A Spoonful of Vinegar
Helps the Sugar Go Down
posted February 9, 2005
2 tablespoons of vinegar before a
meal even as part of a vinaigrette salad dressing—will dramatically reduce the
spike in blood concentrations of insulin and glucose that come after a meal.
A Spoonful of Vinegar
Helps the Sugar Go Down
Carol Johnston is a professor of nutrition at Arizona State University’s East
campus. When she started developing menus to help prevent and control diabetes,
she began with a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet worked amazingly
well, but it involved major changes from the way people usually eat. Johnston
feared they would give up and start downing Twinkies in no time. She wondered if
there was an alternative.
Johnston struck gold while reading through some older studies on diabetes.
Actually, she struck vinegar.
Her studies indicate that 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal—perhaps, as
part of a vinaigrette salad dressing—will dramatically reduce the spike in blood
concentrations of insulin and glucose that come after a meal. In people with
type 2 diabetes, these spikes can be excessive and can foster complications,
including heart disease
In Johnston's initial study, about one-third of the 29 volunteers had been
diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, another third had signs that they could become
diabetic, and the rest were healthy. The scientists gave each participant the
vinegar dose or a placebo to drink immediately before they ate a
high-carbohydrate breakfast consisting of orange juice, a bagel, and butter. A
week later, each volunteer came back for the opposite premeal treatment and then
the same breakfast. After both meals, the researchers sampled blood from the
Although all three groups in the study had better blood readings after meals
begun with vinegar cocktails, the people with signs of future diabetes—prediabetic
symptoms—reaped the biggest gains. For instance, vinegar cut their blood-glucose
rise in the first hour after a meal by about half, compared with readings after
a placebo premeal drink.
In contrast, blood-glucose concentrations were only about 25 percent better
after people with diabetes drank vinegar. In addition, people with prediabetic
symptoms ended up with lower blood glucose than even healthy volunteers, after
both groups drank vinegar.
In these tests, vinegar had an effect on volunteers' blood comparable to what
might be expected from antidiabetes drugs, such as metformin, the researchers
reported January in Diabetes Care. A follow-up study has now turned up an
added—and totally unexpected—benefit from vinegar: moderate weight loss.
Both findings should come as welcome news during this season when sweet and
caloric treats taunt diabetics, who face true health risks from indulging in too
Johnston was looking for possible diet modifications that would make meals less
risky for people with diabetes. While reviewing research published earlier by
others, she ran across reports from about 2 decades ago that suggesting that
vinegar limits glucose and insulin spikes in a person's blood after a meal.
A few research groups had conducted limited follow-up trials. For instance,
Johnston points to a 2001 paper in which researchers at Lund University in
Sweden evaluated pickles—cucumbers preserved in vinegar—as a dietary supplement
to lower the blood-sugar rise in healthy people after a meal. The Swedish team,
led by Elin M. Östman, reported that pickles dramatically blunted the
blood-sugar spike after a high-carb breakfast. Fresh cukes didn't.
"I became really intrigued," Johnston says, because adding vinegar to the diet
would be simple "and wouldn't require counting how many carbs you ate." At
first, she attempted to replicate findings by others, focusing specifically on
people with diabetes or prediabetic symptoms.
When these individuals showed clear benefits from vinegar after a single meal,
Johnston' group initiated a trial to evaluate longer-term effects. It also
explored vinegar' effect on cholesterol concentrations in blood. The Arizona
State scientists had hypothesized that by preventing digestion of carbs in the
stomach, vinegar might cause carbohydrate molecules to instead ferment in the
colon, a process that signals the liver to synthesize less cholesterol.
So, in one trial, Johnston had half of the volunteers take a 2-tablespoon dose
of vinegar prior to each of two meals daily for 4 weeks. The others were told to
avoid vinegar. All were weighed before and after the trial.
As it turns out, cholesterol values didn't change in either group. To Johnston'
surprise, however, "here was actually about a 2-pound weight loss, on average,
over the 4 weeks in the vinegar group." In fact, unlike the control group, none
in the vinegar cohort gained any weight, and a few people lost up to 4 pounds.
Average weight remained constant in the group not drinking vinegar.
Johnston would now like to repeat the trial in a larger group of individuals to
confirm the finding, but that study is currently on hold.
Why? To no one's astonishment, the study volunteers didn't like drinking vinegar
straight—even flavored, apple-cider vinegar. Indeed, Johnston says, "I would
prefer eating pickled foods or getting . . . vinegar in a salad dressing."
Now, the scientists are developing a less objectionable, encapsulated form of
vinegar and testing its efficacy. Although there are commercially available
vinegar dietary supplements, Johnston notes that they "don't appear to contain
acetic acid," and based on studies by others, she suspects that's the
antidiabetic ingredient in the vinegar.
Source: Diabetes In Control.com: Diabetes Care Jan, 2005.