Apple cider vinegar shots and chewable gummies are touting gut health and other benefits. Is it true?

The apple cider vinegar season has brought a resurgence of interest in an age-old health trend: apple cider vinegar.

From social media posts praising the alleged benefits of consuming the pungent fermented liquid to chewable forms marketed as dietary supplements, proponents claim it can help with everything from skin health to gut health and even weight loss.

But how beneficial is it for our health, really?

While additional research is needed to fully understand any potential benefits of apple cider vinegar, experts say they have seen some evidence that it supports specific health goals. However, there are things to keep in mind if you're considering trying it.

"It's not a magic cure-all or a quick fix for any health issue," says Laura Ligos, a registered dietitian and sports dietetics specialist. "However, in my experience as a dietitian, I've seen that something like apple cider vinegar before a meal can be beneficial for improving digestion by helping to mimic stomach acid and properly break down food."

We know that this type of vinegar contains certain acids that can kill harmful bacteria, and it contains natural probiotics that may promote gut health, but research into the extent of these potential benefits is still needed.

Small studies have also examined the impact of apple cider vinegar on blood sugar levels.

"As for other potential benefits, it may be helpful in reducing the blood sugar response when consumed during or after a meal," explains Ligos.

Others turn to apple cider vinegar not for internal consumption but for external use, using the liquid for skincare and scalp care.

While research in this area is also lacking, Dr. Azza Halim, a physician and board-certified anesthesiologist, says that apple cider vinegar contains numerous elements that can help with certain skin issues.

"The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar can help restore the skin's natural pH and reduce inflammation. It also contains alpha-hydroxy acid and antioxidants that can aid in exfoliating, brightening, and smoothing the skin," she says, adding that its antibacterial and antifungal properties may also help "balance the scalp's pH to prevent dandruff and other scalp conditions since most scalp skin issues are linked to yeast overgrowth due to pH imbalance."

However, she advises not to rush into incorporating it into your skincare routine without recommendations or patch testing, as some individuals with sensitive skin may experience irritation.

If you're considering adding apple cider vinegar to your diet, experts have some important advice to keep in mind.

First and foremost, it's not recommended to take it as a shot on its own.

"Always dilute it," says Ligos. "It's acidic and can cause issues with tooth enamel or the esophageal mucosa."

According to Halim, consuming it in its pure form can also irritate the mucous lining of the stomach, which would have the opposite effect for those looking to support their gut microbiome with the healthy bacteria it contains.

What about the chewable versions?

Ligos cautions against popular and expensive chewable supplements due to the lack of regulation surrounding supplements and their potentially lower effectiveness.

"Chewable gummies are also known for their slower absorption rate, so I would simply recommend real vinegar to most people," she suggests.

Chewable gummies may also contain added sugars, and there are doubts about whether they provide accurate dosages, adds Halim.

"While it would be convenient to have a chewable version and not have to mix or dilute it—until we have more data, it's hard to say what amount is actually contained in the chewables," she says.

And while taste might be what sways many consumers towards chewable gummies, Ligos says there are ways to make the liquid form a little more palatable than just diluting it with water.

"You can add it to tea, use it in dressing or marinade, or cook with it," she suggests.