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Health Trends Demystified: Apple Cider Vinegar and Diabetes
Part of our role as Registered Dietitians (or Registered Dietitians to be, in my case) is understanding the science behind health claims and debunking myths. We field all sorts of questions related to health trends such as gluten-free diets, coconut oil, GMOs, you name it! We then use evidence-based science to back up our responses.
The trend we will be demystifying today is the relationship between apple cider vinegar and diabetes. The research is mixed whether or not apple cider vinegar can help control blood sugar levels and therefore decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease, but the majority of research supports this claim.
So how does it work? Acetic acid, an ingredient in apple cider vinegar and other vinegars (red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc.), lowers blood sugar by inhibiting starch-digesting enzymes. This leads to a 20-40% decrease in blood sugar response in healthy individuals and people with diabetes after they eat a high-glycemic index food according to Dr. Carol Johnston’s research findings. The blood-glucose impact is lessened when products high in fiber are eaten since fiber naturally stifles blood glucose increases. Other mechanisms through which vinegar could lower blood glucose include delayed stomach emptying, decreased liver glucose production, and increased glucose utilization have also been proposed.
As an added bonus, the leftover undigested starch can act as a prebiotic which fosters the growth of good gut bacteria. Since the starch isn’t digested the calories are not absorbed, which can aid weight loss. One study found that subjects consuming vinegar daily lost 2-4 pounds over a 12-week period, thus proving that weight loss due to vinegar consumption, while minimal, is possible.
If you decide you want to consume vinegar every day, there are some precautions that should be considered. First, dilute the vinegar in water. Never drink it straight! Try stirring 1-2 tablespoons into 8 ounces of water, and drink it before eating lunch or dinner. Lastly, be aware that vinegar may interact with medicines and could cause issues for those taking insulin, since it could lower blood glucose. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about these factors and plan on consuming vinegar regularly.
Personally my favorite way to incorporate healthy foods into my diet is by adding them to recipes or using them to season my favorite dishes. Try pickling vegetables or mixing vinegar into a marinade. Another simple way to eat more vinegar is to make homemade vinaigrette that can be drizzled over roasted veggies, salads, or baked chicken. This way you can eat more vinegar with very little effort!
– Ashley Moyna, The Ohio State University Dietetic Intern