Vinegar: An Age Old Tonic
For centuries people have been using natural apple cider vinegar as both a food and a medicine for themselves and for their pets.
Since 400 BC, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, and others, have used vinegar and vinegar mixed with honey, as an energizing tonic and a healing elixir.
More recently, the health benefits of apple cider vinegar have been promoted by many well-known authors such as Dr Jarvis, Paul C. Bragg/ Patricia Bragg, and D.C Jarvis.
In recent years, apple cider vinegar has been singled out as an especially helpful health tonic. So it’s now sold in both the condiment and the health supplement aisles of your grocery store. While many of the folk medicine uses of vinegar are unproven (or were disproved), there is some medical research backing them up. Some small studies have hinted that apple cider vinegar could help with several conditions, including diabetes and obesity.
So does consuming apple cider vinegar make sense for your health? Here’s a rundown of the facts.
How is Apple Cider Vinegar Made
Vinegar is a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word comes from the French, meaning “sour wine.” While vinegar can be made from all sorts of things — like many fruits, vegetables, and grains — apple cider vinegar comes from pulverized apples.
The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, is acetic acid. However, vinegars also have other acids, vitamins, mineral salts, and amino acids.
Scientific Support of Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
There are some medical uses of vinegar that have promise, at least according to a few studies. Here’s a rundown of some more recent ones.
- Diabetes: The effect of vinegar on blood sugar levels is perhaps the best researched and the most promising of apple cider vinegar’s possible health benefits. Several studies have found that vinegar may help lower glucose levels. For instance, a 2007 study of 11 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4%-6%.
- High cholesterol: A 2006 study showed evidence that vinegar could lower cholesterol. However, the study was done in rats, so it’s too early to know how it might work in people.
- Blood pressure and heart health: Another study in rats found that vinegar could lower high blood pressure. A large observational study also found that people who ate oil and vinegar dressing on salads five to six times a week had lower rates of heart disease than people who didn’t. However, it’s far from clear that the vinegar was the reason.
- Cancer: A few laboratory studies have found that vinegar may be able to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Observational studies of people have been confusing. One found that eating vinegar was associated with a decreased risk of esophageal cancer. Another associated it with an increased risk of bladder cancer.
- Weight Loss: For thousands of years, vinegar has been used for weight loss. White vinegar (and perhaps other types) might help people feel full. A 2005 study of 12 people found that those who ate a piece of bread along with small amounts of white vinegar felt fuller and more satisfied than those who just ate the bread.
While the results of these studies are promising, they are all preliminary. Many were done on animals or on cells in a lab. The human studies have been small. Before we will truly know whether vinegar has any health benefits, much larger studies are needed.
What Are the Risks of Apple Cider Vinegar?
On the whole, the risks of taking occasional, small amounts of apple cider vinegar seem low. But using apple cider vinegar over the long term, or in larger amounts, could have risks. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Apple cider vinegar is acidic. The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar is acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar should always be diluted with water or juice before swallowed. Pure apple cider vinegar could damage the tooth enamel and the tissues in your throat and mouth.
- Long-term use of apple cider vinegar could cause low potassium levels and lower bone density. If you already have low potassium or osteoporosis, talk to your health care provider before using apple cider vinegar.
- If you have diabetes, check with your health care provider before using apple cider vinegar. Vinegar contains chromium, which can alter your insulin levels.
Should I Use Apple Cider Vinegar?
Some studies of apple cider vinegar are intriguing. But a lot more research needs to be done. If you’re thinking about trying apple cider vinegar, talk to your health care provider first. Your health care provider can assess whether the apple cider vinegar will affect other health conditions you have or the effectiveness of the medicines you take.
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To your health,