But Y Tho explores a plethora of funny, strange, and peculiar trends to provide long sought-after answers to questions that have been swimming in all our heads.
We all love a good homemade hack for life’s various ailments. In the age of pseudoscience wellness trends and DIY health remedies, apple cider vinegar (ACV) seems to have achieved a cult-like status among holistic health experts and social media influencers.
While the anti-infective function of ACV has long been recognized in folk medicine, the sour substance is now in the spotlight for claims that it aids in weight loss, improves skin conditions, and boosts hair health. However, these supposed holistic health benefits have also been seriously questioned by casual observers and medical experts.
So why do people keep drinking and using ACV? Does it actually live up to all the wellness hype?
“There's not a huge amount of data on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, but there is some science … to back some of the things that are said,” Naras Lapsys, a Singapore-based consultant dietician, told VICE.
But I needed more answers, so I decided to put ACV to the ultimate test, incorporating the substance into every aspect of my life for two whole weeks.
Every morning, I drank a glass of diluted ACV before going about with my day; every night, I showered with ACV hair rinses and nourished my face with an ACV toner. I also tried curing a stubborn patch of eczema-prone skin with — you guessed it — ACV.
I didn’t want to rely on gut feel, so I ran identical health checkups right before and right after my two-week experiment, focusing on any changes in my blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body composition.
This ACV fever dream saw me immersing myself in the life of a wellness influencer, and I’d like to think that I’ve emerged a little wiser.
Here’s what I know now.
Does apple cider vinegar help you lose weight?
Weight loss is one of the most raved about benefits of ACV, which is regularly featured in fancy detox drinks and flashy fad diets.
In several rat studies, acetic acid, a compound found in ACV, has been found to lower blood sugar levels, improve metabolism, increase fat burning, and suppress appetite. However, studies on human consumption of ACV have proved inconclusive.
Lapsys said that it’s difficult to assess any weight loss after drinking ACV.
“That weight loss, we don’t know whether it’s fat loss or muscle loss or water weight loss,” he said.
He added that we don’t yet know if ACV brings about weight loss at all, or if it just acts as an appetite suppressant. Drinking ACV usually gives one the feeling of fullness, which could lead to consuming less food.
That makes sense, and may well be the case for some people, but I found that it didn’t curb my appetite. I was eating the same as I usually do even while chugging a glass of water with two tablespoons of ACV on the daily.
I looked and weighed pretty much the same before and after the experiment but my body composition results revealed a slight decrease in my body fat. After two weeks of drinking ACV daily, my visceral fat area (the amount of fat surrounding the inner organs) dropped by 6.5 percent. Meanwhile, my body fat percentage decreased by 0.3 percent — was this the working of ACV? Were my exercise sessions slowly paying off? Or have I been eating healthier without realizing it? According to Lapsys, it could be all of the above.
“I think a lot of people believe that [ACV is] just a great weight loss tool,” said Lapsys. “There’s no guarantee that a small sip of something that you have first thing in the morning is going to be this ticket to eating and drinking whatever you like and and you’re going to lose weight.”
“It needs to be partnered with appropriate eating and exercise patterns, and then it might have some kind of impact,” he added.
Is apple cider vinegar good for your health?
Some claim that ACV can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.
“There’s not a lot of science to support the health benefits of apple cider vinegar,” said Lapsys. However, he pointed out that there is a “reasonable number of studies” showing the positive effects of vinegar (apple cider or otherwise) on blood sugar levels. The regulation of blood sugar levels can then help to better manage conditions like diabetes.
Did I feel healthier downing a glass of an ACV solution every day? The burning sensation that throbbed in my throat said yes. If things that are good for you generally taste pretty bad, something that tastes so rancid should work wonders, right? After a while, the bubbly taste of acidity did grow on me. But was I really healthier?
According to my health checkup results, ACV did nothing to my blood sugar levels and blood pressure, which were in the healthy range to begin with. My LDL (“bad” cholesterol) remained the same while my HDL (“good” cholesterol) increased by 15 percent. High levels of HDL can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, so the increase in my HDL level appeared to be a good sign. I don’t know if my increased HDL was just a result of natural fluctuation or the work of ACV, but after the rancid ACV cocktails and grueling blood tests, I’ll take any good news I can get.
Is apple cider vinegar good for your hair?
There are several supposed functions of ACV. One argument proposes that hair that’s brittle and frizzy usually has more alkaline, so the acidity of ACV should restore its pH balance. Another claim suggests that the antimicrobial function of ACV can resolve scalp problems that stem from infection. Some also believe that it can reduce dandruff by exfoliating the scalp.
These claims all made sense, but I needed to see results to be convinced. For 14 days, I massaged my scalp and hair with a diluted ACV solution, then let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing out. Thankfully, I didn’t end up smelling like Warheads candy.
I had a pretty dry scalp and frizzy hair, so I was excited to see if ACV would give me that shampoo commercial-worthy shine. Unfortunately, my hair condition stayed exactly the same.
Is apple cider vinegar good for your skin?
ACV’s legendary reputation has also found its way into the skincare industry. Despite little scientific evidence to prove the benefits of ACV to skin health, many swear by using it as a toner, citing anecdotal experiences of acne reduction and enhanced radiance. It’s also a popular face mask ingredient.
My current skincare routine is quite minimal. Besides a daily facial wash, I just apply toner before bed. Sometimes I use moisturizer on my nose, when my skin is especially dry and flaky. But as a chronic face-toucher who suffers from periodic acne spells, I knew I had to try this beauty tip. So I replaced my nightly toner with the same diluted ACV solution that I used on my hair, and embarked on a new two-week skincare routine.
Unlike my usual toner, diluted ACV doesn’t have the slippery texture that would allow it to glide onto my face. It felt very much like I was just patting on water until it naturally dried — which was a relief, since I was half expecting my acidic homemade toner to irritate my skin. And it looks like the ACV actually helped with my breakout.
“If you have any kind of skin condition that is made worse because of a bacterial infection, it might work as an antibacterial,” Lapsys told me, pointing to the antimicrobial function of the acetic acid found in ACV.
I also applied the ACV toner to a patch of skin behind my knee that has suffered from persistent eczema. Halfway through the experiment, I experienced a particularly bad eczema flare-up, so I stopped applying ACV for a few days. After it subsided, I started using ACV again and, thankfully, did not experience a negative reaction. But no positive change either.
I’m not sure what role ACV played in this flare-up episode, but I think I’ll stick to my tried-and-tested prescription ointment instead of homemade remedies.
Can too much apple cider vinegar be bad for you?
Considering that I did literally soak my head in ACV and guzzled it like a thirsty marathoner every day, I had one important question: Was my ACV experiment too, for lack of a better word, immersive?
“I don't think there's any risk but if you are having too high a concentration of it, [there’s] definitely the issue of corrosion … of the teeth,” said Lapsys, when I asked him if I was overdoing the ACV.
I did encounter instances of mild diarrhea during the two weeks, which disappeared after I stopped drinking ACV. When I told Lapsys about my tummy troubles, he suggested that I might have started out with too high a concentration. However, he also said that we may encounter gastrointestinal issues with anything we try for the first time.
My two-week experiment showed me that ACV may have some benefits, but it’s no panacea to all your health and beauty woes. While my skin cleared up over the two weeks, my hair, weight, and health experienced little to no changes.
Despite its iffy scientific track record, Lapsys thinks there are still benefits to be reaped in making ACV a daily habit.
“By having that in the morning, and if it's with a big glass of water, you're hydrating yourself to begin the day. So if nothing else, it's a good ritual to make sure you start the day well hydrated,” he said.
And even if ACV has done nothing for you, health or beauty-wise, at least it still makes for a kickass salad dressing.
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