amounts. There have been reports of tooth erosion after long-term consumption. There is also a case report of a woman presenting with osteoporosis, potassium deficiency, and blood imbalances after consuming about one cup of apple cider vinegar per day in beverages and salad dressing for about six years.

Resources and Tips

If you hope to lose weight on the apple cider vinegar diet, you are more likely to see results if you follow a diet that includes nutrient-rich foods and minimizes empty calories. Following USDA guidelines is a good place to start if you are trying to decide what to eat and how much to eat.

USDA Recommendations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet. The recommendations are designed to help you get the important vitamins and minerals you need for healthy cells, carbohydrates for energy, and fiber, protein, and healthy fats to help you feel full, and satisfied.

Build meals and snacks around these healthy foods:

  • Vegetables and dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, green beans) 
  • Fruits (apples, berries, melon)
  • Grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
  • Lean meats (chicken breast, fish, turkey breast)
  • Beans and legumes (all beans, lentils, peas)
  • Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
  • Dairy (reduced-fat milk, cheese, yogurt) 
  • Oils (olive oil, avocado oil) 

Consuming the right number of calories each day will also help you to slim down. The USDA recommends consuming roughly 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, but this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you.

Modifications

There are different variations to the apple cider vinegar diet. Some people add ingredients to the drink to make it more palatable. For example, you might try adding mint, ginger, cayenne, or frozen fruit to add flavor. Some fans of the program also use sparkling water instead of tap water to make the drink more enjoyable.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy to follow

  • Ingredients are inexpensive

  • Requires no change to eating plan

  • May benefit blood sugar

Cons
  • Weak scientific evidence

  • Doesn't encourage healthy eating habits

  • May cause discomfort or harm

Pros

There are no food restrictions on the apple cider vinegar diet, no complicated meal plans, and calorie counting is not required. Simply add the vinegar drink to your daily routine. The program is inexpensive and ingredients are easy to find.

There is some research demonstrating that apple cider vinegar may improve glycemic control especially in those with diabetes. But many experts advise that more research is needed to confirm the benefit.

Lastly, some people might benefit from adding apple cider vinegar to their diet. For example, dressing your salad with a small amount of apple cider vinegar instead of a creamy dressing will help to cut calories and fat. And some health experts suggest using vinegar instead of salt to flavor foods to cut sodium in the diet.

Cons

Unfortunately, the science supporting apple cider vinegar for weight loss can be confusing. There are a few studies that suggest drinking ACV can lead to weight loss and other benefits. But a close examination of the studies reveals a slightly different story.

For example, a widely cited study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods touting the benefits of ACV. Researchers compared overweight and obese individuals who consumed a reduced-calorie diet or a reduced-calorie diet along with an apple cider vinegar drink. In the abstract, study authors conclude that apple cider vinegar helped study participants reduce belly fat, overall weight, BMI, triglyceride levels, cholesterol, and appetite.

But a look at the data reveals there wasn't a major difference between the two groups. For instance, the low-calorie diet + ACV group lost an average of about four kilograms during the 12-week study (give or take 2.5 kg). The group that followed the diet alone lost an average of 2.3 kilograms (give or take 1.6 kg). The difference in BMI between the two groups was just over a half point.

While it's always helpful to lose a little more weight than a little less weight, these results don't measure up to the substantial claims made by proponents of the apple cider vinegar diet. In addition, almost all research studies include some kind of dietary restriction which is not a part of the plans most often promoted online.

How It Compares

There are several other weight loss programs that suggest drinking a special beverage can help you lose weight. Like the apple cider vinegar diet, most of these programs do not encourage any other change to your regular eating plan.

Flat Tummy Tea

Flat Tummy Tea is a popular hot beverage marketed to young women who want to lose weight and get a leaner-looking midsection. It is widely promoted online and has gained a substantial social media following.

To follow the diet, you drink one type of Flat Tummy Tea in the morning and another type of Flat Tummy Tea at night. No other changes to your routine are required.

The tea contains several ingredients that may promote more frequent bowel movements and reduce bloating. But like the apple cider vinegar diet, experts have expressed safety concerns, especially with long term use. There is no scientific evidence that the tea is effective for fat loss.

Ballerina Tea

Another popular weight loss drink, Ballerina Tea is a beverage made from a combination of Chinese herbal ingredients. Users are advised to drink the beverage three times a day after a meal. No other dietary changes are required.

Bloggers and some beauty writers promote benefits of ballerina tea, including weight loss. Fans of the drink sometimes also say that it can promote digestive health and provide other wellness advantages. Unfortunately, these claims are not based on any scientific fact.

Green Tea

Green tea has been used in alternative medicine and across the globe for a wide range of benefits. It is also promoted as a weight loss aid. Some believe that drinking green tea several times each day can increase metabolism so that you burn more calories.

Green tea has been studied in clinical trials. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is some evidence that the tea can improve alertness, but there is no strong evidence to show that is effective for long-term weight loss or weight maintenance.

A Word From Verywell

It is tempting to believe that simply drinking a potent beverage can banish belly fat, relieve bloating, and lead to weight loss. It can be especially tempting to believe these claims if a popular blogger, celebrity, or product manufacturer cites scientific evidence to back the impressive benefits. But many times the science doesn't support the claims in the way you might think.

Experts continue to advise that the healthiest way to slim down is to eat a nutritious diet that includes moderate portions of enjoyable but healthy foods. Exercise can also play a role in increasing metabolism and reaching a healthy weight. While apple cider vinegar can be used in the kitchen as an ingredient or condiment, it is not likely to create any noticeable weight loss results.

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Article Sources
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