Celebs and apple cider vinegar diets go together like The Bachelor and helicopter dates: Kourtney Kardashian reportedly drinks ACV twice a day, Victoria Beckham downs it on an empty stomach in the a.m., and Hilary Duff swears by a morning shot.
Tbh, as a health writer, my B.S. radar goes off when I see celebs claiming a certain diet regimen helped them lose weight or “cure” their health issues. But, hey, I was still curious, so I set to find out: Is the hype surrounding “ACV diets” legit?
First, I had to figure out what constitutes an ‘ACV diet…
Let’s just be clear about one thing: There’s no specific “apple cider vinegar diet” that everyone follows—there are a lot of different versions out there. Apple cider vinegar itself (or ACV, as the kids call it), comes from apples that have been crushed, distilled, and then fermented. This produces acetic acid—the vinegar that comes from the fermentation process.
As far as “dosing” recommendations go, ACV doses differ between sources, but the general theory is that you should take one to two teaspoons before or with meals, according to Harvard Health. This method can, apparently, help reduce your appetite and aid in digestion, leading to weight loss over time.
So, what can ACV actually do for your health?
It may help control your cholesterol. One animal study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that rats that had acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, in their diets lowered their LDL, or bad, cholesterol and raised their HDL (good) cholesterol. It’s hard to extrapolate that the results from an animal study would apply to humans though. Sigh.
It’s possible that ACV could boost your digestion, since acid breaks down food, meaning the drink may be particularly helpful for people with low stomach acid. In addition, it could lower blood sugar. A very small study found that vinegars (not just ACV) may help lower glucose in people with diabetes. ACV could also reduce your chances of developing heart disease by lowering triglycerides levels, according to a Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry study. It can also be used for all kinds of at-home beauty treatments.
All in all, ACV does seem to have some benefits, but it’s still unlikely it’ll help much with weight loss. The research on that topic is pretty spotty.
Most of the studies about ACV have been done on animals—or in really small groups of people, explains Eliza Whetzel-Savage, RD, a registered dietitian at Middleburg Nutrition in New York City. “There is one study of people that showed ACV may slow digestion of food and liquid, which may help stabilize blood sugar,” she says. “But overall, there is not much science to support many of the claims.”
Still, she says, ACV is fermented—and fermented foods can increase the good bacteria in the gut that are linked to healthier weights.
So it makes sense that ACV could promote weight loss, she says. It’s just not proven… yet? And, Whetzel-Savage reassured me, apple cider vinegar is, in fact, safe to drink, so there’s not really any reason not to try it.
So…I set out to try the ‘ACV diet’ myself.
I vowed to mix a couple of teaspoons of ACV into a glass of water (this makes it a little easier on your stomach) and drink it every morning for a month, as well as throughout the day when I could. I bought a big bottle of unpasteurized ACV (with “the mother,” a.k.a. the colony of beneficial bacteria, left inside), and set it front and center on my tiny kitchen counter to remind me to drink it every morning.
Courtesy of Kristin Canning
Turns out, I actually kinda loved the taste of apple cider vinegar.
I really like sour things, and ACV is extremely sour, so I loved the taste of some ACV diluted in water—it tasted like a sour apple juice mixed with kombucha. It has that pungent smell and taste of something fermented, which I also like (it was similar to the funk of foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles).
ACV made plain water a little more interesting and refreshing. I even started to look forward to my ACV ritual, and throughout the month, I added it to my water all throughout the day.
The fact that ACV-water tasted better to me than plain ol’ H2O made getting enough fluids much easier. I was much more hydrated than I normally am, and yes, I was peeing more than usual.
…But it didn’t make me eat less.
People say ACV can act as an appetite suppressant, so I tried to drink it before eating anything—but that was hard. Sometimes I finished my ACV drink while also throwing back coffee or nibbling on breakfast. Even if the ACV didn’t directly slash my appetite, I hoped the extra hydration would make me a little less hungry. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t notice any difference in my hunger levels or how much food I was eating. Oh, well.
Courtesy of Kristin Canning
Drinking ACV and then working out was a bad idea.
On the weekends, I often wake up and work out before doing much else. That occasionally led to my chugging my ACV drink and then running immediately afterward. Do. Not. Do. This.
ACV is obviously really acidic (that’s why you have to dilute it), and drinking it fast and then running made me feel like my esophagus was on fire. Lesson learned: Don’t drink ACV right before working out.
My weight definitely didn’t change.
I was skeptical that adding ACV to my diet—even for a month—would lead to weight loss, especially since my appetite didn’t change. And…I was right. When I weighed myself throughout the experiment, the number on the scale stayed the same. Womp womp.
Courtesy of Kristin Canning
…But my bathroom habits did.
During the month-long experiment, I was (TMI warning) pooping less frequently than normal. And my B.M.s were, err, bigger and more solid than I was used to.
I had no idea what was going on there, so I checked in with Whetzel-Savage. She said that ACV shouldn’t cause constipation, but she reminded me that, even though I was drinking more water, I was also drinking less caffeine because I was often swapping coffee for my ACV drink. So I probably just had fewer coffee poops. #LessonLearned
A few months out, I still drink ACV occasionally.
It’s been five months since I finished my ACV experiment, and I’ve stopped drinking it every day. (And, because you’re all wondering, yes, my bathroom habits are back to normal.)
As much as I liked the tart taste, I didn’t like pushing back my coffee time or replacing it with a giant bottle of water and ACV. I rely on coffee to wake me up and keep me regular (I’m a creature of habit, what can I say?). It’s also nice not to have to worry about heartburn during my morning runs, too.
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That said, I do still mix ACV into smoothies, cocktails, and occasionally water when I’m feeling fancy. It adds a fresh, bright flavor to drinks that I really enjoy. I’ve also started using ACV in salad dressings and meat and veggie marinades, which I highly recommend—if for nothing but the taste alone.
For me, ACV didn’t make a big difference in how I felt or looked—I didn’t lose weight or feel healthier going on it, or coming off it—so it didn’t make sense to force myself to keep drinking it every day. But I am glad I tried it–it’s become a great addition to my some of my go-to dishes.