What's the word on apple cider vinegar?

“I’ve been feeling great and seem to have more energy,” wrote “Robert” on amazon.com after he started drinking apple cider vinegar every day.

If you believe what you read, vinegar—especially apple cider vinegar—can brighten your skin and remove warts, soothe your sore throat, fight cancer, prevent heartburn, banish belly fat, help your heart, lower your blood sugar, and more.

All about acetic acidvinegar bottle

Vinegar is made in a two-step fermentation process. First, sugar (from something like fruit or rice) is fermented by yeast to produce alcohol. Next, acetic-acid bacteria ferment the alcohol to make, you guessed it, acetic acid.

Most vinegars are filtered and pasteurized, but some manufacturers leave the harmless bacteria—also called “the mother”—and label the vinegar as “raw” and “unfiltered.” This is particularly common with apple cider vinegar.

So is there anything special about apple cider vinegar? “Good marketing,” says Arizona State University professor of nutrition and vinegar researcher Carol Johnston.

“Acetic acid is the defining ingredient of all vinegars, and the documented health effects of vinegar are due to acetic acid. But there’s nothing special about the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar,” notes Johnston. “There could be something to ‘the mother’—some redeeming quality to that bacteria,” she adds, “but that’s just speculation. No one’s shown that.”

Most of the claims about the health benefits of vinegar haven’t been tested.  Here’s what we know so far.

Lowers blood sugar?

About a dozen studies gave 5 to 27 people a starchy meal with or without one or two tablespoons of vinegar. In roughly half the studies, blood sugar was lower in the hours after the meal with vinegar. In the other half, it wasn’t.1

And in two longer studies that included people with prediabetes, hemoglobin A1c​—a long-term measure of blood sugar—was not significantly lower in those who consumed two tablespoons of vinegar a day than in those who got a placebo.2,3

Relieves heartburn?

Can a spoonful of vinegar prevent heartburn by restoring stomach acid? That may sound a little backwards, but some health and wellness websites claim that heartburn is due to too little stomach acid, which causes the stomach to churn harder and spew acid back up and into the esophagus.

But Scott Gabbard, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, isn’t sold. “Heartburn is the result of a relaxed sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, and has nothing to do with the amount of acid in the stomach,” he says. “It seems unlikely that vinegar would decrease acid reflux back into the esophagus.”

Fights cancer?

No studies in people have ever looked.

Helps you lose weight?

Obese adults who consumed two tablespoons of vinegar every day for three months lost just four pounds in a company-funded trial in Japan.4 That’s the only study.

The Bottom Line

The best evidence—though far from solid—is for lowering blood sugar. If you have prediabetes and want to give it a try, make your own salad dressing with at least a tablespoon of vinegar. (Most bottled dressings have too little vinegar.)

If you’d prefer to drink your vinegar, keep in mind that most studies diluted 1 tablespoon in 8 oz. of water. Straight vinegar can burn your mouth and cause ulcers in your esophagus.

And never gargle with vinegar or swish it around in your mouth, as some websites recommend. That can damage your tooth enamel.



1 Nutr. Rev. 72: 651, 2014.

2 J. Func. Foods 5: 2007, 2013.

3 World J. Cardiovasc. Dis. 3: 191, 2013.

4 Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem. 73: 1837, 2009.

6 Replies to “What's the word on apple cider vinegar?”

  1. I drink Bragg’s every morning and every night, esp with heavy meals. My original purpose was not weight lose but to help with inflammation and as an anti-bacterial/anti-fungal agent. My Dr tested the levels of good bacteria in my stomach (for other reasons), and both the Dr and the nurse could be heard saying “WOW!” I had my appendix out so I was concerned about losing the ability to produce good bacteria. I take a supplement but the Bragg’s gives me a bit of energy as well as calming my stomach. Concerning weight lose; I don’t eat bad but I don’t eat great either. I’ve noticed that when I stick with me AM/PM regime that I’m able to maintain or fluctuate between 2-5 pounds (probably due to the inflammation properties of the ACV). This doesn’t occur with just any ACV…it has to have the “mother” in it like Bragg’s. This is just my testimony and I’m definitely 100% supportive of taking ACV every day. It won’t change your life but it’s a cheap way to get many benefits.

  2. As a technologist who works in a microbiology lab, I would be curious to know exactly what type of bacteria your doctor tested for…and how he tested for it. In the medical laboratory, the only way we can test for bacteria in the stomach is with a biopsy (testing for Heliobacter pylori) or with a breath test which only tests for the absence of this organism. If your doctor was testing for bacteria in your intestine, you would need a 3 day stool culture. You should as more questions the next time you see your physician – he truly seems able to do what most of the medical profession cannot!

  3. I do have to say, just plain old cheap white vinegar did get rid of a Planters wart on my foot, that even my Dr. could not burn off. And I had had it for years. I just soaked my foot in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes for a month, and it went away and never came back. I even kept the vinegar to use for a few days straight. I just poured it in a plastic container that had a lid on it.

  4. I have been taking apple cider vinegar for years. I never suffer with a stomach virus because as soon as I get symptoms I take 1 tablespoon in a small amount of water. I repeat it 2 hours later if necessary. Within 2-4 hours all symptoms are gone. Using A vinegar patch on bee stings reduces the pain better than anything else I have ever used.

  5. Does Italian Balsamic vinegar have acetic acid in it? Is it the same as cider vinegar but with a different flavor?
    Dave Peacefull

    1. Yes, all vinegars contain acetic acid (vinegar, by definition, is acetic acid diluted in water). The difference lies simply in what is used to make the vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, whereas balsamic vinegar is made from grapes.

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