Apple cider vinegar has been getting a lot of attention in recent years as a weight loss catalyst. While some people are clearly overdoing it by calling apple cider vinegar a “weight loss miracle,” here’s the straight truth:
While more research is warranted, there is, in fact, growing evidence to support apple cider vinegar’s role in weight loss.
But how do you split fact from fiction? What current evidence do we have regarding the weight loss benefits of apple cider vinegar?
In this blog post, I’ll be answering these questions and exploring the actual evidence to explain how and why apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss.
It’s important to note that while vinegar or acetic acid is often used in research as opposed to strictly apple cider vinegar, all types of vinegar have similar concentrations to even be called vinegar. To be vinegar, 4–8% of the liquid needs to be acetic acid, while the rest is made up of mostly water and trace minerals. So when reading through these studies, you could easily substitute vinegar or acetic acid with apple cider vinegar for practical purposes.
To start, we’ll first examine a recent study that reported the effects of vinegar intake on body weight and fat mass.
A 2009 double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Tomoo Kondo et al. observed the body weight, abdominal fat areas, and serum triglycerides of 175 obese Japanese patients over a 12-week period (1). They were trying to examine the effect, if any, of continuous vinegar intake on these markers of obesity. During the study, the diets of the subjects were strictly controlled, and regular lab tests and CT scans were performed.
The results were significant.
By week 4, the subjects taking the low-doses and high-doses of vinegar had lower body weights, lower body mass indexes, lower levels of body fat, and lower serum triglycerides when compared to the control group who didn’t use vinegar. Moreover, the group who took the high-dose of vinegar showed a more significant decrease in body weight than the low-dose group, which indicates that higher intakes of vinegar increase the overall weight loss benefit.
The study concluded that regular intake of 15ml of vinegar per day was associated with a statistically significant decrease in body weight, body fat, and serum triglycerides.
So from here, it appears that apple cider vinegar does have an effect on weight loss. But this is only a start. What is it about apple cider vinegar that actually causes the weight loss benefits?
For that, the next several sections will be dedicated to some more profound insights into the mechanisms behind the vinegar and weight loss relationship.
Now that we’ve explored a critical study that supports a link between apple cider vinegar and weight loss, let’s cover some of the details that might be responsible for this benefit:
There have been many studies looking into vinegar’s effect on blood sugar after a meal. In one 2017 meta-analysis review, F. Shishehbor et al. came to the conclusion that vinegar does, in fact, lower glucose and insulin levels after meals, and suggested that it be used as an adjunct to help control blood sugar (2). This review was significant given that poor post-meal glucose control is associated with adverse long-term outcomes in type 2 diabetics (3).
One 2010 study by C.S. Johnston et al. suggested a difference between taking vinegar with complex carbohydrates vs. monosaccharides like honey, sweet fruits, and cane sugar (4). If you’re eating beans, dairy, or whole grain bread, ingesting vinegar along with these complex carbohydrates will help control the inevitable blood sugar spike that comes along with these foods.
However, if you’re eating a strictly monosaccharide-rich meal, vinegar doesn’t have much of an effect. So drinking vinegar with your morning Fruit Loops probably won’t help you control your blood sugar.
The reason this is powerful is that ingesting vinegar with complex carbohydrates gives you a measure of control over how your body will respond to the food. You’re no longer doomed to the sugar spike that goes along with eating your favorite sandwich bread, for example.
But the blood sugar lowering effect of vinegar goes beyond controlling glucose after meals. In one 2007 study by Andrea White et al., they reported that ingesting vinegar at bedtime improves waking glucose concentrations in type 2 diabetics (5).
It’s a well-known fact that our blood sugars usually rise in the morning, even before having a meal. This is known as “the dawn phenomenon” (6). So if taking vinegar at bedtime lowers waking glucose (as suggested in the study above), this could be a great strategy to help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugars overnight.
Insulin resistance is at the heart of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Briefly, as your body becomes more and more resistant to the insulin in your bloodstream, your body eventually becomes incapable of processing the sugar in your bloodstream. As long as your body continues to produce insulin, your blood sugar will stay under control. However, at some point, the insulin resistance becomes so great that your body can’t keep up, so your blood sugar rises, uninhibited, to dangerous levels (7).
But the solution isn’t to force your body to produce more insulin. Your body must become more sensitive to the insulin already swirling in your bloodstream.
One 2004 study by Carol Johnston et al. concluded that ingesting vinegar 2 minutes before eating a meal improved insulin sensitivity for up to 60 minutes—in patients who were already defined to be either insulin resistant or type 2 diabetic (8). Although insulin resistance might take months (even years) to reverse fully, this study shows that vinegar intake helps to re-sensitize your body to insulin, even if only temporarily. The authors of this study also stated that vinegar appears to mimic the effect of diabetic medications like Acarbose and Metformin. However, caution must be taken when adjusting diabetic medications, so always discuss adjustments to your treatment plan with your doctor.
Satiation is the point at which you feel full and satisfied from a meal. Once you reach satiation, you no longer have the desire to eat until your next meal. However, satiation doesn’t always follow a strict caloric threshold.
For example, if you eat a large bowl of broccoli, the total caloric intake will be low, but you’ll feel satiated sooner. However, if you were to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with white bread, your caloric intake will be considerably higher than the broccoli bowl––and you won’t feel as satiated either. You’ll probably even be tempted to make another sandwich.
So if some foods make you feel satiated sooner while others do close to nothing, is there a way to hack your satiation signals, so you feel full sooner without scarfing down more calories? It appears there’s a way.
A 2005 study by E. Ostman et al. showed significant improvements in satiety in subjects who ate vinegar with white bread meals (9). This satiating effect extended to the full 2 hours of the study, which was significantly longer than the control meal. Additionally, the subjective satiety scores following each vinegar meal were also higher, indicating that vinegar induced greater feelings of satiety overall.
From this, we can establish that ingesting vinegar with meals is a way to hack your feelings of satiety sooner and for a longer duration.
While diet and exercise is a tried and true method to melt body fat over time, there’s another method: optimizing fat metabolism.
In one 2016 article review, author H. Yamashita reported that acetic acid (the main component in vinegar, after water) had a protective effect against obesity in rats as evidenced by a reduction in abdominal and liver fat accumulation (10). One potential cause for the obesity protection seen with vinegar could be the reduction in fat-producing genes. This conclusion was supported by an earlier study showing that acetic acid reduced fat-producing genes (11).
More research needs to be done in this area, but it does appear that vinegar of all types (as long as the concentration of acetic acid is above 4%) have an effect on fat metabolism and can protect against obesity.
Energy expenditure is the sum total of calories burned on any given day for normal body functions as well as any exercise or physical activity. Usually, if you want to increase your energy expenditure, you’ll have to run on a treadmill or perform high-intensity interval training to get your heart pumping.
But is there a way to increase energy expenditure without increasing exercise? There is some evidence that vinegar can do just that.
A 2014 study by Maiko Hattori et al. explored what effect acetic acid has on energy expenditure (12). After only a single dose, researchers found that oxygen consumption, energy expenditure, and fat oxidation all increased significantly, which points to the conclusion that vinegar not only prevents fat accumulation by using more fat as a fuel but also by increasing baseline energy expenditure.
This is significant because it suggests that using vinegar regularly increases the total amount of calories burned in a given day—even in the absence of exercise. It’s important to note that while taking vinegar won’t magically increase your energy expenditure to the same level as a 5-mile run, even an extra 50–100 calories burned every day without increasing your exercise routine does add up.
Most of the above weight loss benefits from vinegar (including apple cider vinegar) are in response to eating food. But what about the desire for food? Can apple cider vinegar affect your urge to eat?
According to a 2014 study by Gary Frost et al., vinegar can make you less hungry (13). Through various mechanisms in your central nervous system, acetic acid (in the form of acetate) reduces appetite in the brain.
Why is this significant? Well, to feel full, you have to eat enough volume or fat to either stretch your stomach or initiate the hormonal response that tells your brain you’re full. When that happens, you effectively lose your appetite until your next meal.
But there are several steps to this process. First, you have to eat, then you have to receive the signal from your brain telling you that you’re full. But if you tend to eat fast, you could end up overeating before your body even receives the signal that you’re full.
However, if you could control your appetite for food without food, you wouldn’t have to rely on food as a way to manage your appetite. Think about it: most people eat as a way to control the sensation of hunger. But using apple cider vinegar, instead, seems to achieve the same level of appetite control—without grazing on food all day.
And if you’re fasting, whether intermittently or longer, controlling your appetite is a crucial skill that could make or break your success. So using acetic acid (in the form of vinegar) appears to be a great tool to use when hunger becomes overwhelming during your first few attempts at fasting.
In this guide, I’ve covered how apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss according to recent research. At this point, there’s enough evidence to firmly conclude that using apple cider vinegar (as part of a complete weight loss plan) can help you lose body fat more efficiently. Whether it’s helping you control your blood sugar, optimizing fat metabolism, or improving satiety, apple cider vinegar seems to play a role in weight management and definitely shouldn’t be ignored.
While I agree that there’s a lot of hype going around over apple cider vinegar, if you look at the evidence, there’s a clear weight loss benefit that merits a hard look—especially since obesity rates are going up with no real end in sight.