I grew up in the seventies and can remember some of the food fads well. There was the whole oat bran thing, the fondue set, quiche, Jiffy-Pop, and loooong salad bars at restaurants. And to treat the inevitable weight gain, the apple cider vinegar diet emerged. It was huge for a while, and like other ineffective diets, it disappeared. Well, for those with fond memories of the seventies, or perhaps new to the supposed power of fermented apples, the apple cider diet is back. This time, in convenient pill form.
This product, from New Nordic, hits new heights in outlandish claims:
“Apple Cider made me lose 16 pounds!”
“I finally lost weight from my legs – lots of weight!”
Apparently Apple Cider 600 is an “effective” (their words) formula of three plant extracts: apple cider vinegar, globe artichoke, and dandelion. Let’s look at each ingredient and whether it might be expected to provide any support for weight loss. But first, some background.
Diet fads like apple cider have been around for decades, and some go in and out of fashion. The seventies apple cider diet was a mix of apple cider liquid, kelp, vitamin B6, and lecithin, and was touted to stimulate metabolism, emulsify body fat, and boost thyroid action. There’s no reason to think this would work – and it didn’t work at all. (For a nice review of the folk claims of apple cider vinegar, see this article)
A full discussion on obesity and dieting is well beyond the scope of this article. If you’re looking for evidence-based guidelines, the Canadian Obesity Network has published their treatment and management guidelines, a 26-chapter evidence-based summary of obesity management. With respect to supplements, it advises, “There is insufficient evidence to recommend in favor of or against the use of herbal remedies, dietary supplements, or homeopathy for weight management in the obese individual.” Not as definitive as I’d like to see but it does point out that these products have not been studied adequately.
So let’s look at this product, and I’ll draw my references from the excellent Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, (NMCD) the best evidence-based guide to natural products.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Made from fermented crushed apples, it contains some vitamins, pectin and possibly a few minerals. Apparently apple cider vinegar is used for weight loss, leg pain, high blood pressure, arthritis, “detoxifying”, high cholesterol and arthritis. There is zero evidence to support its use for any medicinal purpose. A few adverse effects have been reported, including throat irritation and prolonged swallowing difficulties after a tablet became lodged in someone’s throat. Apple cider vinegar may lower potassium levels in the body, so there is the theoretical risk of problems if taken with drugs like digoxin, or diuretic drugs like furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide.
NMCD also notes that laboratory analysis of apple cider vinegar tablets reveals that the amount of acetic acid can vary dramatically by brand, and were not consistent with the labelled claim. As there is no regulatory standard for these products, it is impossible to determine if any product actually contains apple cider vinegar.
Artichoke – Used for everything from kidney problems to snakebite, high blood pressure to hangovers. The only areas where it may have any effectiveness is upset stomach (reducing nausea and vomiting in one out of 12 people after 6 weeks) and high cholesterol (studies are contradictory, however).
There is zero evidence to demonstrate that artichoke has any effect at supporting weight loss in any way.
Dandelion – Another “used for everything, effective for little” herb. Claimed to help arthritis, flatulence, eczema, viruses and cancer. Demonstrated to be effective for nothing, other than adding flavour to salads. There are actually quite a few interesting chemicals in dandelion leaves and root, and it may alter one of the body’s important enzymes, cytochrome P450. Consequently there are a number of theoretical interactions with real drugs.
Again, with dandelion, there is no evidence to suggest that it has any role in supporting weight loss.
Apple Cider 600 has all the red flags of a fad diet:
- it claims you will lose more than 1-2 pounds per week
- it claims to help you lose fat
- it attributes fantastic effects to its product
- it claims to help spot-reduce
- it does not recommend any dietary changes
- you need to buy an expensive supplement
No diet products can overcome excess calories consumed or insufficient calories burned. Save your money: eat a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods, go easy on the meat, exercise, and don’t drink your calories.
No health professional with any credibility would recommend an apple cider diet, or Apple Cider 600. Consider this a test question. If a pharmacist doen’t steer you away from diet products like this, they’re clearly not science-based, nor do they have your health in mind – just your profit potential.