But just when you thought the issue had been put to bed (seriously, just put it on a salad, people!), ACV pills—dietary supplements containing dehydrated apple cider vinegar—turned up, and reignited all the same questions: Can this kind of ACV help with weight loss? Is it safe? And should I try it?
Totally valid—but before you shell out for a month's supply of the supplements, here are a few things you should know about using ACV in pill form for weight loss.
What exactly are ACV pills, and how do they work?
You know how even taking a sip of apple cider vinegar feels like ingesting pure acid? Side-stepping that is the idea behind ACV pills—the vinegar is dehydrated and put into tablet or capsule form. By taking them, you can allegedly receive all the health benefits (sorry, "health benefits") of drinking ACV without burning your esophagus.
It's a good idea in theory—"Because vinegar is acidic, some people don’t tolerate it all that well," Leslie Bonci, R.D., the owner of Active Eating Advice, previously told Women's Health. She adds that the vinegar can be especially irritating for those prone to stomachaches or digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease.
According to Vanessa Rissetto, R.D., a New Jersey-based nutritionist, it's the acetic acid in ACV that makes people believe it can help drop pounds. But all of the studies on ACV have been done on animals (like this rat study, that found ACV lowered blood sugar and insulin levels) or in very small groups of people (like this small Japanese study from 2009 that yielded minor, underwhelming results); so, again, the science isn't there to solidly back any health-related claims. That's the truth, whether you're popping pills or chugging the stuff.
Okay, so ACV pills probably don't have any real benefits—but are they safe?
Because ingesting ACV in liquid form is generally considered safe (minus irritation and even nutritional deficiencies if you take it too far), people may assume that taking ACV pills is equally harmless and simply more convenient. But none of the (small, inconclusive) studies that have been done on apple cider vinegar have studied the pills—only the liquid. So, really, no one knows if they're safe for sure.
Additionally, taking any kind of supplement is considered a “buyer beware” situation, says Rissetto, and ACV pills are no different.
“Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so you never actually know what you're getting in them,” she explains. “They may say there is apple cider vinegar in there, but research has shown that with supplements often it's not the exact amounts, or even what they claim to be providing.”
Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., author of Eating in Color, warns that while she wouldn’t really recommend ACV pills for anyone, there may be actual risks for certain groups of people: “Diabetics should absolutely avoid [them], as they may lower their blood sugar levels, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding—or anyone under a doctor’s supervision—should also steer clear.” (Again: You can never be completely sure what's in these supplements. Hence, the caution.)
Still curious about ACV pills? At least keep this in mind:
It's tempting as hell to believe that losing weight may be as simple as popping a few supplements, but sorry, no.
“There's no magic pill for weight loss...if there were, we would be a world of thin people!” says Rissetto. “As for ACV pills, more human studies are needed to understand how and if they work for maximum efficacy.”
Largeman-Roth agrees, calling ACV pills a waste of money, at the very least. “A 16-oz bottle of organic apple cider vinegar is just $4.99, while a bottle of 60 pills is between $16 and $18,” she says. “If you’re a healthy individual who wants to see if apple cider vinegar helps you in any way, I’d suggest going with the actual vinegar. You can use it in a salad dressing or blend it into a smoothie.”
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