5 health uses for apple cider vinegar

If you’re using it only in salad dressing, you’re missing out

Apple cider vinegar makes a tasty salad dressing, but if that’s the only way you use it, you might be missing out. It’s also a popular ingredient in home remedies that promise a host of benefits, from shiny hair to weight loss.

Among the most popular claims are these five uses for apple cider vinegar:

  1. Soothe a sore throat. Gargle with a mixture of 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of warm water, repeating once an hour. Also try adding some honey to the mixture and sipping it while it’s still warm.
  2. Settle your stomach. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to 1 cup of water or apple juice and drink it to ease indigestion.
  3. Lose weight. It’s believed that the acetic acid in vinegar may help block the body’s ability to digest starch, saving you the calories that go with it. Another contributing factor is the possibility that vinegar can lower blood sugar levels.
  4. Condition your hair. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water and rinse your hair with it after shampooing. Doing this a few times a week is believed to make your hair shinier and improve how it holds a style.
  5. Freshen your breath. Rinse your mouth with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to help reduce bad breath.

So how does the science stack up? Are any of these claims backed by research?

“Because apple cider vinegar is affordable and at your local grocery store, there have been very few studies, and these have been more commonly in animals than humans,” said Rachel J. Busse, M.D., a family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Highlands. “Nonetheless, some studies have shown a beneficial effect on glucose or on cholesterol.”

For example, in a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, Japanese scientists tested the weight loss theory on people after seeing the results of a study on mice. For 12 weeks, three groups drank a daily beverage containing 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 ounce or no vinegar at all. At the end of the study, the vinegar groups had less belly fat and lower triglycerides.

Another study published in the same journal showed that apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar levels. Participants who drank 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar along with a snack before bedtime had lower blood sugar levels in the morning, compared to when they ate the same snack but drank plain water instead.

However, much of how apple cider vinegar is used is based on anecdotal evidence — people sharing their experiences, according to Dr. Busse.

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“For example, some people with acid reflux find that they actually need more acid and improve on a small dose of apple cider vinegar each day. Many people also gargle with it for a sore throat or use it with an upper respiratory infection,” she said.

When you choose your apple cider vinegar, look for an organic, unfiltered variety to get the benefits of probiotics, Dr. Busse said. Those good bacteria, found in brands labeled “with the mother,” are destroyed by processing.

If you decide to try a daily vinegar regimen for weight loss, don’t drink it straight. It’s best to dilute it, because the highly acidic liquid can cause damage to the teeth or throat. Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons in water with a little honey or use it in a salad dressing or marinade.

And don’t overdo it.

“We should not assume that if some is good, then more must be better,” Dr. Busse said. “There have been case studies where patients had electrolyte abnormalities from excessive use of apple cider vinegar for weight loss.”

Dr. Busse also stressed that before trying any of these remedies, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor.

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