What is Apple Cider Vinegar, and should you be having it?

Apple cider vinegar is trending at the minute, however this isn’t a new found health product - it has in fact been around for centuries… Hippocrates, the Greek father of modern medicine, used ACV for wound cleaning and as a general health improver over 2000 years ago; Japanese Samurai Warriors would use vinegars for strength and power; Ancient Egyptians used it for weight loss; and we are still using ACV today in the hopes of improved health and wellbeing!

So just how does ACV care for our bodies? To answer this question, we must first consider how ACV is made. In short, ACV is made in a two-step process:

  1. apples are squeezed and yeast is added to the juice to ferment the fruit sugars into alcohol- apple cider
  2. bacteria are added to the apple cider to convert ethanol into acetic acid, converting the liquid from an alcohol into a vinegar. It is this combination of bacteria - known as ‘the mother’ - and the acetic acid that gives ACV potential as a significant health food. 

‘The mother’ is a community of probiotics, which are gut friendly microbes that aid human health. Probiotic ‘good bacteria’ help keep our digestive tracts running smoothly by crowding out pathogenic microbes in our guts by competing with them for resources such as nutrients and space, keeping the harmful populations at bay. These probiotics also help to keep our immune systems in check and produce enzymes that our bodies can utilise for our benefit, largely to further break down food into more easily-digestible and easily-usable nutrients.

Acetic acid has many useful properties. The fact that it is an acid is useful as, rather obviously, ingesting it increases stomach acid levels, thus remedying heartburn and acid reflux caused by lowered stomach acid levels.  The acidic properties can also work as an antimicrobial, killing pathogens posing a threat to our health. Laboratory evidence suggests that acetic acid is also effective in interfering with sugar absorption into the bloodstream, with potential applications in diabetes control and weight loss (studies have found that ingesting vinegar with a starchy meal can help reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes and aid in controlling insulin function).

In addition, acetic acid can help dissolve arterial cholesterol deposits, thus lowering blood cholesterol levels, which happens to be a major risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Due to the sound predictions and convincing empirical findings, the implications for controlling diabetes, aiding weight loss, and improving cardiovascular health by consuming the acetic acid found in vinegars are profound.

And there’s more… further claimed benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, anti-cancer properties, antimicrobial properties (with numerous implications ranging from alleviating cold symptoms to killing bad breath to teeth whitening), appetite suppression, and even curing hiccups!

Incorporating ACV into the diet is super easy - very small quantities are needed and adding it to food can give your meals that extra zing of flavour they need. Otherwise, it can be drank when highly diluted with water (consuming undiluted vinegars is highly damaging to the soft tissues of the mouth, throat, and stomach). However, caution should be taken when consuming vinegars over long periods, when pregnant, and if you suffer with low potassium levels or are on potassium-lowering medication (in theory, ACV use may significantly decrease potassium levels)

Sounds great! Right?

Indeed, it is no surprise that ACV is a widely-cited health food when we consider the extended list of potential benefits stemming from its consumption. Current scientific evidence backing these health claims is scarce and often inconclusive, so we cannot be certain about the strength of claimed effects, or even whether the effects exist at all, however, the phrase ‘no smoke without fire’ springs to mind: I believe the continued, centuries-old faith in apple cider vinegar ingestion is a great indicator that at least some benefit must lie within. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.