Apple cider vinegar has been used as a health tonic for thousands of years.
Research shows that it has many health benefits, such as lowering blood sugar levels.
But can adding apple cider vinegar to your diet also help you lose weight?
This article explores the research behind apple cider vinegar and weight loss. It also offers tips on incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made through a two-step fermentation process (1).
First, apples are cut or crushed and combined with yeast to convert their sugars into alcohol. Second, bacteria are added to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid.
Traditional apple cider vinegar production takes about a month, although some producers dramatically speed up the process so that it takes only a day.
Acetic acid is the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar.
Also known as ethanoic acid, it is an organic compound with a sour taste and strong odor. The term acetic acid comes from acetum, the Latin word for vinegar.
About 5-6% of apple cider vinegar consists of acetic acid. It also contains water and traces of other acids such as malic acid (2).
One tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar contains about three calories and virtually no carbohydrates.
Acetic acid has several benefits for fat loss
Acetic acid is a short-chain fatty acid that breaks down into acetate and hydrogen in your body.
Some animal studies suggest that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may promote weight loss in several ways:
Lowers blood sugar levels: in a rat study, acetic acid improved the ability of the liver and muscles to absorb sugar from the blood (3).
Reduces insulin levels: in the same rat study, acetic acid also reduced the ratio of insulin to glucagon, which may promote fat burning (3).
Improves metabolism: Another study in rats exposed to acetic acid showed an increase in the enzyme AMPK, which promotes fat burning and reduces fat and sugar production in the liver (4).
Reduces fat storage: treatment of obese diabetic rats with acetic acid or acetate protected them from weight gain and increased expression of genes that reduced abdominal fat storage and liver fat (5, 6).
Burns fat: A study of mice fed a high-fat diet with acetic acid found a significant increase in genes responsible for fat burning, resulting in less body fat gain (7).
Suppresses appetite: Another study suggests that acetate may suppress centers in your brain that control appetite, which may lead to decreased food intake (8).
Although results from animal studies look promising, human research is needed to confirm these effects.
Animal studies have shown that acetic acid can promote fat loss in several ways. It can reduce fat storage, increase fat burning, reduce appetite, and improve blood sugar and insulin response.
Apple cider vinegar increases fullness and reduces calorie intake
Apple cider vinegar may promote fullness, which may reduce caloric intake (9, 10).
In a small study of 11 people, those who took vinegar with a high-carbohydrate meal had a 55% lower blood sugar response one hour after eating.
They also consumed 200-275 fewer calories for the rest of the day (10).
In addition to its appetite-suppressing effects, apple cider vinegar has also been shown to slow the rate at which food leaves your stomach.
In another small study, taking apple cider vinegar with a starchy meal significantly slowed gastric emptying. This resulted in an increased feeling of fullness and lowered blood sugar and insulin levels (11).
However, some people may have a condition that makes this effect harmful.
Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, is a common complication of type 1 diabetes. Timing insulin with food intake becomes problematic because it is difficult to predict how long it will take for blood glucose to rise after a meal.
Because apple cider vinegar has been shown to prolong the time that food remains in the stomach, taking it with meals may worsen gastroparesis (12).
Apple cider vinegar helps promote fullness in part due to delayed gastric emptying. This, of course, may result in lower caloric intake. However, this could worsen gastoparesis for some.
It can help you lose weight and body fat
Results from a human study show that apple cider vinegar has impressive effects on weight and body fat (13).
In this 12-week study, 144 overweight Japanese adults consumed either 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vinegar, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vinegar, or a placebo drink each day.
They were told to limit their alcohol intake but otherwise continue their usual diet and activity throughout the study.
Those who consumed 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vinegar per day had the following average benefits:
Weight loss: 2.6 pounds (1.2 kg)
Decrease in body fat percentage: 0.7%
Decrease in waist circumference: 1.4 cm)
Decrease in triglycerides: 26%.
This changed in those who consumed 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vinegar per day:
Weight loss: 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg)
Decrease in body fat percentage: 0.9%
Decrease in waist circumference: 1.9 cm)
Decrease in triglycerides: 26%.
The placebo group actually gained 0.9 lbs (0.4 kgs) and their waist circumference increased slightly.
According to this study, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your diet can help you lose weight. It can also reduce your body fat percentage, lose belly fat, and reduce your blood triglycerides.
This is one of a few human studies that have examined the effects of vinegar on weight loss. Although the study was fairly large and the results are encouraging, additional studies are needed.
In addition, a six-week study in mice fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet found that the high-dose vinegar group gained 10% less fat than the control group and 2% less fat than the low-dose vinegar group (7).
In one study, obese people who took 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks lost weight and body fat.
Other Health Benefits
Apple cider vinegar not only promotes weight and fat loss, but also has several other benefits:
Lowers blood sugar and insulin: When consumed with a high-carbohydrate meal, apple cider vinegar has been shown to significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal (14, 15, 16, 17, 18).
Improves insulin sensitivity: a study of people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes found that adding vinegar to a high-carbohydrate meal improved insulin sensitivity by 34% (19).
Lowers fasting blood sugar: In a study of people with type 2 diabetes, those who took apple cider vinegar with a high-protein evening snack had twice the decrease in fasting blood sugar than those who did not (20).
Improves PCOS symptoms: In a small study of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who took vinegar for 90-110 days, 57% resumed ovulation, likely due to improved insulin sensitivity (21).
Lowers cholesterol: Studies in diabetic and normal rats and mice found that apple cider vinegar increased “good” HDL cholesterol. It also reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (22, 23, 24).
Lowers blood pressure: Animal studies suggest that vinegar can lower blood pressure by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for constricting blood vessels (25, 26).
Kills harmful bacteria and viruses: vinegar fights bacteria that can cause food poisoning, including E. coli. In one study, vinegar reduced the number of certain bacteria by 90% and some viruses by 95% (27, 28).
Adding apple cider vinegar to your diet may benefit blood sugar, insulin, PCOS symptoms, and cholesterol. Vinegar also fights bacteria and viruses.
How to add it to your diet.
There are a few ways to add apple cider vinegar to your diet.
One easy way is to use it with olive oil as a salad dressing. It’s especially delicious with leafy greens, cucumbers and tomatoes.
It can also be used to pickle vegetables, or you can simply mix it in water and drink it.
The amount of apple cider vinegar for weight loss is 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) per day, mixed with water.
It is best to spread this throughout the day in 2-3 doses, and it may be best to drink it before meals.
Taking more than this is not recommended due to potentially harmful effects at higher doses, such as drug interactions or erosion of tooth enamel. It is also best to start with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) to see how you tolerate it.
Do not take more than 1 tablespoon (15 ml) at a time, as too much in one sitting can cause nausea.
It is important to mix it with water, as undiluted vinegar can burn the inside of your mouth and esophagus.
Although taking apple cider vinegar in tablet form may seem beneficial, it carries potentially major risks. In one case, a woman suffered throat burns after an apple cider vinegar tablet became lodged in her esophagus (29).
About 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of apple cider vinegar per day is recommended to obtain full weight loss benefits. Mix with water and drink for best results.
At the end of the day, taking a moderate amount of apple cider vinegar appears to promote weight loss and provide a number of other health benefits.
Other vinegars may provide similar benefits, although those with lower acetic acid content may have less potent effects.