Benefits of Vinegar by James Coulter

The Benefits of Vinegar

By James Coulter

Vinegars have many household uses and health-related benefits.

Chances are you have somewhere in the back of your kitchen pantry a bottle of vinegar. Maybe you spray a little bit of it on your salad, or perhaps you use it to clean out stubborn stains. Or maybe you have it because it’s one of those items every kitchen needs like an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator.

Aside from being used on salads or stains or simply to take up space within your pantry, vinegar provides many health benefits. In fact, many people insist that vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, is a miracle cure for everything from obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.

How many of these claims are true? How many of them are old wives’ tales as old as that box of baking soda in the back of the fridge? Here’s everything you need to know about vinegar and its alleged benefits.

White Vinegar: The White Knight

Vinegar, as defined by Merriam Webster, is a sour, clear solution created through the “fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids,” most commonly grain alcohol. This solution usually consists of 4 to 7 percent acetic acid, though, as the medical resource website Healthline explains, “types with higher acetic acid content are available for agricultural or cleaning purposes.”

As a culinary ingredient, vinegar is used in marinades, pickling, and cheesemaking. However, it’s also been used medicinally. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used vinegar to clean the wounds and treat the ailments of his patients. The acid within vinegar can be used to kill bacteria and other harmful pathogens. This is why the solution has commonly been used as a disinfectant in both medicine and household cleaning.

Vinegar can also help control blood sugar levels, especially for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. According to Healthline, vinegar “improves insulin sensitivity during a high-carb meal by 19–34% and significantly lowers blood sugar and insulin responses,” as well as “reduces blood sugar by 34% after eating 50 grams of white bread.”

The acidic content within white vinegar lends itself to many health benefits. However, anything white vinegar can do, its darker cousin, apple cider vinegar, can do—perhaps even better.

Vim And Vigor Of Apple Cider Vinegar

While white vinegar is created from fermented grain alcohol, apple cider vinegar, true to its name, is created from fermented apple juice. As with its white cousin, apple cider vinegar has often been considered a natural home remedy.

Many researchers have looked into the claims surrounding red wine vinegar, from controlling blood sugar level to weight loss. While many of these claims have proven to be old wives tales, with very little scientific evidence behind them, others are relatively true.

For example, one study, published in the Journal of the American Association of Diabetes in 2004, analyzed the blood glucose levels of patients, who were administered 20 grams of apple cider vinegar after eating a meal of orange juice and a bagel with butter.

Their findings? As reported by Edwin McDonald IV, MD from the University of Chicago Medicine: “They [researchers] found that ACV (apple cider vinegar) significantly lowered post-meal blood glucose levels. Several other studies report similar findings.” He concluded: “ACV won’t cure diabetes, but it may moderately lower blood glucose levels. It won’t take the place of any medications for diabetes, but it’s a safe enough addition to a diabetes treatment plan.”

Many studies have also shown that consuming vinegar can help with weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness, thus helping curb appetite and allowing people to consume fewer calories.

Not A Miracle Cure

While white and red cider vinegar have proven to show several health benefits from killing germs to lowering blood sugar, many “natural health” websites have overblown these health claims, peddling vinegar as a “miracle cure” for everything, including cancer.

Many of these sites even recommend drinking vinegar straight, often publishing recipes that involve mixing apple cider vinegar with water, often mixed with honey or cranberry juice. These sites claim drinking vinegar this way will help with weight loss and other ailments.

However, drinking vinegar is not recommended. The acid within it can wear away tooth enamel and the lining of your esophagus and stomach, thus upsetting your stomach and damaging your teeth. If you want to add vinegar to your diet, consider sprinkling some on your salad and vegetables, or adding it to your marinades and sauces. Just don’t drink it like a beverage.

Furthermore, while vinegar has been proven to have some health benefits, other alleged benefits, from controlling blood pressure to curing esophageal cancer, have little to no scientific evidence to support them.

As Dr. McDonald explained: “Like any supplement, ACV won’t replace a healthy lifestyle. It may have some benefits to our bodies, but overall, we need more studies to truly understand the health benefits and side effects associated with ACV.”

Bottom line? Vinegar tastes great on food, kills germs, and can even help curb blood sugar and appetite, but don’t expect it to be a cure-all for everything—and by all means, don’t drink it.