Apple cider vinegar
| Potentially edible!|
Apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV for short) is a vinegar made from apples. Like all fermented vinegars, it is made by a double fermentation; cider or apple must is fermented by yeasts to produce alcohol; then the hard cider resulting is fermented by Lactobacillus bacteria to convert the alcohol to acetic acid, the key ingredient of all vinegars. It is properly used in salad dressings, marinades, vinaigrettes, food preservatives, chutneys and so forth. Its flavour is subtly different to that of regular vinegar in useful and interesting ways.
Unfortunately, some idiots have leapt upon it as a magical cure-all.
Apple cider vinegar is pushed by fans of the alkaline diet who believe that these diseases are caused by the body's pH becoming too
alkaline wait, no, acidic … Apparently, even though apple cider vinegar is acidic, it is claimed to "release" alkaline bases into the body. The mechanism is unclear.
Like everything, apple cider vinegar cures cancer. God is cited as saying personally that it deals with the "cancer fungus". Though even Joseph Mercola only says that "some proponents" of apple cider vinegar claim it's good for cancer.
The Finnish Association for the Study of Obesity (FASO), a scientific association, awarded the "prize" of "Weight Loss Limbo of the Year" to apple cider vinegar in 2000. This anti-prize is "awarded" to products promoted with scientifically unconfirmed claims and for which a weight loss effect is impossible, as understood with current science. Capsules containing apple cider vinegar had been marketed by claims that the vinegar sends a signal to "full" adipocytes to empty themselves and release the fat to the bloodstream, to be transported to muscles. Nothing even remotely like this has been scientifically demonstrated.
Dangers of excessive, routine consumption of vinegar include lower bone density, lower potassium levels, possible harmful interactions with other drugs, and esophageal damage if the pill form becomes lodged in the throat. Like all strongly acidic liquids put in the mouth, it can damage the teeth over time; a 15-year-old girl drinking a daily glass of apple cider vinegar for weight loss was found to have erosive tooth wear. This is especially horrifying when fairly mainstream sources, such as women's magazines, promote apple cider vinegar as a mouthwash or tooth whitening treatment.
When it is sold as a supplement in pill form, apple cider vinegar is not subject to FDA regulations, which in some cases led to boxes whose listed ingredients did not match actual ingredients or did not contain actual apple cider vinegar at all. Others listed incorrect values for the amount of acetic acid inside—which turned out to be a good thing, as the listed level would be considered toxic.
Apple cider vinegar is sometimes used to remove moles, cherry angiomas (those bright red moles) and skin tags; this does work, but only insofar as it causes a localised chemical burn. This can potentially cause dark spots, scarring, or even transformation of harmless moles into malignant ones. A case study exists of a teenage girl who ended up with chemical burns after using this method to fry a benign mole on her nose .
Scientifically tested medical effects
Like many other herbal remedies, there may well be some real benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar that are only just now being explored, including possible effects on diabetes, cholesterol, cancer and, yes, the all important weight loss. But these studies are small and "suggestive" only, and no work at all has been done on appropriate amounts to consume. The wise consumer might well want to wait for more detailed studies.
Things it's actually helpful for
- Cooking, if applied properly.
- If you have a sore throat, put a shot of apple cider vinegar, a spoon of honey and a shot of hot water in a cup and sip it. (You can also do this with regular vinegar if you're missing the smell of fish'n'chips badly enough.)
- Makes an absolutely delicious salad dressing.
- For catching fruit flies. It is not established whether the vinegar is better than honey for this task.
- If, for some hypothetical rational reason, you need to increase your intake of acids, apple cider vinegar would indeed do the trick. But honestly, fruit juice or strong lemonade would both work and taste a lot better.
- Substitute for white vinegar in pickle recipes for a much better quick pickle.
- Dabbing diluted apple cider vinegar onto your armpits before you shower kills bacteria and reduces the odour of your sweat. (Woo merchants insist it must be raw, unfiltered and organic, but you could probably ignore all of those.)
- Diluted to a pH of about 5, it could potentially be helpful for skin trouble; it contains acetic, malic and lactic acid, all of which are effective at loosening dead skin cells and killing bacteria, and therefore reducing pimples, which are formed by bacteria trapped in pores clogged by dead skin cells. Don't do this too often, though, or the acid will dry you out.
- If you have an acid-loving plant, like a camellia, rhododendron or holly, you can add a little apple cider vinegar to its water to re-acidify the soil. This is especially a good idea if you're watering with tap water, which tends to be alkaline. You could also use regular vinegar, but the incomplete fermentation in ACV means it contains more nitrates and sugars than a purer vinegar, so functions a little as plant food as well.
Distilled white vinegar can be a wonderful "green" household cleaner, insecticide and weed killer. However, apple cider vinegar is rather sweet because of purposefully incomplete fermentation of the sugars in the cider. Apple cider vinegar will thus leave behind sugary residue and is not recommended as a cleaning agent.
- Kombucha, a similarly sweet, acetic-acid-based supposed panacea.
- EarthClinic's article on apple cider vinegar
- 10 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar from Eat This!
- BBC Magazine article
- Altmedicine.about.com article on Apple Cider Vinegar
- Suomen Lihavuustutkijat ry., 2000. Suomen Lihavuustutkijat ry:n ensimmäiset painonhallinta- ja laihdutuslimbo-palkinnot jaettiin. URL: http://www.suomenlihavuustutkijat.fi/palkinto2000.htm
- Anon. Lääkärilehti 12/2000 vsk 55, p. 1328. (7.4.2000). URL: http://www.laakarilehti.fi/ajassa/ajankohtaista/omenaviinietikka-on-vuoden-laihdutuslimbo/. "Kalliit kapselit toimivat mainosten mukaan rasvapoliiseina, joiden vaikuttavat aineet antavat täysille rasvasoluille käskyn tyhjentyä ja luovuttaa rasva vereen lihaksiin kuljetettavaksi. Todellisuudessa mistään tällaisesta ei ole näyttöä."
- WebMD: Apple Cider Vinegar Page 2
- PubMed - Unhealthy weight loss. Erosion by apple cider vinegar
- WebMD: Apple Cider Vinegar Page 3
- "Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products" 
- "Chemical Burn from Vinegar Following an Internet-based Protocol for Self-removal of Nevi" 
- How to Catch Fruit Flies With Apple Cider Vinegar