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Apple cider vinegar: Hacking your health or just over-hyped?

Used in tangy salad dressings, meat marinades, chutneys, and rich pickles, apple cider vinegar adds necessary flavor to saucy toppings. But more than that, the potent liquid is a go-to wellness remedy for many, being used to aid digestion and lower cholesterol levels.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is comprised of crushed apple juice that’s been fermented in yeast, converting the sugars to ethanol. “First, the apples are crushed and yeast is added to speed up the fermentation process, so the sugar converts into alcohol after a few weeks,” WebMD explains. “Then, natural bacteria break the alcohol down into acetic acid, which gives vinegar its tangy taste and odor.”

There are two kinds of ACV: filtered or unfiltered. Filtered ACV is clear and pasteurized, while unfiltered ACV has a thick fog of sediment. According to WebMD, most store-bought ACV is filtered. Not all ACV is offered in liquid form – powders, tablets, gummies, and pills are also available for purchase.

Despite the overwhelming number of users who swear by ACV effects for their overall health, is the substance beneficial? Is ACV good for you?

Based on the research findings of health professionals, Healthline confirmed ACV is healthy for consumption. Specifically, the acetic acid in it. ACV contains five percent acetic acid, acting as vinegar’s primary active compound.

“Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance,” Healthline stated, adding that “mother” is often considered the most nutritious part of ACV.

Though most ACV bottles aren’t packed with minerals and vitamins, a few brands add amino acids and antioxidants. Amino acids can help with muscle recovery, immune system, muscle gain, endurance, skin, and fatigue. Antioxidants have been proven to help reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Aside from acetic acid, ACV’s vinegar contents can help kill harmful bacteria and pathogens. Additionally, vinegar is a preservative, which means it can inhibit E Coli growth, so food doesn’t spoil quickly.

“To date, one of the most convincing applications of vinegar is helping treat type 2 diabetes,” Healthline states. To support this claim, the outlet cited a 2019 clinical study and a 2021 review of clinical trials that found “vinegar consumption may have beneficial effects on the glycemic index and oxidative stress in individuals with diabetes and dyslipidemia” and “ACV consumption may benefit glycemic status in adults.”

Still, the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health urges individuals to consult their doctors about replacing medical treatments with this natural remedy, especially if they’re already taking medication that’s meant to lower their blood sugar levels, as this could lead to hypoglycemia.

Apple cider vinegar is offered in five different forms: liquid, powder, tablet, gummy, and pill
Apple cider vinegar is offered in five different forms: liquid, powder, tablet, gummy, and pill (Getty Images)

ACV also has weight loss benefits, increasing feelings of being full, according to Healthline, due to the vinegar concentration. Meanwhile, it can also boost skin health, according to Healthline. While the skin is “slightly naturally acidic,” a lot of people experience dryness and eczema, lowering the natural acidity.

“Using diluted topical apple cider vinegar topically may help rebalance the skin’s natural pH, improving the protective skin barrier,” Healthline noted. However, the outlet also warned that ACV could irritate the skin depending on an individual’s skin type.

Healthline listed the standard dosage of ACV as one to two teaspoons or one to two tablespoons each day. Most people prefer to mix the liquid into a glass of water rather than taking a straight shot.

“It’s best to start with small doses and avoid taking large amounts. Too much vinegar can cause harmful side effects, including tooth enamel erosion and potential drug interactions,” the site stated.

Health experts on TikTok, like @doctorsood, have taken to the app, claiming ACV can increase blood glucose levels and slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar, which is beneficial for anyone who is pre-diabetic or has diabetes. More than that, user Doctor Sood argued ACV can augment weight loss, and one should consume a diluted tablespoon 20 to 30 minutes before a meal.

Additionally, TikTok dermatologist Dr Neera told her followers that ACV can help with smelly feet, toenail fungus, and rough, dry heels.

“Apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, which can help exfoliate and heal rough, cracked feet and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties to help get rid of smelly feet odor, toenail fungus and athlete’s foot,” she said in a May 20 post.

However, Edwin McDonald IV, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, clarified that there’s not enough research done to confirm ACV’s effect on high blood sugar or cancer.

“Overall, ACV is safe,” Professor McDonald said. “Like any supplement, ACV won’t replace a healthy lifestyle. It may have some benefits to our bodies, but overall, we need more studies to truly understand the health benefits and side effects associated with ACV.”

Possible indigestion, lower potassium, and skin and throat burns may occur upon consumption.

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