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The Secret To A Spring Cleanse?

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, can a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar do the trick, too?

Though I’m a devoted health, yoga and fitness fan, I’d never done a cleanse of any kind. I prefer a balanced diet (with occasional treats thrown in), and I get my detox through hot vinyasa. But I’d heard enough positive testimony in the yogaverse about the Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse to experiment.

According to WebMD, apple cider vinegar contains vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C along with niacin, biotin, and folic and pantothenic acids, and small amounts of potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium. A healthy sounding cocktail indeed, so I decided to investigate a little further. A trip through cyberspace revealed a cult of apple cider vinegar lovers professing its myriad virtues. On Dr. Axe, no fewer than 20 benefits are listed: reducing acid reflux, curing the common cold, relieving allergies, and lowering blood pressure among them. Other devotees claim apple cider vinegar can do everything from whiten teeth to dissolve warts, be used as a skin toner and hair conditioner.

I decided to go for it—the day after partaking in the traditional excesses of Super Bowl Sunday.

I chose 360 Nutrition’s Apple Cider Vinegar Cleanse, which includes senna leaf and garcinia cambogia among its ingredients. The former is a natural laxative, and the latter is reported to block body fat production, thus abetting the intended effects of the ACV. This cleanse promises “weight loss and detoxification through the reduction of cravings.” The formula: one tablespoon of the powder in a full glass of warm or hot water before breakfast, accompanied by a diet low on simple carbohydrates—sugar, sweets, soda—as well as milk products. I was already in the early stages of eliminating these foods, so was doubly motivated to get started.

The mixture was grainy and not very tasty, but not particularly unpleasant.

After the first few days, I was feeling a little out of it, but it may not have been the concoction; I was also working long hours and eating a light vegetarian diet. Still researching between doses, I learned about apple cider vinegar’s most scientifically supported use: the management of diabetes.

“There’ve been enough studies to show that it has an anti-glycemic effect on the blood sugar,” Marlo Mittler, MS MD. “A couple of studies had people take ACV with a snack before they went to bed, and the results showed that their blood sugar levels were lower in the morning than they would have been if they had just had water or something else. The ACV blocks the digestion of some of the starch—not all, but some—so it doesn’t allow your blood sugar to rise as high.”

Checkmark for the blood sugar box! But what about the claims of weight loss? “There have been studies with laboratory rats, and it seems that apple cider vinegar triggers the genes that allow you to break down more fat,” Mittler says. “Most studies show it’s not significant, a pound or two here or there. And, yes, once you stop taking it, sometimes the pounds come back on.” As for detoxification, she says, “long-term, it’s questionable that apple cider vinegar is really doing anything.”

She also noted evidence that apple cider vinegar's acidity could be harmful to your esophagus and your teeth, could cause indigestion and heartburn, and said it shouldn't be taken straight. Mittler recommended a two-week cap on the cleanse.

After two weeks of drinking a glass every morning, I took her counsel and ended the experiment. I still feel pretty good, despite long hours on the job, cold weather, sniffling coworkers and reduced sleep time. I’m alert, energetic, and I’ve even lost a few pounds. But perhaps the best result is that I’m motivated to continue the healthy habits that the apple cider vinegar cleanse helped me implement.

--Jim Catapano

--illustration Anna Sudit

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