Can apple cider vinegar really aid weight loss? New study sheds light

Lebanese research has produced promising results, but doctors urge caution

Apple cider vinegar is made of fermented apple juice and has been linked to weight loss. Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Unsplash
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Often called a superfood, apple cider vinegar has numerous purported health benefits, from its antioxidant effects and metabolic wonders to combating dandruff.

In the social media “health” space, it is hailed as an effective tool for curbing blood sugar spikes and weight loss. It has even been transformed into gummy sweets (to hide its sour taste) and marketed as a weight loss mechanism by supplement companies. However, experts are still debating whether this is scientifically true or just another cog in the trillion-dollar wellness industry wheel.

A new study in Lebanon has weighed in on the continuing discussion. Published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health journal, it investigates “the effects of apple cider vinegar consumption on weight, blood glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels in a sample of the Lebanese population”.

Researchers recruited 120 overweight and obese participants who were randomly assigned to four groups. The first three groups received five, 10 or 15ml of apple cider vinegar, diluted in 250ml of water, which they had to take every morning before eating. The last group was given a placebo drink that tasted and looked the same as the vinegar.

About 98.3 per cent of the participants were not vegetarians, while 89 per cent reported eating more than four meals per day. Most of them had no family or childhood history of obesity and no regular exercise routine.

After 12 weeks, researchers found that daily consumption of the three doses showed “significant reductions” in weight, body mass index, waist and hip circumferences, body fat ratio as well as blood glucose and lipid levels. The researchers noted no side effects whatsoever.

So does this close the case on apple cider vinegar's health benefits? More definitive studies still need to be done, says Dr Shafneed Narangoli, a general practitioner at Aster Clinic Ras Al Khaimah, who is not connected to the study.

Dr Narangoli explains: “Apple cider vinegar is made through the fermentation of crushed apples, resulting in acetic acid as its primary component. This acetic acid is believed to be responsible for some of the purported health benefits of apple cider vinegar, including its potential impact on weight loss.”

Anyone who wants to try apple cider vinegar should dilute it first, he advises. “Undiluted apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and can cause irritation or damage to the throat and stomach lining.” He suggests mixing one to two tablespoons in a large glass of water before consuming, matching the method of participants in the recent study.

It must also be consumed in moderation, the doctor warns. “While apple cider vinegar is generally safe for most people when consumed in moderation, excessive intake can lead to adverse effects such as tooth enamel erosion and digestive issues. Stick to recommended doses and monitor your body's response.”

Ruba Elhourani, a senior clinical dietitian and head of the nutrition department at RAK Hospital, says consuming apple cider vinegar for weight loss should go hand-in-hand with a calorie-controlled diet.

“It is important to consider that apple cider vinegar may interact with certain supplements or drugs, including diuretics and insulin,” she adds. “This may contribute to low potassium levels and lead to adverse health problems and it is better to be taken in caution.”

Because apple cider vinegar is naturally acidic, consuming it on an empty stomach could “damage the stomach lining”, reiterates Elhourani.

“Timing for consumption remains unclear in most of the studies. However, it is always good to consume it before or with the largest meal of the day.”

Updated: March 18, 2024, 5:30 AM