People swear by apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Does it actually work?

There is no magic bullet for weight loss.

My main job as an emergency physician is to rule out life-threatening causes of what brings people to the ER. But I value those rare opportunities during a quiet shift to talk with patients about proven dietary or exercise regimens they could adopt to improve their overall health.

A lot of my patients don’t have a primary care doctor, can’t get an appointment or lost their job and health insurance during the pandemic; their ER visit is one of the few times they can ask a doctor their burning lifestyle questions.

Recently, a patient asked me about apple cider vinegar pills. He’d read on the Internet that they help with weight loss. Apple cider vinegar is proven to control blood sugar spikes in some type 2 diabetics and reduce LDL cholesterol. But does the science support it as a weight loss method?

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples that have been processed, distilled and fermented. Acetic acid is the active ingredient in apple cider vinegar (as in all vinegars) and is likely the driver of any health benefits. But its acidic nature and high potential for damage to tooth enamel and GI tract lining if consumed undiluted in large quantities likely limits both research studies and widespread use. This has not stopped supplement manufacturers from packaging it into pills, perhaps to make it more palatable to consumers.

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Scientific studies on apple cider vinegar’s ability to help with weight loss are limited. In one small study, 39 participants who took 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily lost 3-4 pounds at the end of 12 months. In a larger study of 175 overweight participants who were given 2 tablespoons of regular vinegar daily, researchers observed a similar weight loss of 2-4 pounds. While significant, such meager results pale in comparison to other proven diets, exercise and weight loss programs.

Can apple cider vinegar help you lose weight? Let's take a look at the science.

Can apple cider vinegar help you lose weight? Let’s take a look at the science.

Anecdotally, some patients report that including a tablespoon of diluted apple cider vinegar in their diet makes them feel fuller faster and reduces snack cravings…