Although it has uses in many home remedies, people frequently turn to vinegar for losing weight. But does it really work, and is it safe?
How to Use Vinegar for Losing Weight
The vinegar diet was popularized in the 1950s, when D. C. Jarvis published Folk Medicine. Jarvis claimed that vinegar could help someone lose up to 15 pounds per year with little change in eating habits. Jarvis recommended drinking a mixture of one to two teaspoons of vinegar in a glass of water before each meal.
Patricia Bragg recommends a variation of this mixture in her book, Apple Cider Vinegar: Miracle Health System. Bragg starts with the same vinegar and water mixture as Jarvis, but also recommends adding one to two teaspoons of raw honey, to be taken three times a day. Bragg believes that modern diets full of animal fats and proteins are difficult to digest and thicken the blood, and that the acids and enzymes found naturally in vinegar counter this effect.
Use the Right Kind of Vinegar
One of the important considerations when using vinegar for losing weight is to use the right kind of vinegar. Most vinegars found at the local grocery store have been filtered, pasteurized and distilled, eliminating the health benefits. Some aren’t real vinegar at all, but are actually imitations, much like the difference between real and imitation vanilla extract.
Look for unfiltered, unpasteurized and undistilled apple cider vinegar. This type of vinegar is cloudy, and will have what looks like stringy cobwebs floating in it. These strings are called ‘mother,’ and are actually a cellulose made up of Acetobacter. Mother is the substance that turns the fermented apple cider from alcohol into vinegar and gives it its sour taste.
Does Vinegar Help Weight Loss?
Fans may swear by it, but science is still skeptical when it comes to the weight loss benefits of vinegar. One concern is that most of the weight loss claims are supported only by anecdotal evidence, but it’s also fair to note that there’s been very little scientific research done.
The July 2009 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported on a study done by Japanese researchers. A group of laboratory mice on a high-fat diet were also fed acetic acid, one of the components of vinegar, and compared to a group of mice on the same diet that received only water. None of the mice lost weight, but the mice receiving the acetic acid gained less than the control group. It’s not clear why or how it worked, but scientists theorize that the acetic acid turns on genes that produce enzymes used by the body to break down fats.
More research has been done regarding the effects of apple cider vinegar on diabetics. For instance, a study in 2007 had people with Type II diabetes take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed. Study participants had morning glucose levels averaging four to six percent lower than normal. A nutrition professor at Arizona State University reported similar results with patients that took a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals, and noted that the patients taking vinegar also ate fewer calories and lost weight. These studies and others like them show promise, but have involved very small groups of people, and it’s unclear whether the vinegar actually caused the weight loss. More widespread research needs to be undertaken before the link can be considered clear.
Can Vinegar Be Dangerous?
It’s hard to imagine that anything as common as vinegar could somehow be dangerous, but there are a few things to consider before trying vinegar for losing weight.
- The apple cider vinegar used is unpasteurized. Almost every year, there are reports of people who have become ill after drinking unpasteurized fruit juices, which can be contaminated with any number of bacteria, including E. coli 0157:H7. Normally, vinegar is acidic enough to prevent the growth of bacteria, but be careful with handling and storage.
- Apple cider vinegar is very acidic. The same acid that keeps bacteria from growing and that may be the source of the health benefits, does have some drawbacks of its own. Always dilute vinegar with water or juice before drinking. Pure vinegar can be damaging to tooth enamel or the soft tissues of the mouth and throat.
- Vinegar can interfere with medication. Many foods and beverages can interfere with medicine, and vinegar is no exception. Discuss this possibility with your doctor before starting a vinegar diet, especially if you are taking medicine for diabetes or heart disease.
- Long-term use of vinegar may lower bone density. Studies have found a link between the use of vinegar and lower bone density. If you have or are at risk for osteoporosis, don’t start a vinegar diet without checking with your doctor first.