Aspall Cyder - Cider and Vinegar

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR and DIETING – what’s it all about?

24th June 2016

​You may have missed it but I was on the tele recently. It was part of Channel 4’s “Food Unwrapped” series where a team of presenters – Jimmy Doherty, Kate Quilton and Matt Tebbutt – look in to different foods to better understand where they come from, how they are made. It’s a good show - very informative and even-handed.

This episode was all about dieting, and the team were investigating the merits of various diets that have been in the headlines - all in the build up to summer when for a few brief days we get the chance to squeeze ourselves in to our swimsuits and hang on the beach. 

They looked at why Italians with such a carb filled pasta diet are, by and large, not obese; investigated whether there really is a calorie negative food – a food that uses more calories to digest than it gives (apparently celery does the job but who would want to live on a diet of celery?); uncovered how miso is made and why it might help with weight loss, before a hugely interesting piece on gut bacteria and how having the right bacteria in your gut massively affects both your physical and mental well-being.

They also looked at apple cider vinegar, which is where we came in.

Ever since Hippocrates prescribed it in 400BC, cider vinegar has long been linked to healthy living. Most recently, it was given headline status as a diet that took off amongst Hollywood A-listers, and so as a result leapt in to the public consciousness as a weight loss aid around a decade ago. Indeed, our own anecdotal evidence would suggest that there is something in it, given the feedback we have had from customers over the years. The family have long been enthusiastic consumers – a dessert spoonful in a glass full of water 3 times a day, and we’re certainly none of us what you would call overweight.

We glibly say that this is all down to the cider vinegar, but is there any hard, scientific proof to be found to back this up? Well, this is what The Food Unwrapped team were setting out to discover. Our role was to provide the background information – the “how do you make it” section. We duly did our stuff on camera with the charming Kate Quilton, during which she tantalisingly suggested they had perhaps found some hard evidence to suggest that cider vinegar does actually aid weight loss. Well, that would be something.

We found out as the programme aired on a Monday evening in mid-June, 3 months after filming. Up we popped about halfway way through the hour long show; we followed an interview with a firm cider vinegar diet believer, who after having had a child, found the only way to shed the extra weight she had put on was with the cider vinegar diet. And a staggering amount she lost too; she was accompanied by various voxpop moments of others who had similar results. 

Maybe this was true – perhaps at last we would be given hard evidence of the efficacy of taking cider vinegar with regard to weight loss.

The scientific review was carried out in Brighton; a number of human guinea pigs were brought in and presented with a plate of chips. The chips were duly eaten and each person then tested their blood sugar level to see what happened.

A week later, the same group returned and were asked to repeat the chip eating exercise, only this time with a generous splash of malt vinegar on them.

Malt vinegar? Well, according to the researcher, it was acetic acid that they were analysing the effects of, not the raw ingredient of the vinegar. Hmm, well I would say this I know, but the makeup of malt vinegar varies hugely to that of all other vinegars including cider vinegar; plus there is a lot of discussion around the polyphenolics and enzymes that are exclusive to apple derived acetic acid and how that affects digestion and metabolism. But as I said on the show, I’m no nutritionist, so back to the experiment.

The idea behind this thinking is that acetic acid may affect how food is digested, and so the sugar content within the bloodstream, which affects how we eat and so digest.

The plates of chips duly gobbled up, our willing participants re-tested their blood to see if the malt vinegar had reduced the blood sugar level of each person – or raised it – by comparison to the week before. You’ll have to forgive me at this point that I don’t recall whether the level needed to rise or fall in order to be deemed to be having a beneficial effect on digestion. But at this point, I was rather taken aback at the un-scientific approach that I was watching.

At no point (onscreen anyway) was any data taken to ascertain what people had been eating – or not – in the previous 12 hours; were they hung over, had they been fasting, had they had a huge breakfast before coming to the lab? All things that would potentially make a massive difference to the results of the test. The researcher herself made this point, so I don’t feel I’m being pedantic in highlighting what felt like a glaring omission to the whole process. I may not be a qualified scientist, but I do know that if you leave too many variables within the parameters of an experiment one would expect the results to be largely meaningless.

And that’s pretty much how it turned out; some blood sugar levels rose, others did not. The conclusion of the show? “It works for some and for others it doesn’t”. This all felt a little too convenient, but then I can understand why this may be seen as an acceptable outcome from a broadcasters’ perspective. Apart from the celery, none of the other diet ‘fads’ gave any sort of conclusive evidence either way to their effect on weight.

To be honest, I would have been amazed (and delighted!) if cider vinegar on its own was scientifically proven to cause weight loss. It seems obvious that one of the best ways to lose weight is simply to eat less, and if a diet based around cider vinegar helps that, well it can only be a good thing.

For all my hrmphing, it was still as ever, an interesting show; the piece about gut bacteria was super fascinating; an organ as important to our functioning as our brains, so expect to hear much more on this subject in the coming months and years.

Back at Aspall we keep taking the medicine; we keep moderating our balanced diet. And we keep enjoying our odd few minutes of fame. If you missed the feature, Food Unwrapped is available to watch online at 4OD.