For years, people have feverishly searched for a “magic bullet,” a supplement or food that melts away body fat. Alas, no such magical potion exists. Although there’s evidence that green tea and peppers might transiently boost resting metabolic rate, drinking or eating these foods won’t lead to significant weight loss unless you do everything else right. You may have also heard that apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight as well. Does this inexpensive condiment have benefits for fat loss?
Apple Cider Vinegar and Fat Loss: What a Study Showed
Can a shot of vinegar with meals boost fat loss? Possibly. A high-quality, double-blind study carried out in Japan looked at this issue. In the study, researchers divided 150 overweight people into groups. One group drank a vinegar drank containing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily. A second group drank the same beverage but it contained only one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. A third group drank a placebo drink that simply tasted like vinegar. Otherwise, the groups continued to eat how they wanted while researchers closely monitoring their diet and activity level.
The results? Both vinegar groups shed weight by the end of the first month and the group that drank the more concentrated vinegar drink lost more. By month three, the placebo group had gained weight while the two vinegar groups continued to lose. Overall, the group that drank the concentrated drink lost more total weight. Interesting, huh?
Here’s where it gets even MORE interesting. To confirm they had lost body fat rather than lean body tissue, the researchers used CT imaging to measure how much fat they lost. What they found was the two groups that drank the vinegar drinks lost a significant amount of visceral fat, deep fat linked with health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In terms of health, that’s the kind of fat you want to lose since it’s the most dangerous kind.
You might wonder how apple cider vinegar is linked with fat loss. Previous studies show that vinegar helps with blood sugar control. In studies where participants ate a high-carb meal and an ounce of vinegar, their blood sugar rose less than when they ate the same meal and sipped a placebo drink.
The Impact of Vinegar on Blood Sugar
Another study found that consuming 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar at bedtime lowered blood sugar by 5%. Vinegar also seems to improve insulin sensitivity. This may explain some of the fat loss the participants experienced. Insulin resistance is linked with an increase in visceral abdominal fat.
How does vinegar offer these benefits? Initially, researchers thought vinegar delayed stomach emptying and this would, in turn, slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract. However, more recent research suggests it blocks enzymes that break down starch. That’s beneficial in two ways. For one, it reduces the absorption of starch AND the starch that isn’t absorbed can act as a prebiotic to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. That’s important! It now appears that gut bacteria play a role in many aspects of health, even weight control.
A Natural Appetite Suppressant?
Another way vinegar might trigger weight loss is by its impact on appetite. According to some studies, vinegar has an appetite-suppressing effect. These studies show that consuming vinegar with meals reduces the blood glucose response and increases satiety. In one study, the degree that participants felt satiated varied with the acetic acid (the main component of vinegar) concentration of the vinegar they used.
Another possible explanation for the benefits vinegar offers for fat loss its impact on AMPK. Think of AMPK as an energy sensor that regulates the energy balance within your body. When your body’s energy stores dwindle, tissues like your liver, muscles, and fat cells, produce more AMPK. This tells your body to burn more fat for fuel. Note that it’s only AMPK in peripheral tissues that has this benefit. The hypothalamus in your brain also makes AMPK but it has different effects. Peripherally, AMPK also improves insulin sensitivity, reduces inflammation, and helps with weight loss by burning stored fat. Acetic acid in vinegar, based on some studies, turns on AMPK- and that’s good for your waistline and your health.
All of these proposed factors may contribute to the benefits vinegar potentially offers for weight control and fat loss. What you also might not realize is vinegar is also a significant source of polyphenols, antioxidant compounds that reduce inflammation. As you know, polyphenols also have anti-cancer activity, although it’s not clear whether vinegar offers cancer preventative benefits.
Downsides to Consuming Vinegar
With these possible benefits, you might be tempted to put vinegar on almost everything! However, there are drawbacks, other than the rather tart taste. Vinegar is acidic and hard on tooth enamel. Drinking a vinegar drink regularly can permanently erode tooth enamel. It’s only slightly less harmful to your teeth than lemon juice. Always dilute vinegar with water before sipping it (a tablespoon or two in a glass of water) or add it to a salad or vegetables rather than drinking it. Sipping it through a straw will also reduce contact with your teeth. Undiluted vinegar can also be harmful to the soft tissues in your mouth, throat, and esophagus if you try to drink it straight.
The Bottom Line
Don’t expect vinegar to be a substitute for diet or exercise and there’s still a lot more to learn about the weight loss benefits of apple cider vinegar. However, other than the tooth enamel issue, adding more vinegar to your diet is unlikely to be harmful. It’s a condiment that’s been around for thousands of years. If you use apple cider vinegar, use an organic, unfiltered brand. Apple as one of the more heavily sprayed crops. Vinegar also adds flavor to foods – so have fun experimenting! You might discover you enjoy the crisp, tart taste of apple cider vinegar.
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