Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been touted for various health ailments from dandruff to diabetes to high cholesterol. Before you jump on the bandwagon it is important to understand how apple cider vinegar works, its benefits and its risks.
Apple cider vinegar is made from crushing and fermenting the apples. The sugars in the apples first turn into alcohol. Then, there is a second fermentation process when the alcohol is fermented into vinegar. The second fermentation is done by a type of bacteria called acetobacter. The second fermentation process produces acetic acid.
Vinegar contains anywhere from 5 to 20 % acetic acid.
Many brands of natural apple cider vinegar boast that they still have live and active cultures or “the mother” in the bottle. The live cultures look like the cloudy material in the bottle. While there has not been any research on the benefits of these cultures, many other fermented foods like yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut have been shown to have health benefits.
The specific mechanism of apple cider vinegar has yet to be completely understood. Like many other natural foods, it probably works on many pathways, not just one. Vinegar increases the dilation of arteries. Research has also revealed that it decreased post-meal rises in glucose and insulin (which is a good thing). Insulin is an inflammatory hormone and has been linked to weight gain.
There is published literature that shows that apple cider vinegar can help with the following.
- Diabetes – decreased the HBA1C (a measure of your blood glucose level for 3 months)
- Metabolic syndrome – improves insulin sensitivity (which means your pancreas does not have to secrete as much insulin)
- Atherosclerosclerosis – decreases oxidized LDL (an inflammatory type of cholesterol)
- Obesity – decreases abdominal visceral fat (which is the dangerous fat around the organs)
While there are definite and documented benefits of apple cider vinegar. There have also been associated risks. Some of the common risks include heartburn, esophagitis, loss of tooth enamel and a worsening of diabetic gastroparesis.
Nevertheless, many experts feel that the benefits of apple cider vinegar outweigh the risks. Here are a few things you should do to limit the risks of apple cider vinegar while enjoying its health benefits.
- Check with your doctor to make sure apple cider vinegar is okay for you. This is especially important to do if you have diabetes or reflux.
- Do not take more than 1 tablespoon or 15 ml of apple cider vinegar a day. Also, dilute this with water when you drink it.
- Take apple cider vinegar 30 minutes before your meal.
- Rinse your mouth after taking apple cider vinegar to minimize any damage to your dental enamel.
- Do not sip apple cider vinegar throughout the day. This can be an acidic drink so it is better to have it once a day rather than throughout the day.
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