Apple cider vinegar has been used as a health tonic for thousands of years.
Research shows 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 provides tips on incorporating apple cider vinegar into your diet.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made in a two-step fermentation process (1
First, apples are cut or crushed and combined with yeast to convert their sugar into alcohol. Second, bacteria is added to ferment the alcohol into acetic acid.
Traditional apple cider vinegar production takes about one month, though some manufacturers dramatically accelerate the process so that it takes only a day.
Acetic acid is the main active component of apple cider vinegar.
Also known as ethanoic acid, it is an organic compound with a sour taste and strong odor. The term acetic comes from acetum, the Latin word for vinegar.
About 5–6% of apple cider vinegar consists of acetic acid. It also contains water and trace amounts of other acids, such as malic acid (2
One tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar contains about three calories and virtually no carbs.
Acetic Acid Has Various Benefits for Fat Loss
Acetic acid is a short-chain fatty acid that dissolves 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 one rat study, acetic acid improved the ability of the liver and muscles to take up sugar from the blood
- Decreases insulin levels: In the same rat study, acetic acid also reduced the ratio of insulin to glucagon, which might favor fat burning (3
- Improves metabolism: Another study in rats exposed to acetic acid showed an increase in the enzyme AMPK, which boosts fat burning and decreases fat and sugar production in the liver (4
- Reduces fat storage: Treating obese, diabetic rats with acetic acid or acetate protected them from weight gain and increased the expression of genes that reduced belly fat storage and liver fat (5
- Burns fat: A study in mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with acetic acid found a significant increase in the genes responsible for fat burning, which led to less body fat buildup (7
- Suppresses appetite: Another study suggests acetate may suppress centers in your brain that control appetite, which can lead to reduced food intake (8
Although the results of animal studies look promising, research is needed in humans to confirm these effects.
Apple Cider Vinegar Increases Fullness and Reduces Calorie Intake
Apple cider vinegar may promote fullness, which can decrease calorie intake (9
In one small study in 11 people, those who took vinegar with a high-carb meal had a 55% lower blood sugar response one hour after eating.
They also ended up consuming 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 stomach emptying. This led to increased feelings 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 stomach 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 sugar to rise after a meal.
Since apple cider vinegar has been shown to extend the time food stays in your stomach, taking it with meals could worsen gastroparesis (12
It May Help You Lose Weight and Body Fat
Results from one human study indicate that apple cider vinegar has impressive effects on weight and body fat (13
In this 12-week study, 144 obese Japanese adults consumed either 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vinegar, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vinegar or a placebo drink every day.
They were told to restrict 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 — on average — the following benefits:
- Weight loss: 2.6 pounds (1.2 kg)
- Decrease in body fat percentage: 0.7%
- Decrease in waist circumference: 0.5 in (1.4 cm)
- Decrease in triglycerides: 26%
This is what changed in those consuming 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: 0.75 in (1.9 cm)
- Decrease in triglycerides: 26%
The placebo group actually gained 0.9 lbs (0.4 kgs), and their waist circumference slightly increased.
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, make you lose belly fat and decrease your blood triglycerides.
This is one of a few human studies that have investigated vinegar's effects on weight loss. Although the study was fairly large and the results are encouraging, additional studies are needed.
Additionally, one 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
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