Vinegar in the daily diabetic menu does help diabetics keep blood sugars in the normal blood sugar range by effectively lowering the glycemic index of foods (slowing the rate at which carbohydrates are converted to glucose), and here's how it works:
Most diabetics are aware of the low-glycemic diet for diabetes type II as a way of preventing high blood sugar spikes. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the glucose released by digestion is absorbed.
Vinegar essentially overrides the glycemic index. Vinegar, or a vinegar and oil salad dressing, "soaks up" bicarbonate in the lower digestive tract. Without this bicarbonate, the sugars released by digestion are absorbed much more slowly.
When sugars are absorbed slower, blood glucose levels go up less. In type II diabetic patients, sometimes the pancreas can't make enough insulin for a sudden "dump" of glucose into the bloodstream, but it can keep up with slowly released sugars.
Vinegar, in effect, lowers the glycemic index of food. Vinegar won't affect your blood sugars if you aren't eating carbs, but if you aren't eating carbs, your blood sugars are going more slowly, anyway. Moreover, eating starchy foods and vinegar at the same time reduces the release of insulin, and indirectly slows the storage of fat. (The less insulin there is in circulation, the less insulin there is to move fatty acids into fat cells.)
Sourdough breads have a similar benefit, as does yogurt. They reduce both blood sugar levels and insulin release.If you're interested in the primary scientific reference for this, please click
here. There's also a review article here.
There's another potential benefit from vinegar for type II diabetic patients. As the glycemic index of food goes up, appetite and drive to eat go down. Consuming vinegar at every meal, whatever other effects it may have, reduces appetite and makes it easier to eat less.
Frequently Asked Questions (updated April 3, 2008):
Q. Can vinegar prevent diabetes?
A. It's really unlikely that you could guarantee yourself to be diabetes-free just by taking a tablespoon or two of vinegar before every meal every day--although for most people, it would not hurt. Like many other natural therapies for diabetes, and pre-diabetes, vinegar is helpful but it won't do all the work of healing or prevention. If you are on the borderline of diabetes, however, it may help you keep your sugars low enough to avoid the insulin resistance that leads to full-blown diabetes.
Q. Are there any potentially detrimental effects of vinegar?
A. One is relatively common. If you have weak tooth enamel, vinegar can erode it further. Vinegar does not make the body more "acidic" once it's in the digestive tract, only while it's in the mouth.
For an update to this article released in December 2010, please see Is Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar in Water Safe for Diabetes?
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