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Can apple cider vinegar with a structure that resembles an alien have special health benefits? For that matter, does the reality of apple cider vinegar live up to the health claims?

Apple cider vinegar is quite the buzzword in alternative health circles, with proponents claiming that it has wide-ranging health benefits. Is it really the wholesome natural remedy some people would have you believe, or can safely you file apple cider vinegar in the "snake oil" section of your mental library?

Let's take a look! 

Health Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar: The Claims

Online articles authored by people who are wildly enthusiastic about apple cider vinegar — often with titles like "a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day (for two months) keeps the doctor away" — are easy to find.

If you're interested in using apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy and you've been poking around the web a fair bit, you will doubtless have come across the claims:

By this point, you will have either lost interest (along with thinking "yeah, right") or have become seriously curious. If you fall into the latter category, you will further want to note that proponents of apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy — who generally advocate drinking it from a shot glass — have specific ideas on what kind of apple cider vinegar you should be using.

Not just any old ACV will do; you want raw apple cider vinegar, organic apple cider vinegar and ideally, you want the Holy Grail of apple cider vinegar. That is, apple cider vinegar with the "mother"

This "mother" is a phrase you will come across rather a bit when you look into using apple cider vinegar, and at first glance, it looks seriously weird. So, what exactly is this elusive "mother"?

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar With 'Mother'?

Seemingly interchangeably referred to as "mother" and "the mother", we're actually talking about a web of enzymes, proteins, and bacteria. Apple cider vinegar with the mother varies in appearance depending on the producer. Homemade vinegar might contain the mother of all mothers (a pun, not an actual term, in case you were wondering): something that looks a bit like an extraterrestrial. Other apple cider vinegar brands may simply look slightly murky or cloudy, with traces of web here and there. 

Making vinegar is a two-step process that requires first creating alcohol, through fermentation, and then adding live cultures that will induce the next step of turning the alcohol into acetic acid. The so-called mother is the culture that is responsible for this second step. It can be filtered out — which you might prefer if you are a little squeamish. [1] Proponents of unfiltered apple cider vinegar believe that the mother is the very best part, however. 

Health Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar: The Cold, Hard, Science-Backed Facts

Apple cider vinegar really might promote weight loss. Scientific studies have shown that consuming an apple cider vinegar drink before eating a meal increases insulin sensitivity, reduces the glycemic effect that meal will have on your body thus effectively lowering your blood glucose levels, and makes you feel full more quickly. [2, 3, 4]

These findings make apple cider vinegar a particularly interesting supplement for people who are at risk of diabetes or who already have diabetes, but there is no reason you can't try apple cider vinegar for weight loss if you simply want to drop a few pounds.

While apple cider vinegar cannot conclusively be said to lead to weight loss, and apple cider vinegar tablets have not been studied enough to make ant kind of conclusion about them [5], the available body of scientific literature does not discount the idea that apple cider vinegar can cause weight loss either. 

Vinegar in general also has potent antibacterial and antifungal effects [6], which is why it used to be a common home remedy for disinfecting cuts and treating fungal infections.

Vinegar is used as an agent for food preservation (think picking) for the same reason, and it isn't surprising that many people use vinegar to clean their houses, either. 

Organic apple cider vinegar may contain antioxidants like chlorogenic acids, gallic acid, and catechin. These have been shown to have the ability to fight LDL cholesterol [7]. While that alone might be insufficient to prove that apple cider vinegar can reduce your cholesterol levels, rat studies show the same effect [8]. 

In conclusion, apple cider vinegar may help diabetics control their blood glucose levels, help people feel satiated more quickly and promote weight loss, act as a disinfectant, and reduce cholesterol levels. Not bad — apple cider vinegar uses may not be as versatile as some people think, but it's good for something.

We also have to add that apple cider vinegar may lead to tooth erosion if you drink it straight on a regular basis [9] and that it may even lead to esophageal injury [10]. This is why many proponents of apple cider vinegar will advise you to add baking soda to your apple cider vinegar drink, though you could just as easily simply use it as a salad dressing. 

What About That Mother? Is That Really Necessary?

Once you start reading about apple cider vinegar, you will find that many people have extremely strong feelings about the kind of ACV you are supposed to be using. Bragg's apple cider vinegar seems to be the most frequently recommended brand, and this is a brand that contains the mother.

There is no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar with the mother is medicinally superior to filtered apple cider vinegar (or even that other kinds of vinegar won't suffice), though organic apple cider vinegar may contain antioxidants that other types do not. If you're interested in ACV for weight loss, disinfection, or to keep your cholesterol levels in check, current data suggests that you do not specifically need the mother to reap the benefits of apple cider vinegar. 

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