Vinegars are versatile liquids used for cooking, food preservation and cleaning.
Some vinegars — especially apple cider vinegar — have gained popularity in the alternative health community and are said to have an alkalizing effect on the body.
However, it’s well known that vinegars are acidic, leaving many people to wonder whether vinegars are acidic or alkaline.
This article explains whether vinegar is an acid (acidic) or base (alkaline) and whether it matters for your health.
In order to understand if something is an acid (acidic) or base (alkaline), you need to understand what pH is.
The term pH is short for “potential of hydrogen.”
Simply put, pH is a scale that measures how acidic or alkaline something is.
The pH scale ranges from 0–14:
- 0.0–6.9 is acidic
- 7.0 is neutral
- 7.1–14.0 is alkaline (also known as basic)
The human body is slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45.
If your body’s pH falls out of this range, it can have serious or even fatal consequences, as internal processes can malfunction or stop completely (1).
It’s important to note that your body’s pH only changes in certain disease states and is not affected by your diet.
Summary pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. It’s measured on a scale from 0 to 14. Your body is slightly alkaline with a pH of 7.35–7.45.
Vinegar comes from the French phrase “vin aigre,” which means sour wine (2).
It can be made from nearly anything containing sugar, including fruit, vegetables and grains. Yeasts first ferment sugar into alcohol, which is then turned into acetic acid by bacteria.
Acetic acid makes vinegar mildly acidic, with a typical pH of 2–3.
People following the alkaline diet often worry how food affects their body’s pH. That’s why many proponents use urine pH test strips to test their pH levels.
Like most acidic foods, research shows that vinegar makes your urine more acidic (3).
However, some people believe that apple cider vinegar makes your body more alkaline.
Apple cider vinegar is produced similarly to other vinegars, using yeast and acetic acid bacteria. The difference is that it’s made from apples, while white vinegar is made from diluted alcohol, for example (4).
As a result, this may raise urine pH, which is why some people believe apple cider vinegar to be alkaline.
Summary Vinegar is mildly acidic, with a pH of 2–3. Apple cider vinegar is slightly more alkaline because it contains more alkaline nutrients. However, it’s still acidic.
In recent years, the alkaline diet has become a health trend.
It’s based on the idea that different foods can alter your body’s pH.
Proponents believe that eating a diet rich in acidic foods can make your body more acidic and thus more vulnerable to disease and illness.
Conversely, eating more alkaline-rich foods is thought to treat many diseases, such as (1):
- Bone diseases: Proponents of the alkaline diet believe that when your body’s pH is acidic, it uses minerals from your bones to neutralize the acidity. However, studies show that there is no link between the two (7, 8).
- Cancers: Acidic environments are known to promote cancer cell growth, so proponents believe acidic foods may promote cancers. However, evidence shows that there is no link between diet-induced acidosis and cancer (9).
- Muscle loss: Certain conditions such as metabolic acidosis have been shown to promote muscle loss. However, some proponents believe acidic foods may have a similar effect on muscle loss (10).
- Digestive disorders: Eating less acidic foods may relieve digestive discomfort. While this is true, it does not treat more complicated gut disorders (11).
However, no evidence shows that what you eat affects your body’s pH.
If your body’s pH was to fall outside of the healthy range, it could have fatal consequences. That’s why your body has many mechanisms in place to closely regulate the pH balance.
Though foods have been shown to affect your urine pH value, this only happens because your body removes excess acids in the urine to maintain your pH balance (12).
Additionally, your urine pH can be influenced by other factors besides your diet. This makes it a poor indicator of your body’s health and overall pH.
Summary There is no evidence confirming that the pH of foods affects your body’s internal pH. Moreover, changes in urine pH are a poor indicator of health, as many factors outside of your diet can affect your urine pH level.
While vinegars won’t affect your pH, regular consumption may have other benefits.
Here are some benefits of vinegar:
- May kill harmful bacteria: The acidic properties of vinegar make it a great cleaning and disinfecting agent. It’s also used as a natural food preservative to prevent bacteria, such as E.coli, from spoiling food (2).
- May lower heart disease risk factors: Several animal studies have shown that vinegar can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and other heart disease risk factors (13, 14).
- May raise insulin sensitivity: In patients with type 2 diabetes, vinegars have been shown to raise insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels (15, 16).
- May lower cancer risk: Several test-tube and animal studies have found that some vinegars may shrink or kill cancer cells (17).
- May promote weight loss: Studies have shown that vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, may aid weight loss by curbing hunger and reducing calorie intake (18, 19).
Summary Regular consumption or use of vinegar may benefit your heart, blood sugar level, weight and potentially protect against cancers.
Due to alkaline nutrients, apple cider vinegar may make your urine pH slightly alkaline. Still, all vinegars have an acidic pH, making them acidic.
However, the pH of foods does not affect your body’s pH, as internal mechanisms keep your body's levels in tight control to ensure proper function.
The only time the pH of your body falls out of this range is during certain diseased states.
However, vinegars have many other benefits that make them a great addition to your diet.