Should I take apple cider vinegar gummies for health?
March 3, 2023
Apple cider vinegar (ACV for short) gummies are one of the latest ‘health’ trends taking the wellness community by storm.
It is essentially the apple cider vinegar shot trend, repacked into a more fun (and more appetising) vessel – the gummy.
With claims that you can heal your gut, detox your body and drop weight faster (just to name a few) all by simply taking a few gummies each day, it is no wonder why this trend has caught fire so quickly.
But is there actually any validity to the plethora of proposed benefits?
Luckily, we are here to unpack the fact and fiction when it comes to ACV gummies and your health.
What is apple cider vinegar (ACV)?
Before we get into unpacking the evidence (or lack of) behind ACV gummies, we should probably first address what ACV is.
ACV is essentially a vinegar made from crushed apples which then undergoes a fermentation process by being mixed with bacteria and yeast (similar to making beer).
In this process, the sugars in the apples are converted first into ethanol, then into a product called acetic acid. This acetic acid is what gives ACV its acidic taste and pungent smell. The acetic acid content of ACV is also where many of the proposed health benefits come from.
This end product is a versatile vinegar that has a myriad of uses including:
- Baking to enhance texture in cakes (especially in egg-free recipes)
- Cooking – e.g. salad dressings, marinades, sauces and soups
- Homemade skin and hair treatments
- Household cleaning products
More recently, ACV has become popular to drink straight or with lemon juice and/or other spices in a ‘health tonic’.
Note: ACV is not to be confused with apple cider. Apple cider does not undergo the same fermentation process and therefore does not have the same ‘superfood’ claims.
What are ACV gummies?
If you have ever tried taking a shot of ACV, you would have likely discovered that it isn’t the most pleasant thing to drink. To make this wellness trend a bit more appetising, the ACV gummy was created.
ACV gummies typically pack a concentrated form of ACV in with some sugar, thickeners/gelling agents, and sometimes some extra nutrients or ‘superfoods’ to create a product similar to a gummy vitamin.
What are the proposed benefits of ACV gummies?
The list of health claims attributed to taking ACV gummies is endless but some of the most common ones that pop up are weight loss, detoxifying and cleansing the body, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and improving blood sugar control.
However, there is currently no research on the benefits of ACV gummies specifically. Instead, it is best to look at the research done on apple cider vinegar itself.
Benefits of apple cider vinegar
Over the years, ACV has been linked to a myriad of health benefits, including, but not limited to:
- Providing a quick fix to your weight loss struggles
- Improving digestion
- Detoxifying the body
- Improving blood sugar control
- Promoting heart health
But, do any of these claims actually have any scientific backing? Read on to find out what the sience actually says about these claims!
The claim that ACV is the cure to your weight loss struggles stems from just one main study by Japanese researchers in 2009 (1). The study split 155 participants into three groups who drank either one or two tablespoons of ACV, or a placebo each day for twelve weeks.
At the end of the study, those in the ACV groups lost on average 2 to 4 pounds. To put this into context, that’s only a 1 to 2kg weight loss over about 3 months. It is also important to mention that when followed up 4
weeks later, most participants had already started regaining the weight they lost.
Although this is an area that has been researched for quite a number of years, there has yet to be any other substantial evidence to back up the claim that ACV helps you lose weight.
So, as with most weight loss ‘quick fixes’, ACV in unlikely the answer to neither substantial nor sustainable weight loss.
Ultimately, weight loss comes down to your entire diet and lifestyle behaviours and adding some extra apple cider vinegar each day is not going to outweigh this.
Any weight loss associated with ACV is most likely going to come down to more of a psychological shift whereby if taking a daily ACV shot or gummy makes you feel like you are doing something beneficial for your health, it may make you more likely to continue making more nutritious choices throughout the rest of the day.
Bloating, digestion and gut health
Whilst it would be great if we could tell you the taking some ACV in the morning is the missing link to improve your digestion and reduce/eliminate uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, wind or abdominal pain, sadly it is unlikely going to be of significant benefit.
The main mechanism fuelling the gut health claims is due to a component in ACV called the “mother”. This is essentially a cloud of bacteria contained
in the vinegar (you often see it settle at the bottom of the bottle) which is created during the fermentation process we discussed earlier on.
The “mother” is a probiotic meaning it is a source of ‘good’ bacteria which helps promote good gut health by adding to the beneficial bacteria in our gut.
As with a lot of the research into the benefits of ACV, studies into ACV and gut health are few and far and there is yet to even be enough strong evidence to support ACV as a source of probiotics.
Bottom line is, there is no one food or drink which is the magic solution to good gut health nor is there a one size fits all approach when it comes to managing uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain.
Plus, if you’re looking to increase the probiotics in your diet, there are so many other options such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut and yoghurt which have much stronger evidence supporting their benefits as a probiotic.
Our best advice to tackle digestion and gut issues – book in for a consult with an experienced gut health dietitian such as one at The PNW Clinic for individualised advice.
Cholesterol and heart health
There have been some animal studies which suggest that ACV promotes the breakdown of fats such as LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides which are the type of fats that can build up in our arteries and increase risk of heart disease (2).
However, animal studies, no matter how well designed, do not necessarily translate to humans. This is because we simply aren’t the same and in the case of fat metabolism and ACV – animals have different metabolisms to us.
In terms of human studies to back these claims, the pool is very limited. There are two studies of note which found participants experience significant reductions in their cholesterol levels after taking ACV daily. However, the studies were very small with less than fifty people each (3, 4).
So, whilst there may be a small amount of benefit for regulating cholesterol levels, there definitely needs to be more research into this area before any strong claims can be made.
Plus, adding in daily ACV is unlikely going to be the most beneficial thing you can focus on when it comes to heart health.
Detoxing the body
This is a pretty easy one to debunk. No food, drink or supplement is going to ‘detox’ the body.
But, luckily for us, the body already has inbuilt detoxification systems doing the job for us! Our liver, kidneys and lungs already do a great job at removing any toxins and other harmful substances in the bodies.
Blood sugar levels and diabetes control
Regulating blood sugar levels is one area which apple cider vinegar seems to have some promising merit.
The proposed mechanism is down to a component contained in ACV called acetic acid.
Essentially, acetic acid delays gastric emptying after a meal. This refers to how fast your stomach releases food into your intestines during digestion. So, slower gastric emptying means a slower release of sugar from digested carbohydrate-rich foods into the blood steam.
This results in less of a spike in blood sugar post meals and makes it easier for the body to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
This may be especially beneficial with those with insulin resistance such as in Type 2 Diabetes and PCOS.
Whilst research is still limited, there are a few studies that support this claim.
For example, one study which compared participants’ blood sugar response to a meal of a bagel and orange juice both with and without ACV, found that taking ACV with the meal led to a more favourable blood sugar response (5).
However, taking a morning shot or gummy is unlikely to be the best way to reap the proposed blood sugar balancing benefits of ACV. This is because the ACV needs to be taken with or near the meal for these benefits to occur.
Adding some ACV to your carbohydrate-rich meals is likely going to be a much better approach. For example, adding it into a sauce/marinade in a sandwich/wrap into a dressing for a pasta/potato salad or side salad alongside a carbohydrate-rich meal main meal.
Are there any downsides of taking ACV gummies?
Now that we’ve covered the potential benefits, are there any risks associated with taking ACV gummies?
In general, there are no huge risks but there are a few downsides which are worthwhile considering.
As with a lot of ‘wellness’ supplements, ACV gummies can come with a pretty expensive price tag. Especially as many require
you to take multiple each day.
Considering that the science backing up their effectiveness is pretty poor, it’s probably well worth your time to weigh up if adding in ACV gummies are going to be a waste of money for you. Especially considering there are a lot more evidence-backed strategies that can help with all the aforementioned health conditions.
Most supplements aren’t strongly regulated by our food safety governing bodies for safety or quality. This means there is potential they may contain some not-so-great things such as traces of heavy metals as well as inaccurate dosages of ACV and acetic acid.
Plus, their efficacy and ability to live up to the strong health claims on the bottle are also poorly regulated so there’s a good chance they likely aren’t going to live up to expectations.
As with most gummies, to make them actual taste good, most will contain some sugar. One company in particular recommends taking 6 gummies per day, each with 1g of sugar. This ends up totalling an extra 6g of sugar each day.
Although this isn’t overly significant in the context of the rest of your diet, if you’re using them primarily to help balance your blood sugars, it is a bit counter intuitive and could potentially negate any proposed benefits.
This is more of an issue for those taking straight shots of ACV rather than the gummy form, but still worth mentioning.
ACV is quite acidic which means that it has the potential to cause tooth decay, sensitivity and cavities (6). This especially important if you are taking it undiluted and daily.
The bottom line
So, the final verdict – should you take apple cider vinegar for health?
In short, no.
Whilst there may be some small benefits, it definitely isn’t the answer to solving any of your health concerns or the magic key to kick-starting your weight loss goals.
However, if you would like to give them a try, there definitely isn’t a whole lot of risk associated other than the financial cost.
Our advice – if you want to trial ACV we recommend skipping the gummies and instead try incorporating one to two tablespoons of straight apple cider vinegar each day by adding it into marinades or dressings.
Or, if you prefer to take it straight, make sure to dilute it with water to protect your teeth and throat.
What’s our best advice if you are struggling with uncomfortable gut symptoms or any of the other aforementioned health concerns? We recommend booking a free discovery call with one of our online dietitians at The PNW Clinic for individualised and evidence-backed advice!
Article written by PNW dietitian Georgia D’Andrea