The Real Science of How Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help You Lose Fat and Control Blood Sugar

There are many blogs talking about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and how it can help you lose weight. Similarly, there are many blogs saying that this is all just a myth – that ACV has no effect on weight or fat loss.

It’s time to set this straight. I have never seen a post that actually discussed the major studies done on ACV, so I’m here to let you know what the results were and what this means to you. What does the science really say about the ability of ACV to help you lose weight? Find out once and for all:

Apple Cider Vinegar Definitely Helps to Suppress Hunger

This one isn’t debatable. There are human studies that shows that vinegar (any kind, not just ACV) suppresses hunger and will increase feelings of fullness when taken before a meal.(1) It does this through the main compound that makes vinegar actually vinegar: acetic acid or acetate. Acetic acid is the main acid in vinegar, and it is produced not only by the bacteria that fermented the original product (apples, for example) into vinegar, but it is also produced by the microbes in your colon when you consume fermentable fiber.

Acetic acid from vinegar reduces a protein in the hypothalamus called AMPk. AMPk is a protein that responds to energy balance in the cell by the AMP/ATP ratio. While I won’t go into details here, suffice it to say that AMPk being elevated can be good or bad depending on what organ you’re talking about and what effect you are after. For example, AMPk being elevated in the liver increases fat oxidation (fat burning) and decreases gluconeogenesis (the production of new glucose, usually from amino acids).(2) Vinegar actually does this, but we’ll get into that later. However, AMPk being elevated in the hypothalamus actually stimulates hunger.(3) This is because AMPk will usually get activated in the brain if you have been fasting for some time. This is the main way that vinegar decreases hunger: it shuts down AMPk selectively in the hypothalamus to decrease the sense of hunger, and it does this through the acetate / acetic acid that is in the vinegar!(4)

Thus, having a dose of vinegar before a meal can help to decrease your sense of hunger when you are done with the meal.(10)

 

Apple Cider Vinegar Increaes Fat Burning

Okay, now we have to get back to AMPk again. Remember, AMPk rises when the cells sense that they are short on energy, using the ratio of AMP/ATP. AMPk usually rises when you have been fasting for some time. This tells the cells to stop performing anabolic actions (such as store fat) and start performing catabolic actions (such as oxidize that fat). Acetate from vinegar increases AMPk in the liver and in fat cells.(5) It does this because when acetate enters a cell, it gets converted to Acetyl-CoA (in order to be used later for energy), but during this process it uses up an ATP molecule and converts it to AMP, thus increasing the AMP/ATP ratio and activating AMPk. This then leads to an increase in fat oxidation in the cells AND an increase in gene expression related to the ability of the cells to burn fat (such as PPAR-delta and PPAR-alpha, which also increases endurance capacity).(6)

 

Due to This Increased Ability to Burn Fat, Vinegar Reduces Fat Mass Over Time

It’s one thing for studies to show an acute effect on fat oxidation from some compound. It is another to show in multiple studies that this actually leads to a reduction in fat over time. Vinegar shines on all fronts here. Not only have there been multiple animal studies showing that chronic vinegar consumption increases fat loss over time,(5,6,7,8,9) but human trials have confirmed this.(11) Again, the main way that this happens is through the short, but significant, increases in AMPk that vinegar produces over time. This will allow blood glucose to get taken up by muscle cells easier, get stored more as glycogen instead of getting burned, and burn fat instead. Below are the results from the human trial. The “low dose” group consumed 15 mL (1 TBSP) of vinegar and the “high dose” group consumed 30 mL (2 TBSP) of vinegar a day:

Human results with 1 or 2 tbsp a day of ACV

Taken from Condo et al., 2009

While these results are definitely encouraging, it should be noted that the people in this study consumed much less vinegar than the rodent studies in general, which is likely why the results are not as spectacular. Perhaps the results would have been even better if the subjects consumed 2 Tbsp with each meal, for 6 Tbsp total? Anyway, the authors conclude:

“Body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups than in the placebo group. In conclusion, daily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.”

 

Vinegar Increases Fat Burning While Having NO Negative Effects on Muscle

I wanted to add this part in here because some people who are very familiar with AMPk might have some concerns about activating it in skeletal muscle. Due to the antagonism between AMPk and mTOR (a stimulator of protein synthesis), some might be worried that consuming vinegar might negatively affect their muscle growth.

Actually, it won’t, and it may help due to the increase in insulin sensitivity and the blunting of gluconeogenesis in the liver (thus saving those amino acids from turning into glucose). The reason why you don’t need to worry about this AMPk is because vinegar stimulates specifically the AMPk-2alpha isoform,(5) while only the AMPk-1alpha isoform interferes with muscle growth.(12) Thus, there is nothing to worry about with vinegar slowing down your gains. Furthermore, AMPk only tends to interfere with muscle growth when it is chronically activated (like some diabetic medication does), not when it is transiently activated (like vinegar does).

 

So How Can I Use This Information

If you want to take advantage of this fat burning effect from vinegar, it would be best to have some ACV before each meal. Regular vinegar works too, but likely not as well. This is because the polyphenols present in the fruit vinegars likely enhance the fat burning effect.(13)

The vinegar does not need to be acidic to have these beneficial effects. Since very acidic drinks can be bad for your teeth, you are better off mixing the vinegar with some baking soda to lower the acidity. This will turn the acetic acid into sodium acetate, which is fine. After you do this, you can add some extra water, a sweetener, or juice.

The way that I started to do it to make taking it easier is the following: add 4.5 oz of ACV (about 9 TBS) in a water bottle (preferably glass or metal). Next add about a tsp of baking soda SLOWLY, as it will foam up (play around with this to make it as acidic or basic as you want). Next put a grape or berry crystal light packet into the vinegar (no, I am not at all concerned about the little bit of artificial sweetener in this, but if you are, you can use one with stevia). Once it’s done foaming, fill the water bottle to the top with cold water.

Now you can drink 1/3 of that water bottle before each of your 3 main meals during the day!

Keep in mind that vinegar is not a miracle cure for fat loss. Taking vinegar will NOT make up for a bad diet. Vinegar should be used to slightly increase the effects of an already well put together diet. Similarly, it can be used to offset some fat gain on a high-carb bulk (since it will tend to decrease the ability of carbs to get stored as fat).

In my next post, I’ll go into some of the other benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and how it can help with some chronic diseases such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Stay tuned!

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below! Also, if you enjoyed this information, please share on social media. This really helps me, allows me to reach more people, and encourages me to keep writing! =)

 

 

References:

  1. Frost G, Sleeth ML, Sahuri-Arisoylu M, et al. The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nature Communications. 2014;5:3611. doi:10.1038/ncomms4611.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015327/
  2. Viollet B, Foretz M, Guigas B, et al. Activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in the liver: a new strategy for the management of metabolic hepatic disorders. The Journal of Physiology. 2006;574(Pt 1):41-53. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2006.108506.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1817784/
  3. Andersson U, Filipsson K, Abbott CR, Woods A, Smith K, Bloom SR, Carling D, Small CJ. AMP-activated protein kinase plays a role in the control of food intake. J Biol Chem. 2004 Mar 26;279(13):12005-8. Epub 2004 Jan 23. PubMed PMID: 14742438.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14742438
  4. Frost G, Sleeth ML, Sahuri-Arisoylu M, et al. The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nature Communications. 2014;5:3611. doi:10.1038/ncomms4611.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015327/
  5. Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Kaga T. Acetic acid upregulates the expression of genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes in liver to suppress body fat accumulation. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57(13):5982-6.
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf900470c
  6. Pan JH, Kim JH, Kim HM, et al. Acetic acid enhances endurance capacity of exercise-trained mice by increasing skeletal muscle oxidative properties. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2015;79(9):1535-41.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09168451.2015.1034652
  7. Hee-Kyoung Son, Yeon-Kyoung Kim, Hye Won Shin, Hee Jeong Lim, Byoung-Seok Moon, Jae-Joon Lee. Comparison of Anti-obesity Effects of Spirit Vinegar and Natural Fermented Vinegar Products on the Differentiation of 3T3-L1 Cells and Obese Rats Fed a High-fat Diet. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. Vol. 5, No. 8, 2017, pp 594-605.
    http://pubs.sciepub.com/jfnr/5/8/10
  8. Hanatani S, Motoshima H, Takaki Y, et al. Acetate alters expression of genes involved in beige adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells and obese KK-Ay mice. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 2016;59(3):207-214. doi:10.3164/jcbn.16-23.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110936/
  9. Beh BK, Mohamad NE, Yeap SK, et al. Anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory effects of synthetic acetic acid vinegar and Nipa vinegar on high-fat-diet-induced obese mice. Scientific Reports. 2017;7:6664. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06235-7.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532206/
  10. Ostman E, Granfeldt Y, Persson L, Björck I. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;59(9):983-8. PubMed PMID: 16015276.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16015276
  11. Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43. Epub 2009 Aug 7. PubMed PMID: 19661687.
    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bbb/73/8/73_90231/_pdf
  12. Mounier R, Lantier L, Leclerc J, Sotiropoulos A, Foretz M, Viollet B. Antagonistic control of muscle cell size by AMPK and mTORC1. Cell Cycle. 2011 Aug 15;10(16):2640-6. Epub 2011 Aug 15. PubMed PMID: 21799304.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21799304
  13. Bouazza A, Bitam A, Amiali M, Bounihi A, Yargui L, Koceir EA. Effect of fruit vinegars on liver damage and oxidative stress in high-fat-fed rats. Pharm Biol. 2016;54(2):260-5.
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2015.1031910