The benefits of apple-cider vinegar
The use of vinegars generally, and apple-cider vinegar in particular, as a condiment and food ingredient spans thousands of years across many cultures. Today we use it for everything from blood sugar and weight control to cholesterol management.
Apple-cider vinegar (ACV) is made from fermented apple juice. It is made by crushing apples, pressing out the juice, then adding yeasts and bacteria to start the fermentation process, converting the sugar into alcohol. Continued fermentation occurs when the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria (Acetobacter species). The acetic acid and malic acid give the vinegar its sour taste. Vinegar can also be made from apple peels (APCV).
One study showed that taking apple-cider vinegar in salad dressing was sufficient to improve the glycaemic response to a mixed meal in normal subjects.
While vinegar can be made from almost any fermentable carbohydrate source (the name comes from the French meaning “sour wine” — vin aigre), traditional apple-cider vinegar is made by a slower process with a longer fermentation than vinegar made from grapes, which allows for an accumulation of a non-toxic “slime” composed of yeasts and acetic acid bacteria called the “mother” of the vinegar. The quality of the final product is determined by the quality of the raw materials and by the microbial diversity involved in the fermentation. Apple-cider vinegars made from apples with a higher sugar content have greater nutrient density including increased antioxidant properties, particularly the antioxidant SOD (superoxide dismutase) activity.
Historically, in 400 BCE Hippocrates was prescribing a mixture of honey and apple-cider vinegar for the treatment of a variety of diseases, and ACV was found particularly useful during the American Civil War for disinfecting the wounds of soldiers when used topically.
Apart from the acetic and malic acids, apple-cider vinegar contains vitamins, mineral salts, amino acids and polyphenolic compounds such as catechins, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, gallic acid etc. Cider vinegars contain about 5 to 6 per cent acidity.
While the polyphenolic compounds in ACV have significant antioxidant properties, APCV is particularly rich in gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid. APCV is generally believed to boost the physiological state and function of vital organs in the body by acting as a detoxifying and purifying agent.
Blood sugar management
One study showed that taking apple-cider vinegar in salad dressing was sufficient to improve the glycaemic response to a mixed meal in normal subjects. This was determined to be related to the acidity of the food. Further trials have supported this improvement in glucose management and insulin sensitivity after carbohydrate meals of bread or potatoes where apple-cider vinegar has been added as a dressing on these foods. The research showed that this was not a property of delayed gastric emptying, but may instead be related to its effect on reducing disaccharidase enzyme activity. One study, however, on diabetic patients did show that apple-cider vinegar taken with a meal delayed gastric emptying.
Weight control and digestion
Adding apple-cider vinegar to a meal increases short-term satiety, possibly due to the delayed gastric emptying. Apple-cider vinegar has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal inflammation. Its acidic nature indicates the possibility of improving protein digestion when taken with a meal.
The SOD activity in good-quality apple-cider vinegar is one of two main antioxidant defence systems in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and is critical in preventing the pathogenesis of hypertension and atherosclerosis. It is crucial for the health of vascular endothelial and mitochondrial function.
In rat studies, apple-cider vinegar has been shown to significantly improve cholesterol metabolism by lowering both the triglyceride and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) components of cholesterol in rats fed high cholesterol diets. Further studies also showed a significant improvement in cholesterol management in both normal and diabetic rats where the HbA1c significantly decreased in the diabetic group and significant reduction of LDL (“bad”)cholesterol and triglycerides accompanied by an increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the diabetic rats. This improvement in lipid profiles indicates a potential for the management of diabetic complications.
Antibacterial and antifungal
Apple-cider vinegar was tested at different dilutions against a range of pathogenic organisms and was found to be effective against pathogenic E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans by down-regulating cytokine inflammatory pathways.
An interesting study on rats showed that apple-cider vinegar reduced mercury damage in the livers of rats tested, due to its powerful antioxidant properties.
Topically for varicose veins
In a human study, when patients with varicose veins applied apple-cider vinegar on the areas of varicosity, it was found to increase the benefits of conservative medical treatment and significantly decrease the symptoms of the varicosities such as pain and heavy feelings in the legs. It also lowered anxiety levels due to improving cosmetic effects, without causing any side effects.
Using apple-cider vinegar
Apple-cider vinegar has been used to improve human health for millennia. Today much more research could be done on humans (there are only small trials), while the positive rat studies hold promise for the future of using this food to support human health.
If you are drinking apple-cider vinegar daily, it is a good idea to rinse your mouth afterwards, as the acidity of the vinegar can erode tooth enamel over time.