Vinegar has been used as a medical therapy for thousands of years. Hippocrates recommended it for cleaning wounds and mixing it with honey to suppress coughs. It’s an ingredient in Elliman’s Universal Embrocation, which has been used since the 1800s to relieve aches and pains. It’s been touted as a treatment for everything from sunburn and dropsy (edema) to stomachaches and warts.
Though vinegar may not be as miraculous as some claim, there is one “old wives’ tale” that is real – its ability to lower blood sugar! In fact, recent research suggests that vinegar works in a manner similar to Metformin (Glucophage), the world’s most widely used diabetes drug!
The Metformin Effect
We’ve known for years that when vinegar is taken with or just before meals, it inhibits enzymes necessary for the digestion of starches and other complex carbohydrates, thus preventing them from being broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Vinegar also slows gastric emptying, so it delays the uptake of glucose and other nutrients. The end result is a 20% – 35% reduction in postprandial (after-meal) blood sugar and insulin levels, as demonstrated in studies of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome.
But when taken at bedtime, vinegar also lowers morning fasting blood sugars—and here’s where it really gets interesting.
Vinegar stimulates an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) that is a key player in glucose and fat metabolism, insulin signaling, and energy balance. AMPK increases fat oxidation, improves glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity. It also lowers gluconeogenesis, or glucose production in the liver (which is about 3x higher in patients with type-2 diabetes than in healthy people.
AMPK is also the target of metformin. Dr. Whitaker rarely recommends oral diabetes medications—diet, exercise, weight loss, and targeted supplements work for most patients. But when he has to prescribe a drug, it’s metformin. Hands down, it’s the safest of the bunch and, unlike other oral diabetes meds, it doesn’t cause weight gain.
The nutrients in our new diabetes supplement, Dia-Mazing, are a concentrated way to increase AMPK – as well as other functions. The discovery that vinegar shares a common function with AMPK (and metformin) has helped us realize just how powerful this dirt-cheap kitchen staple can be – and there is more to it.
Nitric Oxide, Weight Loss, and More
Vinegar-induced AMPK activation also boosts nitric oxide (NO) release in the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. As we mentioned, NO relaxes the arteries, protects against atherosclerosis, and has positive effects in tissues throughout the body.
NO facilitates weight loss by curbing appetite and stimulating fat burning. In a clinical trial conducted in Japan, after 12 weeks the control group has about a 4-pound weight loss compared to the placebo group. Even one tablespoon per day of vinegar is enough to achieve some benefits.
In animal studies, vinegar improves the function of the beta cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. Along with milk thistle, it reduces fat buildup in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) – which is a very common problem in people with diabetes and obesity.
When added to food, vinegar inhibits the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress and are linked to diabetes and many of its related problems.
Finally, its acidity increases the perception of saltiness and is being evaluated as a way for food preparation to reduce sodium content while maintaining flavor.
We encourage people to keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar on the tables in the dining room to take a tablespoon or so with lunch and dinner.
Vinegar isn’t tasty but dill pickles or vinegar pills don’t have the same effect. Sweeteners can help – as Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” If so, stevia is a better choice (sometimes pre-mixed in a designated bottle) to get your daily vinegar dose.
Aim for one tablespoon of vinegar, taken twice daily, preferably with meals (note: because vinegar is quite acidic, it should always be diluted).
Add a little olive oil and seasonings and use it as a salad dressing. Or mix it in water, along with a healthy sweetener like xylitol or stevia – which dramatically improves the taste – and sip it slowly.
Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, which is sold in health food stores, is good but any type of vinegar will provide similar benefits.
Johnston CS, et al. Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2009 May;84(2):e15–e17.
Kondo T, et al. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009:73(8):1837–1843.
Sakakibara S, et al. Vinegar intake enhances flow-mediated vasodilatation via upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(5):1055–1061.
(Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC.)