Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Weight Loss?

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“Does Apple Cider Vinegar
Help with Weight Loss?” Vinegar has been used as
a weight-loss aid for nearly 200 years, but does it work? Well, like hot sauce,
it can be a nearly calorie-free way to flavor foods, and there are all sorts
of tasty exotic vinegar out there now like fig, peach, and pomegranate
to choose from. But the question is: is there something special about
vinegar that helps with weight loss? Vinegar is defined as simply
a dilute solution of acetic acid, which takes energy for
our body to metabolize, activating an enzyme called AMPK,
which is like our body’s fuel gauge. If it senses that we’re low, it
amps up energy production and tells the body to stop storing
fat and start burning fat. And so given our obesity epidemic,
oral compounds with high bioavailability must be developed
to safely induce chronic AMPK enzyme activation, which would potentially be
beneficial for long-term weight loss.

No need to develop such
a compound, though, if you can buy it
at any grocery store. We know vinegar can activate
AMPK in human cells, but is the dose one might get
sprinkling it on a salad enough? If you take endothelial cells,
blood-vessel-lining cells, from umbilical cords after babies are
born and expose them to various levels of acetate, which is what the acetic acid
in vinegar turns into in our stomach, it appears to take a concentration of
at least 100 to get a significant boost in AMPK. So how much acetate
do you get in your bloodstream by sprinkling about a tablespoon
of vinegar on your salad? You do hit 100, but only for about 15 minutes.
And even at that concentration, 10 or 20 minutes of exposure
doesn’t seem to do much. Now granted this is in a Petri dish,
but we didn’t have any clinical studies until. . . we did! A double-blind trial investigating
the effects of vinegar intake on the reduction of body fat in
overweight men and women.

Now they call them obese,
but they were slimmer than your average American. In Japan
they call anything over a BMI of 25 obese, whereas the average
American adult is about 28.6. But anyway, they took about
150 overweight individuals, and randomly split them up into one of
three groups: a high-dose vinegar group, where they drank a beverage containing
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day; a low dose group, where they drank
a beverage containing only 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day;
and a placebo control group where they had them drink an
acidic beverage they developed to taste the same as the vinegar drink
but using a different kind of acid, so there was no acetic acid.

No other
changes in their diet or exercise. They monitored their diets
and gave them all pedometers so they could make sure that
the only significant difference between the three groups was
the amount of vinegar they were getting every day.
This is where they started. And within just one month,
statistically significant drops in weight in both vinegar groups
compared to placebo, with higher doses doing
better than a low dose, which just got better and
better, month after month. In fact, by month three, the do-nothing
the placebo group gained weight, as overweight people
tend to do, whereas the vinegar groups
significantly dropped their weight.

Now, was the weight loss
actually significant or just kind of statistically significant?
Well, that’s for you to decide. This is in kilograms, so compared to
the placebo, the 2 tablespoons of vinegar a day group dropped five pounds
by the end of the 12 weeks. That may not sound like a lot, but
they got that for just pennies a day, without removing anything
from their diet. And they got slimmer, up to
nearly an inch off their waist, suggesting they were
losing abdominal fat, but the researchers went
the extra mile and put it to the test. They put the research subjects
through abdominal CT scans to directly measure the amount
of fat before and after in their bodies.

They measured the amount of superficial fat,
visceral fat, and total body fat. Superficial fat is the fat under your
skin that makes for flabby arms and contributes to cellulite.
But visceral fat is the killer. That’s the fat, shown here in white,
building up around your internal organs that bulges out the belly. And that’s
the kind of fat the placebo group was putting on when they were
gaining weight. Not good. But both the low-dose and high-dose vinegar groups were able to remove about a square inch
of visceral fat off that CAT scan slice. Now like any weight loss strategy,
it only works if you do it. A month after they stopped the vinegar,
the weight crept back up, but that’s just additional evidence
that the vinegar was working. But how? A group of researchers in the
The UK suggested an explanation: vinegar beverages are gross. They made a so-called
palatable beverage by mixing a fruity syrup
and vinegar in water, and then went out of their
way to make a nasty unpalatable vinegar beverage,
both with white wine vinegar, which was so unpleasant the study
subjects felt nauseous after drinking them, so ate less
of the meal they gave it with.

So there you go — vinegar helps with
both appetite control and food intake, though these effects were largely due
to the fruity vinegar concoctions invoking feelings of nausea. So
is that what was going on here? Were the vinegar groups
just eating less? No, the vinegar groups were eating
about the same compared to the placebo. Same diet, more weight
loss, thanks perhaps, to the acetic acid’s
impact on AMPK. Now the CT scans make this
a very expensive study, so I was not surprised it was funded
by a company that sells vinegar, which is good, since otherwise, we
wouldn’t have this amazing data.

But is also bad because it
always leaves you wondering if the funding source somehow
manipulated the results. But the nice thing about companies
funding studies about healthy foods, whether it’s some kiwifruit company,
or the National Watermelon Promotion Board —
check it out — is that what’s the worst
that can happen? Here, for example. If the findings turned out to be
bogus, worse comes to worst, your salad would just be tastier.

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