Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has myriad health benefits, so it’s no surprise that it’s currently all the rage. ACV helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol, and can even ease the symptoms of a nasty cold. The only downside is that this serum isn’t especially tasty, which is why some people are turning to ACV pills. On the surface, this sounds like the perfect solution — but experts say pills aren’t effective and in some cases they may not even contain the active ingredient that makes ACV so healthy. (Yikes.)

Rachel Swanson, MS, RD, LDN of LifeSpan Medicine, told OurStyle that, because the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, it’s common for the ingredient list to be inaccurate. “A lot of the ingredients listed are false, and there can be other sketchy ingredients in there,” she explained. If you take ACV pills, Swanson said you run the risk of the supplement “not containing the active ingredient, acetic acid, which is where the documented health effects come from.”

Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN, has the same warning about ACV pills. “Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA so even though they say they have ACV in them doesn’t necessarily mean it,” she told OurStyle.

Jennifer Haessler, ND, noted that ACV pills aren’t effective because “the bitter taste is part of what helps [ACV] work. It causes your stomach to produce more stomach acid and enzymes, which can help you to digest food better. Part of the reason many people have digestive issues (even reflux) is that they are not producing enough acid and/or enzymes.” If a small amount of ACV makes you feel worse, Haessler said it’s likely that your body is producing enough acid and enzymes already.

Due to the lack of clinical research on ACV pills, Swanson said another risk is the questionable dosages. ACV’s benefits are achieved by taking one to two tablespoons each day, and experts advise against taking too much of the serum. “We can’t extrapolate this dosage to capsules,” Swanson explained.

The best way to take ACV is by diluting each tablespoon in eight ounces of water. Even if you’re one of the few people who can bear to drink it like a shot, you still run the risk of damaging your esophagus and tooth enamel. Swanson said another way to integrate ACV into your daily regimen is by mixing it into your salad dressing. “I recommend consuming it at a culinary dose of two tablespoons as part of a salad dressing mixture,” she told OurStyle. (You could also try out this apple cider vinegar drink recipe — it tastes more like a mocktail and provides a hearty dose of ACV.)

Swanson added that ACV pills aren’t the only supplements to avoid. “There are so many cases that should remind us to stay away from this supplement habit until safety is established,” she said. “Remember how high-dose beta-carotene supplements actually increased risk of cancer? It’s a reminder that if one wishes to experiment with the effectiveness of various compounds, whether it’s antioxidants or acetic acid from ACV, then stick to using food as your medicine [rather than] playing with fire by choosing supplements, which we don’t have adequate data to support.”

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