Apple cider vinegar — also known as “ACV” — is a trendy ingredient these days. Personally, I love pouring a big splash of it into an ice-cold glass of fruit-flavored seltzer!
But recently, apple cider vinegar is also being touted as a home remedy for people living with diabetes, with claims that it can help control blood sugars and lower A1c levels.
In this article, we’ll discuss the general benefits of apple cider vinegar, what research has determined about its impact on blood sugar levels, precautions to take when adding it to your diet, and who shouldn’t consume apple cider vinegar regularly at all.
First, make sure you buy the right apple cider vinegar
Made by crushing, distilling, and fermenting apples, apple cider vinegar does offer a few generally accepted health benefits.
Those benefits come mostly from “the mother” which is the beneficial bacteria that cause the fermentation process.
“First, yeast is added to apple juice to break down the sugars and turn them into alcohol,” explains Enzymedica. “Then, bacteria is added, which converts the alcohol into acetic acid. This bacteria is what is known as the “mother” because it is the catalyst that gives rise to the vinegar. Many store-bought apple cider vinegars have the mother removed because it gives the vinegar a cloudy appearance, which can lead some customers to believe that the product has gone bad. But this is not the case. In fact, the mother is the healthiest part.”
When purchasing ACV, you should be looking for a product that’s raw, unfiltered, and “comes from the mother.” All three of these details should be clearly printed on the packaging of your ACV contained in a glass container versus a plastic container.
You can find high-quality ACV in most grocery stores in the baking aisle or online at Trader Joe’s and on Amazon.
*Please note: You should not drink ACV without diluting it in water or another beverage. The high acidity content can damage your teeth, mouth, and throat if consumed regularly without diluting.
General health benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar
Before we discuss how ACV affects blood sugar and A1c for people living with diabetes, let’s look at some of the claims regarding general health benefits.
ACV has been around for a long time
Mentioned several times in the Bible as an “antibiotic,” the problem is that ACV is not actually the cure-all it’s often reported to be — and it’s definitely not going to help you if what you actually need is a legitimate antibiotic.
Again, to be clear, ACV is not an antibiotic.
Instead, there are some basic and generally accepted benefits to drinking a little ACV every day.
Let’s take a look at the facts:
ACV is antimicrobial
ACV is “antimicrobial” which means it’s very similar to alcohol-based hand sanitizers. It helps to prevent the spreading of bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. However, that is not the same as “antibacterial,” which prevents the growth of bacteria.
Extensive research has also found that ACV has a significant direct effect on three specific types of bacteria: E-coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans. However, do not use ACV to treat any of these types of bacteria without consulting your healthcare team.
You can even mix ACV (or standard white vinegar) with a much larger ratio of water to use as an all-natural household cleaning product for your floors, counters, and bathrooms.
ACV contains probiotics…which support healthy digestion
You’ll get the probiotic benefits of ACV is you’re drinking the raw, unfiltered, and “from the mother” version. Like kombucha, ACV contains dozens of beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut.
When your gut-health is “out of whack” because there is too little of the healthy bacteria and too much of unhealthy bacteria, it can actually affect many parts of your entire well-being.
Gut health has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including:
Apple cider vinegar and diabetes: Can ACV lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes?
Let’s cut right to the chase: apple cider vinegar has shown to reduce blood sugar levels slightly in people with type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes, but the results aren’t going to have a tremendous impact on your A1c from ACV alone.
Instead, the research seems to imply that adding ACV to your many other diabetes management habits can help a little bit. And there’s no question that it could benefit your health in ways unrelated to your blood sugar, too, as explained earlier.
Let’s take a look at some of the most significant research.
In well-managed type 2 diabetes, drinking ACV before bed helps manage morning blood sugars.
In this 2007 study from Arizona, patients with well-managed type 2 diabetes who did not take insulin drank 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 ounce of cheese every night.
The study also included a placebo group of patients with well-managed type 2 diabetes, who drank water instead of ACV.
In the placebo group, morning fasting blood sugar levels were 2 percent lower by the end of the study. In the ACV group, morning fasting blood sugar levels were 4 to 6 percent lower.
The study concluded that ACV can help lower blood sugar levels in those who are engaged in other diabetes management habits.
12 weeks of drinking ACV showed relatively insignificant reductions in A1c levels
This 2018 study from Singapore — involving patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes — found that while drinking 2 tablespoons of ACV after a meal did demonstrate a slight reduction in post-meal blood sugar levels, the results weren’t remarkably significant.
That being said, blood sugar levels were slightly lower which suggests it can help but it likely can’t replace diabetes medications nor compensate for unhealthy lifestyle habits.
ACV improves insulin sensitivity after high-carbohydrate meals
This 2004 study from Arizona gave patients with type 2 diabetes 20 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons) of ACV with high-carbohydrate meals.
Researchers concluded that consuming vinegar with high-starch meals lowered post-meal blood sugars by increasing a patient’s sensitivity to insulin.
ACV delays gastric emptying and reduces post-meal blood sugar levels
This 2007 study from Sweden focused on patients with type 1 diabetes and gastroparesis.
The results determined that consuming 2 tablespoons of ACV with meals reduced the rate at which the body empties digested food (including glucose) into the bloodstream.
For patients with gastroparesis, this is actually a disadvantage because they already struggle with significantly delayed and unpredictable digestion — which makes it harder to time and dose insulin.
For patients without gastroparesis, however, this might be helpful. By reducing the rate of gastric emptying, it reduces the post-meal blood sugar spike.
If you decide to add ACV to your diet (and who shouldn’t)
While the results of recent research imply that ACV will have a very modest impact on your blood sugar, there are still plenty of reasons to incorporate it into your daily or weekly diet.
The probiotics alone are remarkably important for the maintenance of your gut’s balance of healthy bacteria.
Remember these three crucial details when consuming ACV:
- Always dilute it with another beverage (water, seltzer, tea) or by mixing it into your food.
- Only consume approximately 2 tablespoons per day.
- Consuming too much ACV can wreak havoc on your teeth, throat, and stomach because of its high-acidity content.
However, in addition to always diluting your ACV with another liquid, there are a few people who shouldn’t drink it all.
You shouldn’t drink ACV if…
If you have any of the following health concerns, talk to your doctor before consuming ACV.
- You have a history of stomach ulcers
- You have low potassium levels
- You have a history of bulimia
- You have any health or dental conditions in your mouth or throat (discuss with your doctor or dentist first!)
ACV has a lot of subtle but legitimate benefits to offer anyone — including those of us with diabetes. Give it a whirl! And enjoy!