Apple cider vinegar has a long history of home remedy use. You may have even heard that apple cider vinegar is cure-all for what ails you.

Apple cider vinegar has a long history of home remedy use. You may have even heard that apple cider vinegar is cure-all for what ails you. With claims ranging from a weight loss aid to a treatment for a sore throat to a cure for diabetes, apple cider vinegar has its fair share of believers. Although most claims are not supported through scientific research, some studies have found a few benefits for regular use of apple cider vinegar.

But first, what is apple cider vinegar? It starts with apple juice, or cider, to which yeast is added. This results in fermentation, turning the fruit sugar into alcohol. Bacteria then convert the alcohol into acetic acid. This is what gives vinegars their characteristic sour taste and strong smell. Vinegar can be made from just about anything that contains sugar or starch, but apples, grapes and grains are the most common. By definition, vinegars must have at least 4 percent acidity. Most commercial vinegars filter the vinegar and pasteurize it, so it is crystal clear.

Although there is no clear benefit to one type of vinegar over another, many claim apple cider vinegar is the best for your health. Apple cider vinegar aficionados generally prefer the cloudy unfiltered, unpasteurized raw product, which still has the web-like blob of bacteria, called the “mother.”

What are some potential benefits of apple cider vinegar? Vinegars are most useful for adding lots of flavor to your food with very few calories. Following are some other claims.

Blood sugar control. Research from Arizona State University showed that individuals with insulin resistance had slower increase in blood glucose after eating starchy carbs when they drank diluted apple cider vinegar before eating. The vinegar appears to inhibit the enzymes that help you digest starch, resulting in a lower blood sugar response. This effect doesn’t seem to prevent, but just delay, the absorption of carbohydrates.

Weight loss. I found only one human study, from Japan in 2009, on the effects of vinegar on weight loss. It showed appetite reduction when apple cider vinegar was consumed before a meal. This could be more evidence of the delayed carb absorption noted above. Or, it could be related to the nausea and upset stomach many people felt after drinking the vinegar. Whatever the reason, the reported weight loss was very modest, with just one to four pounds lost during a 12-week period.

Gut health. Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is rich in enzymes, pectin and probiotics, which may aid digestion, help prevent bloat and improve your gut microbes. Plus, if it’s true that vinegar delays carb absorption, the undigested starches would make good food for the bacteria in your gut.

Skin. Apple cider vinegar has been used as a treatment for acne, wrinkles, mole removal and wound care. Although vinegar does have some antibacterial properties, prolonged skin exposure can result in chemical burns, and there are far better skin treatments available for all of these issues.

Improved lipids. Although I found no human studies, I did find some promising animal studies that show apple cider vinegar may reduce clot formation and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides.

If you want to try to reap the benefits of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, make sure you do it the right way; otherwise, it could be harmful. First, never drink vinegar straight. It is an acid that could be dangerous. Vinegar can irritate the soft tissues of the mouth or throat and cause chemical burns to skin. It is also caustic to tooth enamel and can lead to erosion. Second, vinegar may interact with medications, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding too much to your diet. Third, don’t fall for the ease of apple cider vinegar pills. There’s no research to support their value, and supplements are not regulated, so who knows what’s actually in them?

If you do choose to sip some vinegar, don’t go overboard. Start by diluting 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons in at least 8 ounces of water. Drink it once or twice a day, perhaps before lunch and dinner. Better yet, just work more vinegar into your daily meals: Use it to marinade meats, splash some on to season foods, or make a tasty salad dressing. Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.