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Apple Cider Vinegar: What’s All The Online Hoo-Ha About?

There’s been a lot of online discussion about Apple Cider Vinegar. It’s been known since ancient times – first known around 5,000 BC – and prized both as a food and a medicine. But myths persist, and some are surfacing again!

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“For thousands of years, vinegar has been used to flavor and preserve foods, heal wounds, fight infections, clean surfaces and manage diabetes,” The West Virginia University (WVU) Extension website confirms. But: “Although the vinegar is appreciated as a culinary agent, there are no clear answers in its medicinal use.”

That just about sums up the overall appreciation of Apple Cider Vinegar today. From ‘just folks’ like you and me, to the highest-seated Ivory Tower eggheads.

Nothing against eggheads. They’ve come up with some of the most amazing discoveries in human history! But a lot of folks who swear by Apple Cider Vinegar swear at the academics. It’s my Dad’s generation’s version of ‘question authority’. I’ll try to balance the common sense and higher wisdom aspects of this discussion against each other…

What it is

Apple cider Vinegar is one of the oldest vinegars to come into common use, across a wide range of societies and cultures.

As such, it’s played an important part in household history. Not only as a food and medicine, but as a cleaner and sanitizer, a fly and flea repellent, and a soak for sore feet. Some claim it even has valuable cosmetic, skin care applications.

Chemically, it’s very simple. Apple juice and cider both have a relatively high sugar content. And when certain yeasts get into either liquid, they can turn the sugars into alcohol. Then, you have hard cider. But if you’re unlucky, or just careless, another yeast may get in and ferment the alcohol to acetic acid. And you have vinegar.

What’s in it?

The standard Nutrition facts label on a bottle of apple cider vinegar actually doesn’t list most of the beneficial compounds in it.

The Nutrition Facts label is short and… sour: Aside from being high in (acetic) acid, it’s got measurable amounts of carbs, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Not much to write home about. But it’s the essential amino acids and antioxidants that support or are, at least, used to suggest the validity of various claims for Apple Cider Vinegar.

Claims abound

Health claims abound centred on Apple Cider Vinegar. Alas, many are poorly supported by serious scientific research.

WVU Extension notes: “Supporters of apple cider vinegar say it helps with weight loss, removal of toxins, blood sugar regulation, lowering cholesterol, improves digestion and provides immune boosting probiotics. Some studies conducted on mice have shown that the acetic acid in the vinegar may promote fat burning and weight loss, decrease blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity and improve cholesterol levels.”

What we really know

There are some health claims for apple cider vinegar that are at least marginally supported by science:

  • May improve glucose and insulin levels
  • May increase feelings of fullness and help to lower calorie intake
  • May reduce weight and body fat
  • May Help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Possesses anti-microbial properties

It’s commonly used in cooking in a number of ways including:

  • Vinaigrette dressings
  • Pickling brines
  • Savoury preserves
  • Marinades and sauces
  • Asian Sweet & Sour dishes

Weight loss questions

One of the big conversation starters associated with apple cider vinegar is whether – as so many online proponents claim – it can help you lose weight.

The hard evidence is pretty slim. One serious research effort in 2009 found that ‘consuming apple cider vinegar resulted in weight loss in mice’. And that’s about it.

On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic shares: “Studies of apple cider vinegar for weight loss have not consistently shown significant and sustainable weight loss across diverse groups of people.”

Possible side effects

The Mayo Clinic also warns that drinking apple cider vinegar every day – for whatever claimed health benefit – may do more harm than good:

  • May irritate your throat if you drink it often or in large amounts.
  • May interact with certain supplements or drugs, including diuretics and insulin.
  • May contribute to low potassium levels.

My take

Disclaimer:

I’ve deliberately avoided including in this discussion online advocates’ recommendations re.- ‘taking’ apple cider vinegar for health purposes. That might encourage readers to try it. And I can’t recommend it. Under any circumstances.

But I’d hate to be without it in the kitchen!

~ Maggie J.

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