I’ve read that vinegar has beneficial health effects. Is this true?
Vinegar is one of the oldest documented condiments and preservatives. It was used by Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine), the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. Even Columbus carried vinegar on his voyages to prevent scurvy.
In modern times, vinegar is mostly used to make salad dressings and for pickling. But researchers are starting to look at vinegar for its potential to improve insulin sensitivity and help control diabetes.
The first stage of type 2 diabetes, called “insulin resistance,” occurs when insulin becomes unable to shuttle all the sugar in the blood stream into cells where it is needed. To compensate, the pancreas works overtime to put out more insulin. Eventually, the body can’t produce enough insulin and abnormally high levels of blood sugar occur. Unfortunately, the spikes in blood sugar can damage the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. The good news is that ingesting vinegar before meals could help.
An article published in Diabetes Care in 2004 showed that vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. One of the authors, Carol Johnston, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Arizona State University, has done further research and found that ingesting two tablespoons of vinegar (diluted in water or in a vinaigrette) before meals helped people with insulin resistance by decreasing blood sugar spikes after high-carbohydrate meals. In fact, the vinegar cocktail cut their blood-glucose rise by almost 50%. Although it helped diabetics, it did so to a lesser extent. She also found that her subjects lost weight and had greater satiety.
Why might vinegar help? A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2000 found that the acetic acid in vinegar could decrease the activity of an enzyme (disaccharidase) used to digest carbohydrates, resulting in a blood-sugar lowering effect. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2001 indicated that acetic acid may enhance the storage of sugar in muscle and liver cells. In the Diabetes Care article, Dr. Johnston suggested that vinegar may have physiological effects similar to the widely prescribed drugs acarbose (Precose) or metformin (Glucophage).
Since 18 million Americans have diabetes, many may benefit from regular ingestion of vinegar. It’s a simple, non-toxic, preventive measure that anyone at risk can use. (The only exceptions are people with gastric or esophageal ulcers, or gastritis.)