You’ve no doubt seen plenty of stories on your Facebook or Pinterest feed touting apple cider vinegar as a fat-melting elixir that can help you lose weight. But does it actually work?
Sure, some holistic health experts (and maybe the lady down the street) swear by the stuff. But whether ACV will really help you squeeze into a smaller jeans size isn’t quite so straightforward. Here’s what the science actually says, and whether the tart liquid deserves to be a part of your weight loss regimen.
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss: It’s complicated.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. There’s very, very little evidence directly tying ACV to weight loss in humans. Like, one small study. In it, 144 obese adults were randomly assigned to drink either a placebo or 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who drank 2 tablespoons had lost close 4 pounds, while those who drank 1 tablespoon lost 2.5 pounds. Those who drank the placebo actually gained a little bit of weight.
Those findings might sound encouraging. But they’re not nearly enough to convince experts to collectively dub ACV as a magic fat melter.
There’s good news too, though. Some findings do seem to suggest that ACV has properties that could potentially support your weight loss efforts. A few studies—like this one and this one—have found that drinking apple cider vinegar before eating is linked to smaller post-meal blood sugar spikes. The why here isn’t totally clear. But nutrition researchers like Carol Johnston, PhD, who has studied ACV at Arizona State University for years, suspects that compounds in the vinegar interfere with the absorption of some starches.
That matters because blood sugar highs and lows tend to lead to cravings for sugary snacks. “So if apple cider vinegar can help control blood sugar, this could help manage cravings and portion control, potentially leading to fewer calories consumed,” explains registered dietitian Amy Goodson.
It’s also possible that ACV might directly make you want to eat less. One study by Johnston found that participants who drank the stuff before a meal consumed up to 275 fewer calories throughout the rest of the day. But again, the reasons behind that are murky. ACV could boast compounds that actually suppress your appetite. But drinking it could also just be so unpleasant that you end up getting turned off from food for the rest of the day.
Should you try it?
Drinking ACV alone probably isn’t going to help you reach your goal weight, but there’s a small chance it could support the efforts that we know work for weight loss, like eating a healthy diet and exercising more.
And it won’t likely hurt you, says Goodson—as long as you don’t overdo it. Like all vinegars, ACV’s high acidity can irritate your throat and strip the enamel from your teeth, Johnston says. Stick with a tablespoon no more than twice daily, and always dilute it in eight ounces of water. Finally, be sure to drink your concoction before a meal. The food will help soak up any residual acid in your throat.