I’ve heard that apple cider vinegar may aid weight loss; is there any validity to this, or is it just one of those “old wives’ tales”?

Believe it or not, a recent double-blind clinical study in Japan found that overweight people ingesting 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily (a drink of equal calorie content featuring lactic acid was used as a control) lost an average of 5 pounds of weight over the course of 12 weeks, which was significantly different than the small weight gain seen in the placebo group.  Vinegar should also be of interest to carb concentrated dieters because it slows the absorption of dietary carbohydrate (and blunts the associated rise in insulin) when administered prior to meals.  Don’t drink apple cider vinegar straight, though, because its acidity could traumatize your esophagus.  A good way to take it is to add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water or juice, and then add a packet of non-caloric sweetener to offset the acidic flavor; you should find that this is remarkably palatable.  Drink this before your carb-containing meals and you will reduce the effective glycemic index of the meal, and blunt the post-meal rise in insulin too. 

Researchers believe that many of the remarkable metabolic effects of vinegar are mediated by activation of the enzyme AMP-activated kinase (AMPK).  This intriguing enzyme is also activated by calorie restriction in many tissues, and is thought by some researchers to contribute to the anti-aging benefits of this regimen.  This enzyme is also the key target of the anti-diabetic drug metformin, which extends lifespan in some rodent models, reduces risk for both cancer and vascular disease in diabetics, and tends to lower body weight. 

The metabolism of acetate, the chief organic compound in vinegar, activates AMPK by inducing generation of AMP.  The cell views AMP as a signal of fuel depletion, and that’s why AMP activates AMPK, an enzyme which helps cells cope when fuel availability if low.  AMPK activity promotes fat burning, boosts autophagy, increases cellular antioxidant protection, and, in the liver, inhibits the production and release of new glucose (which is why the AMPK activator metformin aids blood sugar control in diabetics). 

Because vinegar can promote activation of AMPK, it can be viewed as a mild “liquid metformin”.  Indeed, vinegar-enriched diets have been shown to aid blood sugar control in rodent models of diabetes, and to help prevent obesity in overfed rodents inhibiting fat synthesis.  In postmenopausal women, vinegar has been reported to improve vascular function, presumably owing to its impact on the endothelial cells that line the interior of arteries.  The weight loss seen in humans using vinegar likely reflects lower daily insulin levels, owing to a slowing of glucose absorption following meals, and a decrease in hepatic glucose output.  Hence, regular ingestion of vinegar may be a great adjunct for CC dieters.

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