Medical News Today: Side effects of apple cider vinegar

By | January 15, 2019
Research suggests that apple cider vinegar may have several health benefits. However, consuming too much vinegar can cause unwanted effects.

Apple cider vinegar is a common ingredient in food dressings, flavorings, and preservatives. It is also becoming popular as a home remedy for a number of health issues.

According to a 2016 review, several studies indicate that vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, have the potential to help treat a range of conditions, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, and bacterial infections.

However, there is little research on the most healthful way to consume vinegar and how much to take.

In particular, very few studies have explored the potential side effects or complications of regularly consuming vinegar.

In this article, we discuss possible adverse effects of using apple cider vinegar as a remedy and give some tips about how to do it safely.

Tooth decay

man holds mouth in pain due to side effect of apple cider vinegar
A person can get tooth decay if they consume too many acidic foods.

Like all vinegars, apple cider vinegar is acidic. Consuming too many acidic foods and beverages can weaken tooth enamel over time, potentially leading to tooth decay.

At first, people may not realize that their tooth enamel is damaged. As the damage worsens, the teeth may start to ache or become sensitive to sweet foods and hot or cold temperatures, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Eventually, the teeth may develop cavities that require fillings.

The risk of tooth decay is highest when a person regularly consumes undiluted apple cider vinegar. Diluting the vinegar or consuming it as part of a meal reduces this risk.

Low potassium

According to Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medicine School in Boston, MA, there have been reports of apple cider vinegar causing or worsening low potassium levels.

The medical name for low potassium is hypokalemia. A person with mild hypokalemia may not have any symptoms. However, moderate or severe hypokalemia can cause muscle weakness and paralysis, which can affect many parts of the body.

If a person experiences muscle problems, especially issues relating to the heart or breathing, they should seek medical attention immediately.

Blood sugar regulation

Some research suggests that consuming vinegar can affect how the body regulates blood sugar levels. However, scientists do not fully understand this effect and more research is needed.

Anyone with diabetes should speak to a medical professional before trying a high-vinegar diet.

Gastrointestinal issues

Many people recommend vinegar as a natural weight loss aid. Research suggests that it helps slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach, which can suppress the appetite by making a person feel fuller for longer.

However, keeping food in the stomach can cause unwanted side effects. In a study that investigated the potential for vinegar to control the appetite, many participants reported feelings of nausea and indigestion after drinking vinegar with breakfast.

Because of the acidity, drinking undiluted apple cider vinegar can also worsen symptoms in people with digestive problems, such as stomach ulcers or acid reflux.

Skin burns

The acidity of vinegar means that applying it directly to the skin can cause burns and irritation, especially if the vinegar is undiluted.

The National Capital Poison Center lists a number of medical reports in which people experienced serious burns that required medical treatment after using vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, on the skin.

A report in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology describes a case in which a teenager sustained chemical burns on her nose after applying apple cider vinegar to remove two moles.

Tips for safe usage

apple cider vinegar
Regularly consuming large quantities of undiluted vinegar can lead to side effects.

A person is more likely to experience side effects if they regularly consume large quantities of undiluted vinegar or leave it on the skin for long periods.

To lower the risk of unwanted effects, try:

  • reducing the quantity of vinegar consumed
  • reducing the amount of time that vinegar touches the skin
  • diluting the vinegar with water or using it as an ingredient
  • limiting contact with the teeth, such as by drinking the vinegar through a straw

A 2016 review found that people may be able to achieve many of the potential health benefits by drinking around 15 milliliters of vinegar a day or any quantity that contains around 750 milligrams of acetic acid.

However, because of the lack of research into side effects and long-term safety, further moderation may be the best approach.

People with digestive issues, low potassium levels, or diabetes should consider speaking to a doctor before consuming apple cider vinegar.

Anyone who experiences severe side effects should consult a medical professional.

Summary

Consuming apple cider vinegar has become a popular health trend.

Some evidence suggests that vinegar may help with a range of health issues, but scientists need to carry out more research to verify and understand these findings.

Apple cider vinegar can cause side effects. For example, applying undiluted vinegar to the skin for long periods can lead to burns and irritation. Regularly consuming large quantities of the vinegar, especially in an undiluted form, may cause digestive issues, damage the teeth, and affect potassium levels.

Anyone who experiences severe side effects after using apple cider vinegar should seek medical care.

People with certain health conditions may wish to speak to a doctor before consuming apple cider vinegar for medicinal purposes.

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