By now, we have all heard some of the health claims tied to apple cider vinegar. I, too, get a little excited when I see certain products showing health benefits because it could be another recommendation I can provide to clients. The compound that is helping vinegar get all the hype is called acetic acid and it's found in all types of vinegars. "Vinegar, from the French vin aigre, meaning “sour wine,” can be made from almost any fermentable carbohydrate....acetic acid, the volatile organic acid that identifies the product as vinegar, is responsible for the tart flavor and pungent, biting odor of vinegars" (Johnson & Gaas. Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglyemic Effect. MedGenMed. 2006). So, what are the studies saying exactly? Be advised that studies looking at a specific ingredient can be a bit tricky. For starters, it is challenging, I mean REALLY challenging, to study food. Many of the studies are observational in nature meaning that there are a variety of variables that can affect the outcome.
Yes, small studies have shown that acetic acid may help promote weight loss by possibly suppressing appetite and/or fat accumulation. For example, a recent Japanese study showed that over a 12 week period any amount of vinegar consumed helped lower weight, visceral fat, and triglyceride levels. Yet, these changes were minimal when compared to the placebo group. There has also been promise with vinegar and blood sugar control in diabetic patients (click here for the study). More studies need to take place that show similar health benefits for it to really have some weight.
Keep in mind, too, that a lot of this hype stems from food marketing and media. If there are even a few studies that may suggest health benefits, they most likely will use it in their favor. We as the consumer need to be skeptical of such claims and understand that just because one study was promising, it doesn't mean it's set in stone.
Bottom line: I don't think people should be drinking vinegar by the spoonful. This seems not only hard to keep up with but could cause some side effects. Individuals who are drinking vinegars daily may notice stomach upset and nausea. Additionally, due to the high acidity of vinegar, esophagus erosion has been noted to occur when used frequently and/or in large amounts. You should certainly keep vinegars in the house and use them for marinades, dressings, etc. They are versatile, low in calories, and can add some great flavors to your food! Will they help you lose weight or live longer? Maybe. Maybe not. Don't let this disappoint you, though. Vinegars are a better choice then a highly fatty salad dressing. If you aren't using them, get in the habit of adding them to dishes like vegetables and salads.
Here is a great salad I enjoy making during the summer (especially when you have way too many cucumbers like myself). Happy eating!
Dilly Cucumber Salad
1/2 of a red or sweet onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey (you can opt to leave out if you like the tart taste of vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (can use dried, but decrease amount accordingly)
Cut the cucumber length wise, then cut into thin slices. Place the cucumber and onion in a bowl and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, add together the vinegar, oil, honey, and spices. Pour mixture over the cucumber and onions and let this sit in the fridge for 2 hours. Serve and enjoy!