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Can drinking apple cider vinegar cure diabetes, normalize yeast overgrowth or rid you of toe fungus? Can it promote weight loss?

The apple cider vinegar industry is booming these days and clever marketing tactics have made even its acronym (ACV) popular! Proponents of ACV claim it can burn fat, ease leg cramps, cure foot fungus, arthritis, vaginal infections, blood pressure, bug bites, skin tags and yeast overgrowth. And these are just a few of the many ACV claims out there.

Not surprisingly, only two of the claims actually have evidence behind them and before you get too excited, the studies on these two claims are minor and the outcomes pretty insignificant.

  1. ACV and Blood Sugar Control. Research has shown that consuming acetic acid—the active ingredient in ACV—affects the way starches are broken down during digestion. The delayed absorption of sugar from carbohydrates improves the insulin response to blood sugar and thus promotes better blood sugar control. Though the main study was small (only 21 participants), the results were pretty significant. Vinegar increased insulin sensitivity by 34% in participants with type 2 diabetes. Combined with the fact that ACV is cheap, readily available and relatively harmless, it seems like an easy way to try to improve a disease like diabetes.
  2. ACV and Weight Loss. In a 12 week study of 144 Japanese adults, those who consumed 1 tablespoon of vinegar each day lost 2.6 pounds, decreased their body fat percentage by 0.7% and lost a ½ inch around their waist. Those who consumed 2 tablespoons of vinegar each day lost 1 more pound in the 12 week period, decreased their body fat by 0.9% and lost ¾ of an inch around their waist. These are not newsworthy results, but if combined with a healthy diet and exercise pattern, could be a perfectly acceptable way to promote additional body fat and weight loss.

Are there any risks?

In most cases, ACV is relatively harmless, but there are some risks to be aware of. Consuming more than 1-2 tablespoons in a day can cause irritation of the esophagus, erode tooth enamel and most dangerously, decrease potassium levels. Those taking diuretics and/or insulin should consult their doctor before changing any dietary practices. Low potassium can cause weakness, constipation, nausea, muscle cramps and abnormal heart rhythms.

How to safely add vinegar to your diet:

  • Consume only 1-2 tablespoons per day.
  • Dilute vinegar by mixing with oil and using as a salad dressing on leafy greens or other veggies. Try mixing 1 Tbsp. of vinegar with 1 cup of water and split into three doses, one before each meal.
  • Avoid ACV pills. They don't seem to have the same effect and in one case, a woman experienced throat burns after a tablet became lodged in her esophagus.

The main take-away here is that no one food can cause or prevent an illness. All vinegars contain acetic acid, not just apple cider vinegar. So whether you use ACV, distilled, rice or any other kind of vinegar keep it moderate and dilute it for safest consumption.

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