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  • People who drank a small amount of apple cider vinegar each day lost weight and saw decreases in BMI and waist circumference.
  • They also saw improvements in metabolic markers such as levels of blood glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.
  • Experts say apple cider vinegar, if used for weight loss, should be used alongside a healthy diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle changes.

Apple cider vinegar, made from fermented apple juice, is a tasty base for salad dressings. But it could also help people lose weight and improve their metabolic health, a recent study suggests.

Researchers found that people who drank up to 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day, mixed in water, had decreases in body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference.

They also saw improvements in metabolic markers such as blood levels of glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

The study was published Mar. 12 in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

The study included 120 adolescents and young adults (aged 12 to 25 years) from Lebanon who had obesity or were overweight. Almost two-thirds of the participants were female. Most reported not having an exercise routine.

None of the participants were taking medications. Large doses of apple cider vinegar may interact with medications such as digoxin, insulin, medications for diabetes, and diuretic drugs (water pills).

Apple cider vinegar might also damage tooth enamel, in a similar way as fruit juice and soda.

Researchers randomly assigned participants to drink either apple cider vinegar (5, 10 or 15 milliliters) or lactic acid — both mixed in 1 cup of water — three times a day for 12 weeks. People didn’t know which drink they received.

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which gives it its strong flavor and sour smell. It also contains other compounds, such as polyphenols, which may have health benefits in addition to those of acetic acid.

In the study, researchers used lactic acid as a comparison, or placebo, because it has a similar taste and appearance as apple cider vinegar.

Participants drank their assigned beverage in the morning on an empty stomach. This was to reduce the possible effects of people eating food at the same time.

Participants also recorded what they ate throughout the day in a diet diary, and recorded their physical activity.

During the first study visit and after 4, 8, and 12 weeks, researchers measured participants’ height, weight, waist circumference, and body fat. They also collected a blood sample from each participant to measure the levels of glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

People who drank daily doses of apple cider vinegar saw decreases in body weight and BMI at weeks 4, 8, and 12, compared to the first study visit, researchers found.

The largest weight changes occurred among people who drank 10 or 15 milliliters of apple cider vinegar a day. They lost on average 15 pounds over 12 weeks.

Waist circumference and body fat also decreased among people who drank apple cider vinegar, with similar changes seen among the three groups. This was only true at weeks 8 and 12, not week 4.

In addition, metabolic measures improved in people who drank apple cider vinegar. The level of their blood glucose decreased at weeks 4, 8, and 12, and triglycerides and total cholesterol decreased at weeks 8 and 12, compared to the first study visit.

The 15-milliliter dose of apple cider vinegar for 12 weeks appeared most effective in reducing these blood markers.

In contrast, the placebo group lost an average of less than 1 pound over the 12 weeks and did not see significant changes in the other body measures or metabolic markers.

None of the study participants reported any negative side effects of drinking apple cider vinegar.

Researchers also found that participants’ diet and physical activity did not differ among the apple cider vinegar groups and placebo groups. This suggests that the changes in body measures and blood measures were due to the consumption of apple cider vinegar, they write.

Although people continued to follow their “normal” diet throughout the study, it is possible that they unconsciously cut back on their calories, said Dr. Amy Lee, head of nutrition for Nucific.

She also cautions that the study only included 120 people, so the results may not apply to the real world.

“Nutrition-based trials are difficult at times because we have to take into account one’s individual metabolism, and the impact of stress and their environment, which can play a role in one’s behavior and even the way one burns calories,” Lee told Healthline.

The results of the new study fit with earlier research, the authors write, which found similar benefits of consuming 15 or 30 milliliters of apple cider vinegar a day.

However, the reason apple cider vinegar has these kinds of effects on body measures and metabolic health is not fully understood.

Some research suggests that apple cider vinegar, or its individual compounds, may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It might also slow the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). Both of these actions can improve heart health.

Taking apple cider vinegar before meals could also reduce appetite and increase a sense of fullness, as well as have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, the authors wrote.

However, some studies suggest that the feeling of fullness after consuming vinegar may be due to discomfort and nausea rather than any direct appetite-suppressing properties.

“The mechanism of action of apple cider vinegar can make a difference in the way someone handles the foods that they eat, and ultimately, this translates to weight loss if done consistently,” Lee told Healthline.

Given the results of this kind of research, “there is nothing bad about taking something like apple cider vinegar,” she said, “but one should be mindful that success in losing weight and maintaining weight loss requires an overall change in intake of food and lifestyle change.”

Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in heart disease at EntirelyNourished.com, agrees, saying apple cider vinegar is not a “magic pill.”

“[Apple cider vinegar] needs to be looked at in conjunction with overall diet and physical activity, as well as stress and sleep management, to have a significant long-lasting impact.”

Researchers randomly assigned 120 adolescents and young adults to drink apple cider vinegar or lactic acid — the placebo — in the morning on an empty stomach, both mixed in 1 cup of water.

People who drank apple cider vinegar lost weight and saw decreases in BMI and waist circumference over 12 weeks. They also had improvements in metabolic measures — levels of blood glucose, triglycerides and total cholesterol.

Apple cider vinegar may work by increasing fullness, decreasing appetite and having positive effects on insulin sensitivity and cholesterol and triglycerides.