Apple Cider Vinegar

May 31, 2017 | Food and Nutrition |

The Dirt:

Apple cider vinegar has become an extremely popular “cure all,” that many believe has the ability to help fight weight gain, keep your gut healthy, regulate your stomach acidity, clear up your skin, stabilize blood sugar, and fight cancer cells. It sounds too good to be true. Is it…?


Whether you throw a tablespoon in your evening tea, put a splash in your water bottle, or mix it with your salad dressing—there are many ways to get your daily apple cider vinegar fix. And, admittedly, the Dirt to Dinner team has tried them all! Yes, we are a bit apple cider vinegar obsessed.

Like many consumers these days, we were curious about the craze— but, we didn’t know much about the science behind it all. And once we got to digging, we had a hard time finding tangible evidence to support consumer beliefs. Is this miracle ingredient actually doing all that is claims or is this just another case of good marketing and overhype?

As you probably know by now, we love investigating a popular food ingredient. So, we got to work! We reviewed the literature at hand, spoke with food scientists at both Penn State and Cornell, talked to a NYC-based nutritionist, and tried to piece this puzzle together.

Most grocery shoppers would probably recognize the Bragg’s vinegar product. This extremely popular brand contains “the mother,” which claims to help support digestion. image source

Unfortunately, as with many popular ingredients, there is always more research that needs to be done— and many of the proposed claims of apple cider vinegar (ACV) cannot be proven conclusively. But, new research does look promising. But, before we go down the research rabbit hole, let’s take it back to the basics…

What is apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, obviously, but is either filtered which results in a clear product with no residues, or unfiltered, which results in a cloudy color as essentially most of the apple and its various enzymes and minerals still remain in the vinegar.

Are you a Bragg’s fan? And do you know what the Mother is?

To be honest…we didn’t!  Why is it called the Mother?  Because mothers are usually in charge!  No- really – because it includes everything from the apple.

“The mother,” of vinegar is the naturally occurring enzymes of protein. These strands of protein molecules become connected when the vinegar is created and you can usually see these strands in your ACV bottle!

The “mother” in raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar appears as a web-like substance which are molecules of protein connected in strand-like chains.  image source

The mother is the dark, cloudy substance in the ACV formed from naturally occurring pectin and apple residues – it appears as molecules of protein connected in strand-like chains. The presence of the mother shows that the best part of the apple has not been destroyed. Vinegars containing the mother contain enzymes and minerals that other vinegars may not contain due to over-processing, filtration and overheating. (Braggs)

Unfiltered ACV is high in several organic acids – two of which may have specific health benefits:  acetic acid and malic acid. Acetic acid may help control digestion, manage mineral absorption, blood pressure and fat deposits.  Malic acid, found in many fruits, is known to boost energy levels by converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy. Although the studies are inconclusive, doses of  ¼ tsp to ½ tsp are thought to help chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Fruits in general have malic acid, but it’s especially abundant in apples. Watermelon is another great source of malic acid. Apricots, bananas, blackberries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, lychees, mango, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears and strawberries are other sources

So, what does the research say…?

Does it cure cancer? Will apple cider vinegar cure cancer…? No.

Unfortunately, there is very limited research regarding apple cider vinegar and its ability to fight cancer cells. While there was a study that demonstrated the ability for vinegar-based product to suppress tumor growth in mice, there is no research that indicates drinking ACV will help protect humans from cancer.

Keeps your sugar levels stable.

It may, however, help keep maintain and stabilize blood glucose levels! You may recall from our Sugar is Sugar is Sugar article that spikes in your blood sugar levels can negatively affect your energy and your digestion. If you are able to maintain stable blood sugar levels, your body can function at a more optimal level. Spiking and dropping these levels often leads to weight gain, and lethargy.

Carol Johnson, PhD, (highlighted on the BRAGGs website) has studied the effects of apple cider vinegar for over 10 years and believes this ingredient provides an “anti-glycemic effect.” This means it helps maintain a steady blood sugar level. It does this by essentially blocking your body from digesting starch.  Dr. Johnson recommends one to two tablespoons in a cup of water right before you eat your meal – or with your first bite.

image source

“It doesn’t block the starch 100%, but it definitely prevents at least some of that starch from being digested and raising your blood sugar.”

-Dr. Carol Johnson PhD

However, the Mayo Clinic indicates that there is very little scientific support for these claims. They recommend a healthy diet and physical activity as the most effective means to lose weight.

Keeps you full.

Another one of the more promising studies about vinegar is related to satiety and weight loss. Satiety is the ability for your body to feel full and signal that it does not need to ingest more food. This helps to control your appetite and thus can minimize weight gain. There is new research that demonstrates vinegar’s ability to increase satiety and glycemic control.

In a study performed in Japan, 175 overweight people participated in a three-month study that measured the effectiveness of vinegar on weight loss. The participants were separated into two groups— one was given vinegar before each meal and the other was given water. The study found that the participants who consumed the vinegar lost roughly 2 pounds over the study. Vinegar, in this case, is believed to help the participants feel satiated before those who just drank water. Therefore, the participants in the vinegar control group ate less over the period of the study, which resulted in weight loss. However, once the study was over, those who lost weight, immediately gained it back again.

While this study is not specific to apple cider vinegar, the ability of apple cider vinegar to help manage the digestion of starch and regulate stomach acid production is believed to help weight control.

Keeps your stomach acid down.

And that brings us to another very important claim made by ACV— its effect on your body’s stomach acid production. This is quite an interesting one, and it was the one that initially introduced our team to ACV in the first place! After a visit to a gastroenterologist ended with a recommendation to include a teaspoon of ACV in the morning to reduce stomach acidity. We couldn’t help but wonder…why? And although there is no literature that speaks to this premise, there is a very interesting hypothesis regarding apple cider vinegar…

Acid + Acid = Neutral?

For example, when you are suffering from heart burn, acid reflux, or indigestion,  you can take an antacid (ex. Tums). This calcium carbonate tablet reacts with the acid that’s in your stomach and raises the pH of your stomach. In theory, this is meant to calm the overly acidic environment and provide pain relief— however, often times your stomach actually responds to this substance by creating more stomach acid in order to bring the pH of your stomach back down to where it is supposed to be. (As we reviewed in our article on pH balance, your stomach is naturally fairly acidic.)

It is hypothesized that when you add an acidic substance to an already overly acidic environment it could tell your body to stop producing the acid, thus neutralizing the environment.

So, let’s look at this reaction objectively: if you add a base (alkaline) pH to your stomach, your body then tells your stomach produces more acid.

If were to look at the flipside of this bodily reaction, you might conclude: if you add more acid to your stomach maybe your body will tell your stomach to stop making acid.

While the negative affects of antacids have been documented, this hypothesis has not been validated by science. But, if you suffer from these symptoms (like we once did) and apple cider vinegar has been working for you (like it has for us) there is no harm to incorporating this product into your daily routine.

To that end, it must also be noted that the successful health benefits of apple cider vinegar could be linked to the placebo effect. Evidence shows there is a 13-14% response to a placebo…and that’s not insignificant! The impact of your brain on the rest of your body in health can be extremely influential.

But, again, regardless of whether or not the health benefits you experience are fiction or fact— you would not hurt yourself my incorporating vinegar into your diet. Just don’t expect it to offset the effect of pizza and french fries!

However, we must caution you to not drink from the bottle! ACV should be diluted in water (recommendations are about 1-2 tablespoons per 8 oz). Straight up ACV can harm your esophagus and the surrounding soft tissues and ruin the enamel on your teeth. It may also negatively interact with any drugs or supplements you take – so check with your doctor first.  Finally, used in excess for years, could possibly cause low potassium and thus low bone density.

The Bottom Line:

At D2D we, along with some of our friends, have experienced some benefits of using apple cider vinegar: clearer skin, more energy, and help with an acid stomach. However, we caution you that there is no conclusive human research that makes you healthier. Used moderately, there is nothing wrong with giving it a try!


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“Apple Cider Vinegar and Health.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. May 2017. <>.

Johnston, C. S., and C. A. Gaas. “Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect.” MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 May 2006. Web. May 2017. <>.

L.D., Katherine Zeratsky R.D. “Apple cider vinegar for weight loss.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. May 2017. <>.

“Lemon Juice: Acidic or Alkaline, and Does It Matter?” Authority Nutrition. N.p., 24 May 2017. Web. May 2017. <>.

“Malic Acid.” Acidpedia. N.p., n.d. Web. May 2017. <>.

Seki, T., S. Morimura, T. Shigematsu, H. Maeda, and K. Kida. “Antitumor activity of rice-shochu post-distillation slurry and vinegar produced from the post-distillation slurry via oral administration in a mouse model.” BioFactors (Oxford, England). U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. May 2017. <>.

“What the Research Really Says About Apple Cider Vinegar.” N.p., n.d. Web. May 2017. <>.