The Truth: Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss

Discover more about one of the latest trends, apple cider vinegar, and whether or not it really does bring significant weight loss results.

Updated: Wednesday 26 October 2022

using apple cider vinegar for weight loss

When it comes to weight loss, there is never a quick fix solution to achieving your goals in a healthy, sustainable way. Popular weight loss trends and fads come and go; so it is important to make informed choices about your weight loss based on reliable evidence.

Not taking facts into account can do you more harm than good in your weight loss journey. One recent weight loss supplement that has received a high level of interest is apple cider vinegar, but why exactly has this trend received recent attention?

In this article, we explain what apple cider vinegar is, explore the science behind the claims and outline how it compares to other clinically proven weight loss treatments.

What is apple cider vinegar and how is it made?

Apple cider vinegar is a vinegar made from fermented apple juice in a two-step fermentation process.[1] First, apples are crushed before yeast is added to ferment the apples’ sugar into alcohol. Finally, the alcohol is treated with bacteria which converts the alcohol into acetic acid.

Acetic acid makes up between 5% and 6% of apple cider vinegar[2]. Acetic acid has been used in medicine since the 1800s[3] as a treatment for cancerous tumours, and has been shown to help reduce the size of cancer in rats.[4]

Alongside medicinal use, acetic acid is also thought to be the source of apple cider vinegar’s speculated health benefits. Amongst these health benefits is weight loss, with apple cider vinegar being used for salad dressings, sauces or drinks as part of a weight loss diet. Let’s look at the evidence to see if apple cider vinegar can significantly account for weight loss.

Does apple cider vinegar help with weight loss?

There have been numerous animal studies looking into the effect of apple cider vinegar’s key ingredient, acetic acid, on weight loss. Below are findings from these animal studies about what apple cider vinegar could achieve.

  • Apple cider vinegar could lead to the suppression of appetite[5] and therefore a reduction in daily calorie intake.
  • Apple cider vinegar has been suggested to lower insulin levels and blood sugar levels in rats, where acetic acid demonstrated a lower insulin-to-glucagon ratio and more glucose uptake from muscles.[6]
  • Apple cider vinegar could improve metabolism. In a mice study[7], acetic acid promoted the enzyme AMPK which burns fat and decreases fat production in the liver.
  • Apple cider vinegar has been suggested to reduce fat storage in adipose tissue according to a study[8] based on type 2 diabetic rats.

While these animal studies look promising, research confirming and explaining how apple cider vinegar helps weight loss in humans has been very limited. In one Japanese study released over ten years ago[9], participants who took 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day showed a reduction in body weight, BMI and waist circumference.

What are the side effects of apple cider vinegar?

It’s important to be aware of the side effects of taking apple cider vinegar, especially if it is taken excessively. Common side effects of apple cider vinegar include:

  • Apple cider vinegar’s acidity means that it can erode the enamel of your teeth[10], so consuming undiluted or large quantities is not advised.
  • Apple cider vinegar’s acidity could also perpetuate acid reflux symptoms[11] and therefore should be avoided.
  • Apple cider vinegar could also reduce blood potassium levels[12] that are necessary to regulate nerve activity, muscle activity and maintaining your bones.
  • Apple cider vinegar could interfere with diabetes medication[13] which could lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels.
  • Apple cider vinegar has been found to delay stomach emptying[14], which could exacerbate a common condition of type 1 diabetes known as gastroparesis.

How does weight loss medication compare to apple cider vinegar?

Below, we compare the function, efficacy and side effects of weight loss medication Orlistat to apple cider vinegar.

What is Orlistat?

Orlistat is not an appetite suppressant; instead Orlistat reduces the amount of fat absorbed from food by your body. Orlistat does this by inhibiting the enzyme lipase from breaking down fat in your stomach.

Orlistat is to be taken up to three times a day, before, after or during a meal that contains fat. The recommended fat content for a meal supported by Orlistat is no more than 30% of that meal’s calories. You can skip a tablet of Orlistat if a meal contains little or no fat. All of these factors could drive a greater incentive for people using Orlistat to reduce their fat consumption and calorie intake.

On the other hand, there is no conclusive best practice of administering apple cider vinegar to increase weight loss. This could create weaker commitment to fat consumption and calorie restriction both during and outside of apple cider vinegar use. Furthermore, apple cider vinegar is perceived to be an appetite suppressant, and there currently hasn’t been any evidence for a safe, effective appetite suppressant for weight loss in the UK.

Efficacy of Orlistat

Unlike apple cider vinegar, there is a vast range of scientific studies proving that Orlistat significantly increases weight loss in humans, not just animals.

In a large review of eleven studies[15], Orlistat increased weight loss by 2.7 kg compared to the placebo pill. In a more recent study that tested the efficacy and safety of Orlistat[16], participants who took the pill observed significant weight loss of 4.65kg compared to 2.5kg in the placebo group.

Additionally, Orlistat has also been found to significantly decrease blood pressure and heart rate, according to a study with 628 patients across 56 weeks[17].

Side effects of Orlistat

Although both Orlistat and apple cider vinegar may contribute towards low blood sugar levels, Orlistat hasn’t been shown to interfere with diabetes medication or insulin levels like apple cider vinegar. In this respect, Orlistat is a safer choice for diabetes than apple cider vinegar.

Both Orlistat and apple cider vinegar can be taken orally, however, Orlistat doesn’t have apple cider vinegar’s high acidity. Orlistat therefore doesn’t pose a high risk of tooth enamel erosion, throat burn or acid reflux like apple cider vinegar does.

Because Orlistat is a clinically-approved medication, all its side effects and its recommended dosage have been verified through clinical trials and can be later rectified in future clinical trials. Unlike Orlistat, apple cider vinegar is not clinically-approved as a medication. This means that apple cider vinegar’s side effects can’t be truly accounted for, nor can its recommended dosage be conclusively confirmed. This uncertainty for side effects and dosage makes apple cider vinegar less reliable than Orlistat.

The verdict

Due to the lack of human studies and clinical trials available, we cannot conclude that apple cider vinegar really does significantly aid weight loss. Other weight loss supplements such as weight loss pills, however, have much more evidence to prove that they significantly reduce the weight of those who take it.

Above all else, any weight loss supplement you take is exactly that - a supplement. Weight loss supplements should be an effective boost to a well-rounded weight loss plan, not a replacement for it. This weight loss plan includes a balanced diet with a reduced calorie intake alongside regular exercise. By following this plan, you will be more likely to reach your weight loss goals for a healthy life.

  1. Ulbricht CE, ed. (2010). "Apple Cider Vinegar". Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide: An Evidence-Based Reference (1st ed.). Elsevier. p. 59.
  2. Poison Control. “Vinegar”. 2020.
  3. Barclay J. Injection of Acetic Acid in Cancer. Br Med J. 1866;2(305):512.
  4. Terasaki M, Ito H, Kurokawa H, et al. Acetic acid is an oxidative stressor in gastric cancer cells. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2018;63(1):36-41.
  5. Frost, G., Sleeth, M., Sahuri-Arisoylu, M. et al. The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nat Commun 5, 3611 (2014).
  6. Fushimi T, Sato Y. Effect of acetic acid feeding on the circadian changes in glycogen and metabolites of glucose and lipid in liver and skeletal muscle of rats. Br J Nutr. 2005 Nov;94(5):714-9. doi: 10.1079/bjn20051545. PMID: 16277773.
  7. Sakakibara S, Yamauchi T, Oshima Y, Tsukamoto Y, Kadowaki T. Acetic acid activates hepatic AMPK and reduces hyperglycemia in diabetic KK-A(y) mice. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Jun 2;344(2):597-604. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2006.03.176. Epub 2006 Apr 5. PMID: 16630552.
  8. Yamashita H, Fujisawa K, Ito E, Idei S, Kawaguchi N, Kimoto M, Hiemori M, Tsuji H. Improvement of obesity and glucose tolerance by acetate in Type 2 diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007 May;71(5):1236-43. doi: 10.1271/bbb.60668. Epub 2007 May 7. PMID: 17485860.
  9. Tomoo KONDO, Mikiya KISHI, Takashi FUSHIMI, Shinobu UGAJIN & Takayuki KAGA (2009) Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, and Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects, Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 73:8, 1837-1843.
  10. Medical News Today. Side effects of apple cider vinegar. 2019.
  11. Ayazi S, Leers JM, Oezcelik A, et al. Measurement of gastric pH in ambulatory esophageal pH monitoring. Surgical Endoscopy. 2009 Sep;23(9):1968-1973.
  12. Lhotta K, Höfle G, Gasser R, Finkenstedt G: Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar. Nephron 1998;80:242-243.
  13. Healthline. 7 Side Effects of Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar. 2020.
  14. Liljeberg H, Björck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;52(5):368-71.
  15. Padwal R, Li SK, Lau DC. Long-term pharmacotherapy for obesity and overweight. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD004094.
  16. Jain SS, Ramanand SJ, Ramanand JB, Akat PB, Patwardhan MH, Joshi SR. Evaluation of efficacy and safety of Orlistat in obese patients. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011;15(2):99-104.
  17. Sharma AM, Golay A. Effect of Orlistat-induced weight loss on blood pressure and heart rate in obese patients with hypertension. J Hypertens. 2002 Sep;20(9):1873-8.
Toby Watson

Written by: Toby Watson

Pharmica Medical Writer

Toby (BSc) is an experienced medical writer, producing educational articles on many areas of health including sexual health, fitness, nutrition and mental health.

He particularly enjoys debunking misconceptions around heath conditions and their treatments, researching each topic in detail and writing easily-accessible content.

Find out more about how we ensure the accuracy of our content with our content guidelines.

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