Today I’m introducing you to a fellow Ohioan who has been helping me out behind the scenes on the blog for the past few months! She’s a soon-to-be RD and after receiving your responses to the survey I put out a few months ago, I asked her to do a little research about some of the topics you guys were most interested in. One of those was Apple Cider Vinegar!
Hi, Everyone! My name is Meagan and I’m so excited to be with you today! I am a graduate student in the Medical Dietetics program at Ohio State University which means in one more semester, I will be elegible to sit for the Register Dietitian exam and become an RD like Lindsay. I’ve been working a little bit behind the scences with her this past Fall to learn about the planning and work that goes into creating an interesting, fun, and helpful nutrition blog. What I’ve learned: it’s certainly a full time job and Lindsay definitely deserves some “maternity leave” for a few posts!
Today’s post is about a topic that many of you who took the Reader Survey Lindsay put out back in September were interested in learning more about: vinegar! Specifically apple cider vinegar. It really seems to be having a moment right now with health endorsements from running the gamut from Dr. Oz to Katy Perry. I’ve done a lot of research on the topic and wanted to talk about the health benefits that have been scientifically proven to be true—not just the old wives’ tales!
First off, vinegar has been in use in nearly every field from medicine to homekeeping for thousands of years. Hippocrates (c. 420 BC), the Father of Medicine used vinegar as a wound treatment. It is rumored that Cleopatra used vinegar to dissolve pearls into a love potion for Marc Antony. Sung Tse, Father of Forensic Medicine, supported washing hands in vinegar to avoid infection during autopsies. And even today, vinegar is commonly used as a household cleaner.
The word vinegar comes from the French vin aigre which means sour wine. It can be made from nearly any fermentable carbohydrate source including fruit, wine, beer, dates, grains, or potatoes. To make apple cider vinegar, apples are crushed and their juice is added to barrels or casks along with yeasts which ferment the natural sugars. The result is alcohol. Next, Acetobacter bacteria are added to convert the alcohol to acetic acid. Finally, the mixture is allowed to ferment for weeks or months, depending on the maker. During this time, nontoxic goo made up of yeast and acetic acid bacteria forms within the mixture; similar to kombucha, this is known as the mother. This part is usually filtered out and the remaining liquid pasteurized before selling. However, some people claim that the mother has health benefits and certain brands sell their vinegar including bits of the mother. At this time health claims regarding any benefit from ingesting the mother are unsubstantiated. On the other hand, I couldn’t find any research that claimed ingesting bits of the mother were harmful either.
There are many ways in which vinegar has been used to promote health. One of the oldest is to fight infections. This idea is based in science as vinegar is proven to have antimicrobial properties. However, today most experts advise against putting vinegar directly on wounds, as there are many other more effective treatments to kill bacteria and reduce infection.
There is ambiguous evidence that vinegar can improve blood pressure and cholesterol. It is speculated that vinegar ingestion improves calcium absorption, which through a complex chain of events involving hormonal regulation, can help to regulate blood pressure. This has been shown in animal studies BUT trials have not been done in humans. Further, a 2006 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that acetic acid, the main acid in vinegar, reduced total cholesterol in rats when taken regularly with food.
Vinegar is equivocally associated with cancer fighting. It is a dietary source of polyphenols, which are synthesized by plants to defend against oxidative stress. In humans, polyphenols have been shown to enhance antioxidant protection and reduce cancer risk.
Finally, a 2004 study conducted by Arizona State University study suggested that vinegar consumption may influence blood sugars. The study had some people drink apple cider vinegar mixed with water while some participants drank a placebo. Then both groups ate a carbohydrate rich breakfast. Afterward the group who ingested the vinegar drink had a smaller rise in blood glucose than the group who drank the placebo. In fact, in insulin-resistant subjects (the early phase of Type 2 diabetes), vinegar ingested with a meal has been demonstrated to reduce post-meal blood sugar levels up to 64%. But even in those with Type 2 diabetes, vinegar consumption prior to the meal was associated with a slight improvement in post-meal insulin sensitivity.
There are several health applications for apple cider vinegar that have been used for many years, but are not backed up by science. The first is using apple cider vinegar to treat acne. The acid in the liquid is thought to act as a natural toner thus improving skin texture while the antimicrobial properties aid in acne treatment. Similarly, it has been used to as a dandruff remedy. Spray a mixture of 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water on your scalp and put your hair in a towel for 15 minutes. Then wash as usual. It is claimed that the apple cider vinegar changes your scalp pH level making it inhospitable to the yeast that causes dandruff. Finally, apple cider vinegar has been long used in Eastern medicine to treat an upset stomach. Adding 2T apple cider vinegar and a dash of honey to a cup of water and drinking is said to ease a rumbly tummy.
Vinegar has been used in in the diet for thousands of years and so may be labeled safe in that capacity: as a dietary flavoring agent. However, researchers are just beginning to take on vinegar as a natural medical remedy and more studies should be conducted before calling it “safe” outside of its normal dietary uses. Acids can cause tooth decay so you should be sure to rinse your mouth after drinking apple cider vinegar. And it should be noted that in a small number of cases, overconsumption of apple cider vinegar (drinking it daily) has been linked to lowered potassium levels and weakened bones.
The bottom line is that apple cider vinegar is not a magic bullet for any condition, but is a yummy and nutritious dietary flavor when added to a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and exercise.
Thanks to Meagan for sharing some of her knowledge today! Hope you learned something!
What’s your favorite way to use Apple Cider Vinegar?
Get my free Table Talk email series where I share bite-sized nutrition information about carbs, protein, and fat, plus bonus information about snacks and sugar!