You probably know by now that the whole "drinking apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight" claim is pretty much bogus. There's no real scientific evidence that ACV has any major health perks, and while it's not necessarily dangerous, going all in on the stuff might have some unwanted side effects. (Just put it on a salad, people!)
But *just* when you thought the issue had been put to bed, ACV pills—dietary supplements containing dehydrated apple cider vinegar—turned up and reignited similar questions: Are apple cider vinegar pills for weight loss any more effective than sipping the stuff? And better yet, is the pill form safe?
Totally valid things to think about. But before you shell out for a month's supply of the supplements, here are a few things you should know about using apple cider vinegar pills for weight loss.
What exactly are ACV pills?
You know how even taking a sip of apple cider vinegar feels like ingesting pure acid? Well, with ACV pills, the vinegar is dehydrated and put into tablet or capsule form—so you side-step that icky taste issue. By taking them, you can *allegedly* receive all the health benefits of drinking ACV without burning your esophagus.
It's a good idea in theory, but it's not that simple. "Because vinegar is acidic, some people don’t tolerate it all that well," Leslie Bonci, RD, the owner of Active Eating Advice, previously told Women's Health. She adds that the vinegar can be especially irritating for those prone to stomachaches or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease.
What are the supposed benefits of apple cider vinegar pills?
Since both the vinegar and the pills can cause health issues if you go overboard, why are people bothering with either one? Well, there are some supposed benefits—but it’s worth mentioning that many of these results haven’t really been proven yet (and have mainly been shown in animal studies, not human ones).
1. Weight loss
According to Vanessa Rissetto, RD, a New Jersey-based nutritionist, it's the acetic acid in ACV that makes people believe it can help drop pounds. The theory is that it may prevent fat deposits and improve metabolism; this was reinforced by a small Japanese study which showed that participants who consumed a daily beverage containing vinegar had lower body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist circumference after 12 weeks than participants who didn’t consume any vinegar.
Again, the weight loss benefits here are understudied and, so far, only a potential side effect.
2. Lower risk of heart disease
When two groups of rats (plus a placebo group) were fed a diet consisting of different amounts of cholesterol, only the group given cholesterol and acetic acid showed improvement in several lipid levels. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels increased in the cholesterol-only group.
3. Lower blood sugar
Several different small studies have linked ACV to better blood sugar control and lower insulin levels, factors which may improve diabetes management. An older study from 1995 suggested that acetic acid in vinegar form led to lower blood sugar levels than acetic acid in other forms. A more recent rat study found ACV lowered blood sugar and insulin levels even when the fed diet was high-fat.
Okay, so ACV pills probably don't have any proven benefits at this point. But are they safe to try anyway?
Because ingesting ACV in liquid form is generally considered safe (minus irritation and even nutritional deficiencies if you take it too far), people may assume that taking ACV pills is equally harmless and simply more convenient. But none of the small, inconclusive studies that have been done on apple cider vinegar have studied the pill form—only the liquid. So, really, no one knows if they're safe for sure.
Additionally, taking any kind of supplement is considered a “buyer beware” situation, says Rissetto—and ACV pills are no different. “Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so you never actually know what you're getting in them,” she explains. “They may say there is apple cider vinegar in there, but research has shown that with supplements often it's not the exact amounts, or even what they claim to be providing.”
How do the pills compare to drinking ACV for weight loss?
The fact that most ACV research has been done on animals (like this rat study, that found ACV lowered blood sugar and insulin levels) or in very small groups of people shows that we don't really have a solid basis for any health-related claims. Whether you're popping pills or chugging the stuff, it's not likely to make a huge difference in your weight or health.
That said, it’s important to remember that the vinegar, at least, has been studied, and products sold in stores need to be compliant with FDA standards. It hasn’t been proven to offer any real benefits, but you do know what you’re getting.
The pills, on the other hand, exist in a pretty unregulated gray area, considering the FDA does not regulate supplements. We have literally no idea what they can or can’t do. (Probably nothing...but at least with the straight-up vinegar, we have a better idea of what’s possible.)
Are there any possible side effects of ACV pills that I should be worried about?
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Eating in Color, warns that while she wouldn’t really recommend ACV pills for anyone, there may be actual risks for certain groups of people: “Diabetics should absolutely avoid [them], as they may lower their blood sugar levels, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding—or anyone under a doctor’s supervision—should also steer clear.”
These pills also just make you feel crappy: One study found that people who consumed a drink with 25 grams of apple cider vinegar with breakfast felt significantly more nauseous than people who didn't. And another case study found that ACV pills could potentially lower your potassium levels, which is not a good thing.
Still curious about ACV pills? *At least* keep the following advice in mind.
It's tempting as hell to believe that losing weight may be as simple as popping a few supplements, but sorry, no. “There's no magic pill for weight loss,” says Rissetto. “As for ACV pills, more human studies are needed to understand how and if they work for maximum efficacy.”
Largeman-Roth agrees, calling ACV pills a waste of money, at the very least. “A 16-oz bottle of organic apple cider vinegar is just $4.99, while a bottle of 60 pills is between $16 and $18,” she says. “If you’re a healthy individual who wants to see if apple cider vinegar helps you in any way, I’d suggest going with the actual vinegar. You can use it in a salad dressing or blend it into a smoothie.”
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