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Apple cider vinegar: facts versus fiction

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For the last two years, advertisements for apple cider vinegar have appeared in a large number of magazines and Web sites, promising dramatic weight loss without the burden of diet or exercise. Testimonials with pictures showing improvement in girth size or buttock firmness seemed to indicate that apple cider vinegar was the cure to weight management problems, and the route to becoming and remaining a thinner person.(1) How does it work, or more specifically, does it actually work?

What is it good for?

According to the Web sites promoting and marketing apple cider vinegar, the product has multiple uses. Beyond weight loss, apple cider vinegar is touted as a means to lower cholesterol levels, is said to aid blood pressure and the heart, help control blood glucose in diabetic patients, improve arthritis, prevent osteoporosis and gallstones, and can treat or prevent a range of conditions: asthma, sore throat, cancer, candida infections, colds, flu, constipation, leg cramps, diarrhea, depression, premature cataracts, fatigue, food poisoning, headaches, nasal congestion, and many more conditions.(2) It may be easier to list conditions for which apple cider vinegar does not have any benefit.

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How does it work?

To explain how apple cider vinegar works for so many conditions would be impossible, simply because there is no clear mechanism of action associated with the product. Composed mostly of acetic acid, apple cider vinegar also contains traces of minerals, vitamins, and pectin. Commercial Web sites indicate that it contains at least 90 different types of substances.(2) The fact that it only contains traces of most of these ingredients does not seem to influence its activity.

Since apple cider vinegar contains a relatively high amount of pectin, some sources speculate that it may be the agent responsible for cholesterol lowering activity.(2) However, most jams contain pectin,...