In addition to its use as an ingredient in cooking, apple cider vinegar is a popular “natural remedy” for a number of health concerns.
But can it help with Alzheimer’s disease? In short, the answer is no.
“Apple cider vinegar has been around for thousands of years as a food additive,” says Vanessa Rissetto, RD, a nutritionist based in Hoboken, New Jersey. “But there’s no evidence this supplement helps adults with Alzheimer’s.”
Indeed, as Ashok K. Shetty, PhD, the associate director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, notes, a search on PubMed, a database of published, peer-reviewed medical and scientific studies, using the keywords “apple cider vinegar” and “Alzheimer’s disease” yields zero results.
“What that means is, the scientific evidence is not there in support of apple cider vinegar,” Dr. Shetty says.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from apples that have been crushed and fermented, and it can be consumed in small quantities or taken as a supplement.
The high levels of acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may be what gives the product its health benefits — although in many instances, those benefits are unclear or unproven.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and devastating neurodegenerative disorder that causes memory loss and confusion. According to the Mayo Clinic, recent research has linked the condition with type 2 diabetes, a form of diabetes in which the body doesn’t process the hormone insulin properly, resulting in hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar.
Although the relationship between Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes isn’t fully understood, it’s thought that type 2 diabetes affects the ability of the brain and other body tissues to use sugar and process insulin.
RELATED: Why Some Researchers Are Calling Alzheimer’s Disease a ‘Type 3 Diabetes’
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Lower Blood Sugar?
A few studies have suggested that consuming small amounts of vinegar may have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
For example, in a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, participants with insulin resistance but not type 2 diabetes who consumed 20 grams (roughly 5 teaspoons) of apple cider vinegar right before a high-carbohydrate meal improved their insulin sensitivity in the hour after the meal. The vinegar only slightly improved one-hour insulin sensitivity in subjects diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It’s worth noting that the study was very small, including only 11 subjects with insulin resistance and 10 with type 2 diabetes, and each subject consumed the vinegar and then the meal only once.
Similarly, in another study published in Diabetes Care, four men and seven women with well-controlled type 2 diabetes consumed either 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or water at bedtime, along with 1 ounce of cheese. Both groups saw slightly lowered fasting glucose levels in the morning, with the vinegar group seeing a 4 percent reduction, compared with 2 percent in the water group.
And a meta-analysis published in May 2017 in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice found that in the studies included in the analysis, vinegar did reduce postprandial (after-meal) blood sugar levels. But the authors noted that they found few eligible studies to include in their analysis, and most had very few participants.
Ultimately, while the possibility that a common and inexpensive ingredient like apple cider vinegar could improve type 2 diabetes control is intriguing, it is far from proven that it does.
What to Know Before You Try Apple Cider Vinegar
“High blood sugar can be a problem in people who don't have diabetes, and it’s believed to be a major cause of various chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” Rissetto explains. “Pretty much everyone can benefit from keeping their blood sugar levels in the normal range, and the most effective and healthiest way to do that is to avoid refined carbs and sugar.”
If you wish to flavor your food with apple cider vinegar, that’s fine, but don’t expect it to have any significant effect on your blood sugar.
As always, before making any major changes to your diet or starting nutritional supplements, including apple cider vinegar, Rissetto emphasizes that you should talk to your doctor — whatever your reason for making the change.
“It’s always a good idea to speak to your physician, because we need to make sure there are no drug and nutrient interactions with whatever you might be taking,” she says.