Image Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Vinegar Is Good for You

Vinegar has evidently been used as a weight-loss aid for nearly 200 years. Like hot sauce, it can be a nearly calorie-free way to flavor foods, and all sorts of delicious exotic vinegars—like fig, peach, and pomegranate—are available to choose from. The question, though, is whether there is something special about vinegar that helps with weight loss, which is the topic of my video Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Weight Loss?.

Vinegar is defined as simply a dilute solution of acetic acid, which takes energy for our body to metabolize, activating an enzyme called AMPK that is like our body’s fuel gauge. If it senses that we’re low, it amps up energy production and tells the body to stop storing fat and start burning fat. And, so, given our obesity epidemic, “it is crucial that oral compounds with high bioavailability are developed to safely induce chronic AMPK activation,” which would be potentially beneficial for long-term weight loss. There’s no need to develop such a compound, though, if you can buy it in any grocery store.

We know vinegar can activate AMPK in human cells, but is the dose one might get when sprinkling it on a salad enough? If you take endothelial cells (the cells lining our blood vessels) from umbilical cords after babies are born and expose them to various levels of acetate, which is what the acetic acid in vinegar turns into in our stomach, it appears to take a concentration of at least 100 to really get a significant boost in AMPK. So, how much acetate do you get in your bloodstream sprinkling about a tablespoon of vinegar on your salad? You do hit 100, but only for about 15 minutes, and even at that concentration, 10 or 20 minutes exposure doesn’t seem to do much. Now granted, this is determined in a petri dish. What do clinical studies show us?

A double-blind trial was conducted investigating the effects of vinegar intake on the reduction of body fat in overweight men and women. The researchers call them obese, but they were actually slimmer than the average American. In Japan, they call anything over a BMI of 25 obese, whereas the BMI of the average American adult is about 28.6. Nevertheless, they took about 150 overweight individuals and randomly split them into one of three groups: a high-dose vinegar group drinking a beverage containing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day, a low-dose group drinking a beverage containing only one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day, and a placebo control group drinking an acidic beverage they developed to taste the same as the vinegar drink but using a different kind of acid so, there was no acetic acid.

There were no other changes in their diet or exercise. In fact, the researchers monitored their diets and gave them all pedometers so they could make sure the only significant difference amongst the three groups was the amount of vinegar they were getting every day. Within just one month, there were statistically significant drops in weight in both vinegar groups compared with placebo, with the high-dose group doing better than the low-dose group, and the weight loss just got better month after month. In fact, by month three, the do-nothing placebo group actually gained weight, as overweight people tend to do, whereas the vinegar groups significantly dropped their weight. Was the weight loss actually significant or just statistically significant? Compared with the placebo group, the two-tablespoons-of-vinegar-a-day group dropped five pounds by the end of the 12 weeks. That may not sound like a lot, but they got that for just pennies a day without removing anything from their diet.

They also got slimmer, losing up to nearly an inch off their waist, suggesting they were losing abdominal fat. The researchers went the extra mile and put it to the test. They put the research subjects through abdominal CT scans to actually measure directly the amount of fat in their bodies before and after. They measured the amount of superficial fat, visceral fat, and total body fat. Superficial fat is the fat under your skin that makes for flabby arms and contributes to cellulite. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is the killer. It’s the fat that builds up around your internal organs that bulges out the belly—and the kind of fat the placebo group was putting on when they were gaining weight. Both the low-dose and high-dose vinegar groups, however, were able to remove about a square inch of visceral fat off that CT scan slice.

Like any weight loss strategy, it only works if you do it. A month after they stopped the vinegar, the weight crept right back, but that’s just additional evidence that the vinegar was working. But how was it working?

A group of researchers in the United Kingdom suggested an explanation: Vinegar beverages are gross. They created vinegar beverages that were so unpleasant the study subjects actually felt nauseated after drinking them and ate less of the meal the researchers provided. So, there you go: Maybe vinegar helps with both appetite control and food intake, though these effects are largely due to the fruity vinegar concoctions invoking feelings of nausea. Is that what was going on in the original study? Were the vinegar groups just eating less? No, the vinegar groups were eating about the same compared with placebo. Same diet, more weight loss––thanks, perhaps, to the acetic acid’s impact on AMPK.

Now, the CT scans make this a very expensive study, so I was not surprised it was funded by a company that sells vinegars, which is good, since we otherwise wouldn’t have these amazing data, but is also bad because it always leaves you wondering whether the funding source somehow manipulated the results. The nice thing about companies funding studies about healthy foods, though, whether it’s some kiwifruit company or the National Watermelon Promotion Board (check out watermelon.org), is, really, what’s the worst that can happen? Here, for example, even if the findings turned out to be bogus and worst comes to worst, your salad would just be tastier.


I’m so excited to finally be getting to this topic. Type “vinegar” into PubMed, the search engine biomedical literature, and 40,000 studies pop up. It took me a while to take it all in, but I’m so glad I did, as it’s something that has caused a shift in my own diet. I now try to add various vinegars every day.

This is the first of a five-part video series. See the other installments:

For more holistic approaches to weight loss, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


87 responses to “Vinegar Is Good for You

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  1. I’m confused about vinegar – wasn’t there mention some time back by Dr G, about a possible link between vinegar (and salt) and stomach cancer in South Korea ?
    Is this now debunked ? (Is it just the salt?) Is it different types of vinegar ? Or pickled veg in particular ?

  2. Hi, Martin Whitely! You can find everything on this site related to vinegar here:
    https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/vinegar/
    I think the video you are thinking of is this one on kimchi and cancer risk:
    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-kimchi-good-for-you/
    Dr. Greger spoke about the culprit possibly being salt, and high salt intake does increase cancer risk, but miso is salty, and appears to have the opposite effect. More on that here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-miso-healthy/
    This video: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/carcinogenic-putrescine/ made me think that a possible issue could be contamination from fish sauce or bonito (dried fish) flakes commonly included in traditional kimchi. I wonder if the effect would be the same if kimchi is made without it, but we don’t know, until we put it to the test! One clue is that sauerkraut is also included here, and it does not, to my knowledge, commonly include fish, although it is sometimes traditionally made with a milk-derived culture. I also wonder about the role of foods often eaten with sauerkraut, such as processed meats, but I have not seen any research on that yet. The upshot, as far as I know right now, is that vinegar is not associated with increased cancer risk, but high salt intake is. I hope that helps!

    1. I have been watching the Miso one.

      Boy, my brother is supposed to be low sodium and Miso is added to a lot of recipes.

      Can I just do it and not worry?

      I thought I heard Dr. G. say in an interview that salted soy was linked to stomach cancer and I thought I saw it on PubMed. Confused and pondering how to backtrack all the way through the internet to find that interview. Hmmmmmm…. who asked the question……..?

      Oh boy, I think Dr. G. just caused me to not understand salted soy again.

      1. Maybe the interview was an old one and the Miso data replaced it?

        I know that I didn’t invent an interview because I had been eating Miso and stopped after his interview and now I am finding ones where he recommends it.

        Okay, that makes things easier.

        1. Suggestions to the book writer in process:

          Miso needs at least a paragraph if people who need to be low sodium are to use it.

          Next cookbook

          Could have a great big:

          Did you know

          About Miso not hurting your blood pressure.

      2. Exactly why this forum now desperately needs a written wrapup succinct summary overview, updated whenever there’s new research findings, for each food or health topic, with additional brief tips, add on tips such as
        Eg rinse mouth immediately afterwards with plain water to reduce enamel erosion of teeth
        Eg drink through non plastic straw to protect teeth from acid
        eg avoid all salt, except miso seems fine,
        Eg eat 2 walnuts or equivalent fat 1st
        to maximize nutritional benefits,
        eg blanch 1st to remove oxalic acids

        The videos too often leave you confused as to the conclusion, the optimal action to take and unaware of additional tips (eg despite watching nearly all of Dr Greger’s videos, I was eating fat free for a long time and snacking independently on nuts, unaware that if I ate nuts with meals instead I’d gain more nutritional benefits). I’m still confused about traditional sauerkraut btw, but a good one makes me salivate so surely that’s good for digestion

        1. As it’s supposed to be a good probiotic, I add a spoonful or so of sauerkraut to my salads. Am daring to throw caution to the winds!

          I agree that keeping the very latest updates regarding a food item should have its own category. It would take some effort though. Dr. G. is a very busy, busy guy, as we know, so I doubt if he’d take the time to do it.

          Also, as we know, the latest news flash regarding something or other can be old news by the following week or so. “Science” can be so fickle.

          1. It is a good idea if even for the controversial foods.

            Or having one page for things like Miso and Vinegar and things which are used for flavoring.

            Or one page for foods which have warnings.

  3. I’m not interested in the weight-loss marvels of ACV, as I’ve never had a weight problem. Am inclined to be more under, if anything. I do put a little on my evening raw salads, along with lemon juice.

    Mainly, though, I always tote a bottle of (filtered) water mixed with two teaspoons of ACV with me whenever I eat out in a restaurant. Have been doing this since first reading the book FOLK MEDICINE, by D.C. Jarvis, M.D.

    Dr. Jarvis tells about the couple who went to a neighborhood wiener roast or something. The wife took along her trusty bottle of water/ACV, but the husband did not. Turns out, he and the other people at the meal became very sick later, whereas the wife did not. She had sipped the bottle of water/ACV not only before she ate, but also a little during the meal.

    (I’m sure I’ve posted this before here — whenever.)

  4. I wish Dr. Greger had been more explicit about the various vinegars he has added to his diet and how he makes use of them, i.e. in water as YR does or incorporated in food somehow? Would love to do the same and target my post-menopausal belly, especially seeing how excited he is about it. Are all vinegars equally beneficial?

    1. Lida,

      I agree that with vinegar, it would be helpful for me to know how to use it.

      I have a 5 bean casserole, which has apple cider vinegar and brown sugar – (pondering what it will taste like with date sugar instead of brown sugar)

      That is the only recipe I have with it so far.

      1. Deb, Lida, and anyone eondering about dosage and more info on how to use the vinegar, this link is helpful https://nutritionfacts.org/video/vinegar-mechanisms-side-effects/

        Dr Greger posted several links above, and that was one of them. It discusses dosage, side effects and how it works. The ‘how’ is important because it might make your bean dish taste great Deb, but it wont have an effect… Beans already work to lower blood sugar as I understand it. Anyway, it might answer some questions.

        1. Thanks Barb,

          Yes, I already do my starches cooked a day in advanced and mixed with beans and vegetables – all of which help with blood sugar.

          None of the people I am cooking for are vegan, whole food plant based or low oil and two of them are not low sugar.

          I am serving starches to them, but I am only part of their day.

          I have an “almost relative” who helps with many dinners, but when they aren’t eating what we cook, it is pizza, meat chili, meat and cheese nachos, processed food, subway, etc.

          That part still hasn’t changed, so I try all of the techniques for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, while giving them white potatoes and basmati rice – both served in things dishes with lentils and beans and vegetables and antiinflammatory spices. Vinegar is also a flavoring and those of us cooking without salt need all the help we can get. Plus, I need all the variety I can get at this stage so he can experience a lot of choices.

          1. I got my first, “That was really good.”

            After a string of “That’s not bad.”

            Miso will help so much.

            Trying to string together 7 to 10 dishes.

            I will be saving the winners in a Word file because they all started off a few people’s recipes, but I have altered them enough that I need notes.

            I can give him a book of recipes for his birthday.

            1. Miso will be a tough sell because my sister-in-law and her bold relatives are among the soy police, but I will work on the logic for it.

              1. I have to repent already because I am doing the wrong process. My relatives are so vulnerable right now and I am typing stupid things online. I am trying to save my brother’s life.

            1. He would bring bologna and cheese instead of Wendy’s burgers, but he had a Wendy’s burger today.

              He would do omelets instead of donuts.

              I maybe cut that type of thing down from every meal to a few meals per week.

              1. I have prayed about whether it is a good idea to just start feeding him like this when he isn’t the one taking responsibility for his diet and Dr Barnard’s mother just replacing his father’s meat with transition food without saying anything came to mind.

                I feel like the Holy Spirit gave this walk to me so that I can save the lives of my relatives and my brother chose medical model and after his surgery, he will be reminded every physical about his blood sugar and cholesterol and sodium intake, so he eventually will cooperate.

                This will give him ideas and get him past having the transition be as hard as it can be.

  5. Would anybody have any information in regards to what the daily safe upper limit for vinegar might be? it sound like 2 tablespoons might be OK but would 3 or 4 be a problem? I usually have 2 salads a day and am adding 2 tablespoons on each of the servings. Thanks.

    1. Sorry to confirm, but Dr. Greger does not recommend having more than 2 TBS of vinegar a day See this video https://nutritionfacts.org/video/vinegar-mechanisms-side-effects/ “Though as many as a total of six tablespoons a day of vinegar were not associated with any side effects in the short term, until we know more, maybe we’d want to stick with more common culinary-type doses, like two tablespoons max a day.”
      Do you think you could cut back by using only one TBS but using a flavored vinegar ?

  6. When I was growing up my mom used to serve salads that had vinegar on them like cucumber or potato salad with oil and vinegar – – People used to eat a lot of foods preserved in vinegar like pickles – – You could drink the vinegar but wouldn’t it be more pleasant to use it to flavor your food??

  7. My issue with vinegar consumption is I have a perpetual sore throat from the vinegar. I am washed it down and eat things afterwards with no positive impact. I wonder if this is typical.

    1. That happens to me, too! My voice gets hoarse, and I didn’t equate that with the vinegar for a long time. I used to put balsamic vinegar on my daily salads but not any more. My voice is fine now.

  8. Bill Weronko, I have the same problem and my stomach feels like an open wound immediately after drinking it unbuffered. I can eat a small amount of oil and vinegar salad dressing on a leafy or vegetable salad, but pretty much gave up salads when I gave up the oil :(

    https://nutritionfacts.org/video/optimal-vinegar-dose/ This video was linked in the article above. Even 2 tsp can be effective so a person could toss it into their morning smoothie, veggie soup or buried in potatoes. Oddly, the dill pickles used in one trial didn’t work… not sure what was going on their.

  9. *going on there

    I am also a little puzzled by Dr Greger’s negative response to kombucha. I’ll have to read more about it, but I would think acv taken as a drink for months is just as bad.

  10. I have always been taught that vinegar is a harmful food as it is a close cousin to alcohol. Can you speak to this similarity and any possible ill effects of ACV? I’ve seen a lot of skinny alcoholics, but I would never describe them as healthy. I used to work at a rehab center and we had to warn our clients taking antabuse (sp?) Not to use any vinegar because yibody could not tell the difference between it and alcohol.

    1. I hope this information is helpful and reassuring:
      https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/vinegar/
      https://www.quora.com/For-a-recovering-alcoholic-is-vinegar-okay
      “Vinegar is 5-8% acetic acid in water. The alcohol that forms in the process of making it is negligible. There are traces of alcohol in vinegar but a very small amount. Wine vinegars such as red or white wine and balsamic vinegar do start with a dilute wine which is then fermented.”

  11. This “what’s the worst that could happen?” approach to studies funded by industry troubles me. How about wasting money on a bogus cure and spending precious health efforts on something that has no benefit?

    BTW, I’ve heard drinking vinegar is terrible for your tooth enamel. Did that come up?

  12. Yes I love my organic apple cider vinegar and have great results!…BUT will not use Bragg’s….they actually market it in plastic bottles….at least in Canada.

  13. This morning I returned the latest Medical Medium book to the library — this one was about the liver. Alas, he claims a lot of things, including various foods, do not do a liver any good. Vinegar is one of them.

    He says apple cider vinegar is semi-okay, but only a little amount.

    (I expect Fumbles will have a thought about this; dear Fumbles!)

    1. PT Barnum wuld probably approve and, if I could stop laughing long enough, I might say something too. If I didn’t recall the immortal wisdom of WC Fields that is

      ‘Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump!’

      ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time — and that’s enough to make a decent living’

      i really think that as a species we are misnamed, Homo credulus might be a more accurate term.

    2. Yes, I read it too, seems the liver does not like vinegar and it make sit work hard, as with fermented drinks and foods too, I think we need to keep to food and drink in their natural state as much as possible. Love Anthony Williams books, I have read them all and am now in the process of tweaking my already healthy plant based diet. .

      1. It’s great not to have a “black or white” outlook on life, isn’t it! Be curious and open to all possibilities, is my motto.

        A rigid attitude (“It’s my way or the highway”) can cause dis-ease, and shorten one’s life.

  14. I like to let my cranberry hibiscus kombucha ferment until the sugar is gone and it tastes almost like vinegar, I was wondering if it has acetic acid also? I know Dr G isn’t a fan of kombucha but I love the stuff and swear it has benefits like boosting immunity, improving digestion, and appetite control. It’s cheap,easy, and tasty, so even if it’s all placebo effect, works for me.

  15. My question would be if “regular” organic ACV from Trader Joe’s is OK. Or does it have to be the unpasteurized kind like Braggs. Every once in a while you read about an outbreak of e-coli from people consuming unpasteurized (aka “from the mother”) Apple Cider Vinegar.

  16. I was told that taking 2 tablespoons of AV with one tablespoon of honey twice a day will shrink a man’s prostate. What are your feeling on this. Thank you for your time

  17. I too have heard that eating lots of pickled foods (made with vinegar) can increase your chances of stomach cancer.

    From the American Cancer Society: To help reduce your risk, avoid a diet that is high in smoked and pickled foods and salted meats and fish.

    I’d like to hear feedback from Dr. Greger.

  18. I am so happy today.

    I got a “tastes very good” from my brother.

    Getting there.

    Recipes from anyone of hearty foods would be my favorite thing right now.

  19. Is Kombucha a vinegar? I am assuming it is, since it is a fermented product which, the longer you leave it, the more vinegary it becomes.

  20. I think it is better to use lemon juice, it will also help you lose weight, and clean your liver (the liver does not like fermented anything).

        1. Yes but Anthony William? Really?

          This site is all about nutrition facts and scientific research Then people seriously refer to the writings of people like him Geeze, I could almost believe that you and Sunnyvego are trying to kill me by causing me to have an apoplectic fit. If not death by laughter.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_from_laughter

          Still, could be worse I suppose. For exampIe, I dare say that all the cholesterol geniuses will come out to play later when they see the title of today’s video.

            1. I don’t take the AW books as gospel truth any more than I do what I read here at Dr. G’s site. :-P

              Again, am using the word discernment.

                1. You still seem to quote William and Hicks with approval.

                  ‘Discernment’ How does that actually work? Is it code for I’ll believe stuff I like even if there’s no credible evidence and I won’t believe stuff I don’t like even if there is credible evidence?

                  BTW I like the ‘have yourself an enema’ quip. It’s so much classier than saying shove it up Uranus.. Feel better now?

                  1. Well, how ’bout you define “credible”? Credible can often turn out to be a buncha bullbleep.

                    Yup, I might have liked your first wife. :-)

                    *heading out the door*

                    1. Wikipedia has a reasonable article on credibility

                      Yup but these beliefs you keep writing about always bring thoughts of the Robin Hood pics – specifically Latrine in ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’ and Mortianna in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’

                    2. Oh Fumbles, don’t be so rigid and uptight!

                      Earlier somewhere I posted that I was an extra in Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” I played a lady of the “gentry.” My sister was dressed as a peasant.

                      *brag brag*

  21. Just because vinegar could help with weight loss doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. I don’t know the mechanisms of vinegar in the body but surely this isn’t treating the root cause of obesity. It’s just another “magic pill” effect ! Works while you take it, doesn’t when you don’t. No long term benefit. And is it a “natural wholefood”? I’m curious now. I will be looking into side effects.

  22. At the beginning it shows bottles of Bragg vinegar— looks like an advertisement to me!
    What about the rice vinegars — mild flavor compared to apple Any thoughts? I use both depending on how vinegary flavor I’m looking for. I add a tsp to thick bean soups and it tastes flavorful. I’m not doing for weight loss, just the flavor itself which can be easily adjusted. Could be an acquired taste .

  23. Dr. Greger could you please also address the negative effects of vinegar and how it relates to being a neurotoxin. There are so many fad foods and miracle cures out there and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t one of them. Yes the studies do show some benefits, but maybe these are only a positive consequence of an otherwise harmful product? I’d love to know your thoughts on the links below.

    https://jenniferskitchen.com/health-information/how-vinegar-can-damage-your-health
    https://phoreveryoung.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/4688/

  24. Dr. Greger could you please also address the negative effects of vinegar and how it relates to being a neurotoxin. There are so many fad foods and miracle cures out there and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t one of them. Yes the studies do show some benefits, but maybe these are only a positive consequence of an otherwise harmful product? I’d love to know your thoughts on the info below.

    https://jenniferskitchen.com/health-information/how-vinegar-can-damage-your-health

  25. Two table spoons of apple cider vinegar will deplete potassium stores in the body over time. Not a good idea to drink vinegar daily, long term.

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