Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is used as a condiment by many people while others believe it may be beneficial for their health. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which regulates the health claims manufacturers can make about their products hasn't approved any health claims for apple cider vinegar.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Vinegar is a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word comes from the French, meaning 'sour wine'. While vinegar can be made from all sorts of things - such as many fruits, vegetables and grains - apple cider vinegar comes from pulverised apples.
The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, is acetic acid. However, vinegars also have other acids, vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids.
Scientific evidence of apple cider vinegar benefits
Most claims made about apple cider vinegar online have no solid evidence to back them up.
Some - like vinegar's supposed ability to treat lice or warts - have actually been studied, and researchers found nothing to support their use. Other claims have been backed up by studies, but with a catch: vinegar may work, but not as well as other treatments. For instance, while vinegar is a disinfectant, it doesn't kill as many germs as common cleaners. And while vinegar does seem to help with jelly fish stings - an old folk remedy - hot water works better.
Diabetes. The effect of vinegar on blood glucose levels is perhaps the best researched and the most promising of apple cider vinegar's possible health benefits. Several small studies have suggested that vinegar may help maintain lower glucose levels. For instance, one in 2007 was conducted at Arizona State University and reported in the US journal Diabetes Care. The study of 11 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4%-6%.
Blood pressure and heart health. Another study in rats found that vinegar helped maintain healthier blood pressure levels for those with high blood pressure. A large epidemiological study also found that people who ate oil and vinegar dressing on salads five to six times a week had lower rates of heart disease than people who didn't. However, it's far from clear that the vinegar was the reason.
Cancer. A few laboratory studies suggest that vinegar may be able to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Epidemiological studies in humans have been confusing. One found that taking vinegar was associated with a decreased risk of oesophageal cancer. Another associated it with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Weight loss. For thousands of years, vinegar has been used for weight loss, but evidence is limited. It’s possible, but not proven, that white vinegar (and perhaps other types) might help people feel full. A 2005 study of 12 people found that those who ate a piece of bread along with small amounts of white vinegar felt fuller and more satisfied than those who just ate the bread. The EFSA rejected a health claim for apple cider vinegar that it helps control and normalise body weight.
While the results of the studies above may seem promising, they are all preliminary. Many were done on animals or on cells in a laboratory. Human studies have been small. Before we will truly know whether vinegar has any health benefits, much larger studies are needed.
Other health claims rejected by the EFSA for apple cider vinegar include:
- Helping to maintain healthy skin
- Has body purifying and healing properties, optimising and balancing body function and restoring the inner balance of the body
- Helping to improve digestion, maintain normal bowel movement and helping to keep someone 'regular'.