The claim: Consuming apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss
Touted as a superfood and a cure for a range of conditions, apple cider vinegar has long been hyped among social media users and wellness gurus.
An April 23 Facebook post that garnered over 600 shares in two days suggests mixing baking soda, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to lose weight.
A 2021 Facebook video that accumulated 2.5 million views is also recirculating, purporting to offer the “best apple cider vinegar drink recipe for weight loss.”
“Apple Cider Vinegar is often touted as a super elixir, capable of aiding in weight loss and improving health conditions,” reads text accompanying the video, which has also been shared nearly 40,000 times.
But there is limited scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, according to experts who spoke with USA TODAY. Human studies on apple cider vinegar for weight loss have not demonstrated consistent or convincing results.
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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook users who shared the claim for comment.
Evidence for weight loss is scant
There is not enough research to declare apple cider vinegar a weight-loss tool, experts say.
“The evidence is not clear,” said Carol S. Johnston, a professor of nutrition and associate dean of the nutrition program at Arizona State University. “Research does not show a benefit with weight loss in humans.”
Johnston pointed to studies of rodents that reveal acetic acid, the main active ingredient in apple cider vinegar, can modify fat oxidation and metabolic abnormalities in obese mice and rats.
“If you can enhance fat oxidation, it will help with the loss of fat,” said Johnston. “I do think there could be a potential for vinegar slowing weight gain perhaps over time or contributing to weight loss.”
Another study involving rats published in 2019 in Bioscience Research discovered apple cider vinegar can be used as a “functional beverage that regulates body weight … (and) atherogenic risk related to obesity.” This strategy can be a beneficial technique for weight loss and obesity prevention, according to the study.
But little research has been conducted on the effects of apple cider vinegar on weight loss in humans, and some studies have been inconclusive.
The most cited study was conducted in 2009 with 175 overweight Japanese subjects. Participants were given one or two tablespoons of vinegar daily or no vinegar at all. After 12 weeks, those who consumed vinegar had a modest weight loss of 2 to 4 pounds.
Johnston said the study did not show sufficient weight loss because the participants’ weight fluctuated by so little.
“To see significant weight loss after 12 weeks, you could just be seeing a hydration issue where they’re not holding as much body water.”
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A study published in 2018 yielded similarly minimal results and had a much smaller sample size. A total of 39 participants who followed a low-calorie diet with apple cider vinegar for 12 weeks lost 3 to 4 pounds and had a lower body mass index.
Vinegar has potential risks
In addition to having unproven benefits, experts say regular vinegar consumption carries some risk.
A 2016 study of vinegar in the journal Food Science revealed the high acidity in apple cider vinegar can cause tooth decay and throat irritation if ingested undiluted in large amounts.
“There’s plenty of ways to use (apple cider vinegar) and adddelicious flavors to your meals,” said Wesley McWhorter, director of the Nourish Program at the Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
But McWhorter said not to expect apple cider vinegar to solve weight loss issues.
“To say adding it into your drink is going to solve all of your dietary problems is just not accurate,” he said.
Our rating: Missing context
Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that consuming apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss. There is no strong evidence that apple cider vinegar is effective in spurring weight loss. Clinical studies have had small sample sizes and shown inconsistent findings across participants who have taken apple cider vinegar to lose weight.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Nov. 4, 2021, People swear by apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Does it actually work?
- CNN Health, March 24, 2021, Apple cider vinegar and weight loss — what the experts say
- Medical News Today, June 11, 2020, Does apple cider vinegar help with weight loss?
- Mayo Clinic, accessed May 5, Drinking apple cider vinegar for weight loss seems far-fetched. Does it work?
- Harvard Health Blog, Oct. 29, 2020, Apple cider vinegar diet: Does it really work?
- Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, May 22, 2014, A Single Oral Administration of Acetic Acid Increased Energy Expenditure in C57BL/6J Mice
- Pub Med, June 2016, Anti-obesogenic effect of apple cider vinegar in rats subjected to a high fat diet
- Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, May 22, 2014, Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects
- Journal of Functional Foods, April 2018, Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial
- Bioscience Research, June 28, 2019, Apple cider vinegar modulates gut microbiota, improves lipid profile and attenuates tissue damage in rats with diet induced obesity.
- Process Biochemistry, October 2014, Aerobic submerged fermentation by acetic acid bacteria for vinegar production: Process and biotechnological aspects
- Food Science, April 2016, Therapeutic effects of vinegar: a review
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