This Popular Supplement Falls Short on Health Claims, Says Report
It's one of the most well-known wellness trends there is: taking apple cider vinegar, or ACV, shots. Experts, influencers, and everyday people claim that this living vinegar can provide countless benefits, from regulating blood sugar, to supporting weight loss, to even lowering cholesterol levels. So it's no wonder that companies would want to capitalize on these health claims and find ways to make it easier for consumers to get apple cider vinegar into their diets.
One way companies came up with is through apple cider vinegar supplements, with one brand, Goli, bursting onto the scene in 2019 with an Apple Cider Vinegar gummy.
But today, the National Advertising Division (NAD) released their recommendation that Goli "discontinue or modify its advertising to avoid conveying the unsupported message that the amount of ACV contained in its gummies is associated with the health benefits of traditional liquid ACV."
The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the non-profit BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation of product marketing claims to "guide the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S."
What are the benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Anecdotally, many people find ACV to be a beneficial supplement, and there are countless studies that support certain benefits.
"There is some data that suggests ACV, when taken in an appropriate quantity, can offer some health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity. However, more high-quality studies are needed in order to make specific claims. Some studies suggest that vinegar, and not apple cider vinegar specifically, offers some potential health benefits," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian on our medical expert board.
As Manaker notes, because the current studies are small or performed in animal models, current research does not conclusively support ACV's health benefits.
Why does NAD recommend Goli stop marketing its gummies as having the same health benefits as ACV?
NAD has been reviewing many of Goli's marketing claims for about a year, dating back to March 2021 when the division recommended that Goli discontinue its skin health claims.
In its recent report, NAD determined that Goli's use of the terms "Apple Cider Vinegar" and "ACV" in its advertising "reasonably conveys the message that the product provides the nutritional and health benefits of traditional apple cider vinegar."
However, NAD claims that this message is not supported due to the fact that "the health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar are tied to a much higher amount of acetic acid, the 'active' ingredient in ACV, than is present in the suggested intake for Goli's ACV Gummies."
READ MORE: Supplements You Should Give Up in 2022, Say Dietitians
How does liquid ACV differ from ACV gummies?
The decision by NAD is based on the fact that ACV gummies are very different from liquid ACV in both form and function.
Most ACV gummies do not contain a high enough concentration of apple cider vinegar as a liquid dose.
For example, one two-gummy serving of Goli ACV gummies is said to contain 1 gram of ACV, which the company claims is the equivalent to one dose of liquid apple cider vinegar. However, this concentration is significantly less than what studies on ACV typically involve, and those studies only use liquid ACV.
Following the recent proceedings, Goli has agreed to permanently discontinue the claim that two gummies are equivalent to a dose of liquid ACV, and the company will also cease to claim that these gummies contain "All of the Age Old Benefits of Traditional ACV."
Another big difference between gummies and liquid ACV is the presence of "the mother."
Liquid apple cider vinegar can come with "the mother," which is the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. This is the cloudy substance you may see in your bottle of ACV. This substance contains polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants) and other potentially beneficial compounds; however, ACV gummies may not necessarily contain the same compounds.
"Certain gummies claim to contain the mother in their composition. However, it is unclear what effect the processing of the supplement has on the function of 'the mother,'" says Manaker.
For example, Goli says that they "source a top-quality Apple Cider Vinegar powder for our product, made with real apple cider vinegar that contains the mother at time of manufacturing," and they are careful to avoid saying that the mother is present in their processed supplement.
At this time, there are no studies on the efficacy of ACV in gummy form.
While there are small studies that examine the benefits of liquid ACV, there are currently none on a gummy version.
"Unfortunately, there are no studies evaluating the effectiveness of ACV gummies. Assuming taking this ingredient in gummy form can have the same health effects as taking it in liquid form may be over-reaching. We can't say for sure until we have quality clinical trials to evaluate the effects," says Manaker.
If you want to reap the benefits Goli claims, there are ways to do so without taking this supplement.
"People may take Goli AVC gummies for a healthy immune function, heart health, and antioxidant support (all benefits listed on their website), but these benefits may not be because of the vinegar," says Manaker. "In addition to ACV, these gummies are made with synthetic forms of vitamin B12 and folic acid, so people may experience outcomes like more energy because of the additional vitamins they are putting in their body." In other words, you're basically taking a B-complex vitamin when you have Goli ACV gummies.
Manaker recommends that people lean on products that have adequate evidence to support their use, but more importantly, you should focus on your diet to improve your health.
"People can easily take in antioxidants by making a point to consume a balanced diet filled with fruit, veggies, nuts, and beans. For heart health support, evidence-based solutions like sipping on green tea may be a more effective solution. And for weight management goals, there is nothing quite like following a balanced diet and including physical activity in your day to help maintain your ideal weight," she says.
"Another option is to explore a high-quality multivitamin that not only contains B vitamins (like Goli provides), but also other nutrients that people are oftentimes deficient in, like vitamin D to support a slew of health goals. There are plenty of solutions out there that have quality data to support its use and they can be fantastic options to lean on instead of taking an ACV gummy every day," says Manaker.
Editor's Note: Although Goli reached an agreement with NAD on certain points, the supplement company will be appealing the decision, "because it 'disagrees' with NAD's findings that its advertising conveys unsupported implied messages, that its recommended dosage claim is in dispute before the NAD, and with NAD's exercise of jurisdiction 'over these issues and over other advertising that is at issue in pending federal litigation.'"