<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>While once something of a taboo subject, gut health is everywhere these days. It was highlighted as one of the key trends shaping the wellness landscape in McKinsey’s latest Future of Wellness research, and TikTok’s #GutTok hashtag has had over 1.2 billion views. It’s no surprise, then, that when an ingredient promising to improve our gut microbiome pops up, there’s lots of interest. The latest gut health hero? Apple cider vinegar.
The health benefits of apple cider vinegar have been talked about for centuries, but the ingredient has re-entered the spotlight lately, in no small part thanks to Victoria Beckham, who recently revealed she gulps down a spoonful every morning. And she’s not the only one: Katy Perry, Jennifer Aniston and Hailey Bieber are all at it too. This A-list endorsement has sparked a TikTok trend, with users joining the #applecidervinegarchallenge, which sees them downing a shot each morning for a dedicated period of time, hoping to reap some of the proposed benefits, which include reduced bloating, glowing skin and even weight loss. But is apple cider vinegar all it’s cracked up to be?
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugars from apples, which turns them into acetic acid. The substance can be either filtered, a clear liquid which has been filtered to remove the ‘mother’, or unfiltered, which is darker and has bits floating around in it. While the former may look more appealing, the unfiltered version contains the beneficial bacteria.
What Are The Health Benefits?
Vinegar has been used for centuries – both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed it for ailments like coughs and colds, and by the Middle Ages it had developed a reputation as a digestive aid. Nowadays, it’s touted as a cure-all for everything from lowering cholesterol to fighting infection. But is all this backed up by science?
Many nutritionists agree apple cider vinegar has potential health benefits, particularly surrounding gut health. That’s because of its acetic acid content, which can help your body digest food, plus the bacterial content, which can help support your microbiome. Nutritionist Paola Langella tells us: ‘Apple cider vinegar has digestion benefits – it can improve the breakdown of food and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.’
There’s also some research to suggest apple cider vinegar can improve blood sugar control. Paola explains: ‘It may also assist in lowering blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity and slowing down the absorption of sugars after a meal.’ This is supported by a review of several small clinical trials, which found that people who consumed apple cider vinegar for eight to 12 weeks experienced reductions in their blood sugar levels.
One of the more controversial claims is that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss by helping keep you fuller for longer. One study suggested this was true: in the trial, participants who consumed apple cider vinegar while following a low-calorie diet lost more weight than those who just followed the diet plan. After 12 weeks of consuming 30mm of apple cider vinegar each day, the participants had a lower body mass index and reported a smaller appetite than the participants who did not.
However, another study challenged the findings, suggesting the vinegar simply made participants nauseous, which resulted in less desire to eat. The research is inconclusive, but most nutritionists agree that downing daily apple cider vinegar shots won’t solely result in weight loss.
How To Consume It
The celebs may be drinking it neat, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to consume apple cider vinegar. Dentists have warned against consuming it this way due to the high acidity of the ingredient, which can damage your tooth enamel. Cosmetic dentist Dr Stephen Dodd explains: ‘Unfortunately hot acidic water on your teeth is actually incredibly damaging to your tooth enamel and I’d personally advise against it. It’s for the same reason why I don’t advocate the similar apple cider vinegar trend that involves swishing the vinegar around your mouth first thing in the morning.’
Instead, Paola suggests diluting it: put a teaspoon in a mug of warm water with lemon, and drink it first thing in the morning, then drink a glass of straight water afterwards to rinse the acid off your teeth.
Alternatively, use it in your cooking – as a pickle, a zingy vinaigrette, or a marinade. Paola suggests: ‘One way to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet is by using it with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon as a dressing for salads and grains.’
What about the gummies, you may ask? While on the surface these may appear better for your teeth, they often contain lots of sugar and unnecessary additives. They haven’t been approved by the FDA either, so it’s generally advised to stick to the raw ingredient.
It’s also worth noting that if you take any medication, it’s best to check with your doctor before introducing apple cider vinegar to your diet as it can interfere with certain medicines, such as insulin and diuretics.