Apple Cider Vinegar and PCOS: Can It Really Melt Away The Fat?
By Clare Goodwin
Last updated: September 3, 2020
Apple Cider Vinegar and PCOS is a regularly searched for term online. With numerous claims that it can ‘melt the fat away’, it’s tempting to try it out if you struggle with PCOS-related weight gain. So should you be swigging away on it or is it not all that it’s cracked up to be? Here’s what the research says:
Apple cider vinegar can reduce blood glucose, but only if you’ve overindulged on high GI carbs
Insulin resistance is a big concern for most of us with PCOS. It’s a precursor to Type 2 diabetes and 70% of women with PCOS have it. Anything that allegedly helps to lower blood glucose gets my attention.
I was very interested to see a research paper entitled: “Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes”. However, an improvement was only found after subjects had eaten a high carb meal. This means that if you’re eating low carb then you won’t see any improvements.
In this two-day-long study, subjects were divided into two groups. One group was given a high GI meal (mashed potato and low fat milk) and the group was given a low GI meal (whole grain bread, lettuce, and low-fat cheese). On one day, the groups were not given apple cider vinegar and on the other they were. Results showed that taking apple cider vinegar before eating a high GI meal improved blood glucose levels. However, there was no improvement in the low GI group.
A low carbohydrate diet can reduce insulin resistance. Therefore, if you’re already eating a low carb, low inflammation diet, then you probably won’t see any benefit from taking apple cider vinegar. If you have insulin resistance and aren’t eating low carb then forget apple cider vinegar and start with a low carb diet.
Apple cider vinegar may make us eat less but only because it makes us nauseous
Another study looked at the impact of apple cider vinegar on satiety to see if it makes you eat less. One group was given a vinegar drink with breakfast. Compared to a group that wasn’t given vinegar, the subjects ate less. However, this group also had much higher ratings of nausea and researchers concluded that this was why they ate less.
Apple cider vinegar may improve blood tryglyceride levels
Triglycerides are a type of free fat in the blood. High levels are a risk factor for heart disease, as are low levels of HDL cholesterol (what you may have heard of as the ‘good cholesterol’).
One study found that apple cider vinegar may decrease triglycerides and increase HDL in the blood. One group of participants was given a shot of apple cider vinegar twice a day for 8 weeks. Compared to another group, participants had significantly reduced triglyceride levels and increased HDL.
The problem with this study is that they didn’t monitor what the participants were eating. Therefore, we cannot say that the results were solely down to apple cider vinegar. They could have started to change their diet in other ways which led to the improvements.
Apple cider vinegar is a fermented drink and great for gut health
We are only just beginning to understand how important the community of bacteria living in our gut is. We now know that:
- Bacteria can influence how many calories we extract from food.
- We can ‘transplant’ obesity and diabetes purely by transplanting gut bacteria.
- Women with PCOS have a significantly altered gut bacteria, which could be contributing to our symptoms.
I’ve written more about PCOS and gut health, but one thing that’s important for it is fermented foods. Fermented food is a probiotic, which means that it helps good bacteria thrive and keeps bad bacteria at bay. Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples and is therefore a fermented food.
I recommend having fermented food or drinks with every meal, so if you like apple cider vinegar then by all means, take it. However, remember that it’s not the only fermented food. I personally prefer to brew my own green tea kombucha and make my own sauerkraut.
As a side note, many people report that apple cider vinegar has helped their heartburn or reflux (GERD). Although I can’t find any research on this, I do know of other functional medicine practitioners who use it for this purpose. If you suffer from these conditions then you should talk to a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner before taking apple cider vinegar for them.
Apple cider vinegar and PCOS: What’s the conclusion?
Apple cider vinegar is not the miracle cure you’re hoping for. Drinking it probably won’t do you any harm and it may even improve your health, especially if you have insulin resistance or poor fat metabolism, but it’s certainly not going to ‘melt the fat away’.
If you have insulin resistance, you should be concerned about this and looking for every way to improve it. However, I think there is much more conclusive research for improving insulin resistance in PCOS by:
- Removing inflammatory food from your diet.
- Significantly reducing stress.
- Walking and standing most of the day and lifting some heavy weights and sprinting a few times a week.
- Improving your gut health by taking a probiotic and eating fermented food.
- Eating only as much carbohydrate as your body can handle.
However, if you’re already doing everything above and looking for more improvements, then by all means try apple cider vinegar. The one area I can see it might help is when you’re over indulging on carbs, especially fast-acting carbs. Of course, I would recommend not doing this in the first place, rather than trying to buffer the effect by swigging back apple cider vinegar.
However, I can see it’s use in a couple of situations. For example, if you wanted to indulge in a few roast potatoes with your Christmas dinner, or maybe a bit of grain-free birthday cake, then it could be useful. In these instances, I would recommend taking it before your meal, and if you do have insulin resistance, make these occasions once a few months maximum, not once a week. An even better idea would be to focus on fixing your insulin resistance first, then you can enjoy these treats in a year or so without worry.
Use It As A Fermented Food:
Fermented foods are so important for our gut health that I recommend having them with every meal. Apple cider vinegar can be a great fermented food if you like the taste. I’d recommend the the unfiltered version without chemicals and preservatives for the maximum effect.
Making your own is by far the best. It’s so simple and only requires mixing apples, water, and sugar, and leaving it for 2-3 weeks in the warmth. Here’s a recipe I’ve used before.
Use It In Salad Dressings:
Buying pre-made salad dressings is an absolute crime. They are filled with industrial seed oils which cause inflammation and often contain sugars and preservatives. It takes less than 3 minutes to make you own. Here’s the recipe I use for a medium-sized salad:
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Put all ingredients in a glass jar with a screw top and shake until well combined. I tend to multiply the recipe and keep it in the fridge for future salads.
What is your experience with apple cider vinegar and PCOS? Have you got any other questions? I’d love to hear them so comment below!