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Apple cider vinegar shots and gummies promise gut health and other benefits. Is it true?

Apple cider season brings on renewed interest in a longtime wellness trend: apple cider vinegar.

From social media posts extolling the supposed benefits of drinking the pungent fermented liquid to gummy forms being marketed as health supplements, proponents say it can help with everything from skin health to gut health and even weight loss.

But how helpful is it for our health, really?

While more research is needed to fully understand any potential benefits of apple cider vinegar, experts say they have seen some evidence of it supporting certain health goals — but there are things to be mindful of if you’re going to give it a try.

“It’s not a magic cure or a quick fix to any health problem,” says Laura Ligos, a registered dietitian nutritionist and specialist in sports dietetics. “However, in my experience as a dietitian, I have seen using something like apple cider vinegar pre-meal can be helpful in aiding digestion to help simulate stomach acid and break down your food appropriately.”

We know this type of vinegar contains certain acids that can kill harmful bacteria, and natural probiotics that may encourage gut health, but studies on the actual extent of these potential benefits are still needed.

Small studies have also examined apple cider vinegar’s effect on blood sugar.

“As far as other benefits, it may be helpful in reducing the blood sugar response when taken with or after a meal,” Ligos explains.

Others are turning to apple cider vinegar not for internal use, but external — using the liquid for skin and scalp care.

While research is also lacking in this area, Dr. Azza Halim, a physician and board-certified anesthesiologist, says apple cider vinegar contains multiple elements that may aid in certain skin concerns.

“The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar helps restore the natural pH of the skin to reduce inflammation. It also contains alpha hydroxy acid and antioxidants which all help to exfoliate, brighten and smooth the skin,” she says, adding its antibacterial and antifungal properties may also help in the “balancing of scalp pH to ward off dandruff and other scalp buildup since much of scalp conditions are overabundance of yeast growth due to imbalance of pH.”

But don’t rush to incorporate it into your skin routine without guidance or a patch test, she says, as some people with sensitive skin may develop irritation.

Do’s and don’ts of using apple cider vinegar

If you’re thinking of giving apple cider vinegar a try in your diet, experts have some important tips to keep in mind.

Firstly, it is not recommended to take it solo as a shot.

“Always dilute it,” Ligos says. “It is acidic and may cause issues with tooth enamel or your esophagus lining.”

Drinking it straight could also irritate your stomach lining, Halim says, which would have the opposite affect for someone looking to support their gut microbiome with the healthy bacteria it contains.

What about the gummy versions?

Ligos cautions against popular — and pricey — gummy supplements, both for lack of regulation around supplements and for potentially lower efficacy.

“Gummies are also notorious for having lower absorption rates, so for most people I would just recommend using the actual vinegar,” she suggests.

Gummies may also contain added sugars, and there are uncertainties about whether they offer accurate dosing, Halim adds.

“Though it would be convenient to have a gummy version and not have to mix or dilute — until we have more data, it’s hard to say what amount is actually in the gummies,” she says.

And while better taste is what makes many consumers reach towards gummies, Ligos says there are ways to incorporate the liquid form in ways that are a little more appetizing than just diluting it with water.

“You could add it to a tea, use it in a dressing or marinade or cook with it in your actual meal,” she suggests.

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