Cranberry juice and apple cider vinegar have become increasingly popular health drinks in recent years due to their purported health benefits. But what effects do these tart beverages actually have on the body? Here, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the research behind cranberry juice and apple cider vinegar to find out what they do and don’t do for your health.
Cranberry juice is made from the fruit of the Vaccinium macrocarpon plant. Native to North America, cranberries have long been used in food and herbal medicine. Cranberry juice has a tart, acidic taste due to high levels of quinic, citric, and malic acids.
Potential Benefits of Cranberry Juice
Here are some of the ways cranberry juice may benefit health:
- Preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberry juice has antibacterial properties that may help prevent bacteria like E. coli from adhering to the lining of the bladder and urethra, potentially preventing UTIs.
- Antioxidant effects. Cranberries contain flavonoid antioxidants like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins that may help reduce cellular damage from free radicals.
- Reduced heart disease risk. Compounds in cranberry juice like polyphenols and vitamin K may help improve heart health by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and preventing blood clots.
- Anti-inflammatory effects. The antioxidants in cranberry juice may help reduce inflammation in the body linked to chronic diseases.
- Improved immune function. Vitamin C and other nutrients in cranberry juice support the immune system and may help ward off infections.
Potential Side Effects of Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice is generally recognized as safe, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- May interact with blood thinning medications like warfarin due to vitamin K content.
- Contains oxalates which may increase kidney stone risk in prone individuals.
- Large amounts can cause digestive upset like diarrhea, nausea, and bloating.
- Has high natural sugar content, so moderation is key for people with diabetes.
- May cause mild allergic reactions in those with cranberry sensitivities.
There are no standard dosage guidelines for cranberry juice, but many studies have found health benefits with about 8 ounces (240 mL) per day. It’s best to choose unsweetened varieties and avoid excessive intake due to the high sugar content.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apples, which turns the natural sugars into acetic acid. This gives it a sour, pungent taste. Unfiltered versions contain a cobweb-like substance called “mother” which has probiotics and enzymes.
Potential Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Here are some of the evidence-based ways apple cider vinegar may benefit health:
- Blood sugar control. Acetic acid may slow digestion and reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes, especially when taken before carb-heavy meals.
- Weight loss. Animal and a few small human studies show vinegar may increase satiety and reduce food intake, resulting in weight loss over time.
- Reduced cholesterol. The acetic acid may inhibit an enzyme involved in cholesterol production, resulting in lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Lower blood pressure. Vinegar contains polyphenols which may relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, lowering hypertension risk.
- Improved insulin sensitivity. The acetic acid and other compounds may reduce insulin resistance by increasing the efficiency of glucose uptake in the muscles.
Potential Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar
There are some potential side effects to be aware of with apple cider vinegar:
- Can erode tooth enamel due to acidity, so dilute before drinking.
- May delay gastric emptying and cause nausea, reflux, and indigestion.
- Interacts with certain medications like diuretics and laxatives.
- Excessive intake may lower potassium and interact with digoxin heart medication.
- Full strength vinegar may damage esophagus and throat if taken undiluted.
There are no official dosage guidelines, but most studies showing benefits used 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) diluted in water per day. It’s best to start with small doses and avoid drinking it undiluted.
Comparison of Cranberry Juice and Apple Cider Vinegar
|Cranberry Juice||Apple Cider Vinegar|
|Main active ingredient||Flavonoids like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins||Acetic acid|
|Main health benefits||
|Nutrition facts per 8 oz||
|Potential side effects||
In summary, while both provide health benefits, cranberry juice is higher in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while apple cider vinegar is very low in calories and carbs. Cranberry juice has more evidence for UTI prevention and heart health effects, while apple cider vinegar shows more promise for blood sugar control and weight management.
Evidence Behind Cranberry Juice and Apple Cider Vinegar
While cranberry juice and apple cider vinegar have many purported benefits, it’s important to look at the research to determine which claims have scientific support behind them.
Cranberry Juice Research
Numerous studies have found evidence to support the use of cranberry juice or cranberry extracts to prevent UTIs:
- A 2012 review of 24 studies found cranberry products significantly reduced UTI incidence compared to placebo, juice, or no treatment (1).
- A 2020 study gave 189 women with recurrent UTIs either cranberry lingonberry juice or a placebo drink. The cranberry juice group had significantly fewer UTIs over the 12 month study (2).
- Analyses show certain compounds in cranberries prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to cells along the urinary tract, which may explain the UTI prevention benefits (3).
There is also promising research on cranberries and heart health:
- A 2011 study found drinking low-calorie cranberry juice increased HDL cholesterol and reduced other heart disease risk markers vs. a control drink (4).
- A 2006 study in heart disease patients found cranberry juice improved blood vessel function and reduced levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol (5).
- The combination of phytonutrients like anthocyanins and quercetin in cranberries is believed to benefit heart health in various ways (6).
However, there is lack of strong evidence for other commonly touted benefits of cranberry juice like preventing kidney stones, improving immune function, and reducing cancer risk. Overall the strongest evidence is for UTI prevention and improved heart health.
Apple Cider Vinegar Research
A few studies suggest apple cider vinegar may modestly improve blood sugar control:
- A small 2004 study showed vinegar reduced post-meal blood sugar spikes in those with prediabetes compared to placebo (7).
- In a 2007 study, vinegar reduced fasting blood sugar by 4% and post-meal glucose by 19% in type 2 diabetics after 12 weeks (8).
- Acetic acid may delay stomach emptying and also improve insulin sensitivity according to some analyses (9).
For weight loss, a few animal and human trials show potential benefits:
- Mice fed acetic acid had reduced body fat accumulation in two studies, possibly by suppressing fat deposition genes (10, 11).
- A 2009 Japanese trial found obese people taking 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar daily lost 2-4 pounds over 3 months compared to none in the control group (12).
- However, other human trials have found minimal or no effect on weight loss. Results remain modest and inconsistent at this time (13).
There is limited evidence for other benefits like lowering cholesterol or blood pressure at this time. Overall much more research is still needed, but apple cider vinegar shows most promise for blood sugar control.
Should You Drink Cranberry Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar?
Based on the research, here are some guidelines for how to incorporate these tart beverages into your diet:
Cranberry Juice Recommendations
- Drink 8 ounces (240mL) of unsweetened cranberry juice per day to help prevent recurrent UTIs.
- Consume cranberry juice in moderation as part of an overall heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.
- Avoid drinking too much due to the high natural sugar content.
- Don’t rely on cranberry juice as a replacement for UTI antibiotics – speak to your doctor.
Apple Cider Vinegar Recommendations
- Add 1-2 tablespoons (15-30mL) apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink before carb-heavy meals to manage blood sugar.
- Tart, unfiltered apple cider vinegar provides the most benefits.
- Start with smaller amounts and dilute to minimize side effects.
- Avoid drinking apple cider vinegar undiluted to prevent damage to enamel and tissues.
In summary, research suggests cranberry juice may help prevent recurrent UTIs and improve heart health, while apple cider vinegar shows promise for improving blood sugar control and aiding weight loss. However, large human studies are still needed to conclusively confirm many of the proposed benefits of both beverages.
Cranberry juice contains more vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds like anthocyanins, but is high in natural sugar. Apple cider vinegar is very low in calories and carbs, but provides few other nutrients outside of trace amounts.
Enjoy cranberry juice in moderation as part of a balanced diet, and add small amounts of apple cider vinegar diluted in water to your diet if you have blood sugar concerns. But keep in mind that neither provides a miracle cure-all. Both should be combined with an overall healthy lifestyle to get the most benefits.