Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar in Water Safe for Diabetes?

Today's reader question comes to us from a reader in Canada who queries, "Is drinking apple cider vinegar in water safe for diabetes?" Our answer is that it's not only safe, it's positively beneficial if you are inclined to do it.

While apple cider vinegar never appears on any modern list telling what kind of food to eat for type 2 diabetes, dozens of popular books on natural healing back in the 1950's and 1960's listed page after page of "apple cider vinegar cures." We hasten to tell you that apple cider vinegar absolutely, positively does not cure diabetes, type 2, type 1, or any other form of the disease, but it can be very useful in keeping blood sugar levels in control. The clinical trials of vinegar as a way of controlling blood sugars after meals were most recently conducted at the Attikon Hospital in Greece.

The researchers gave diabetics a meal of a smoked turkey and cheese sandwich on white bread. As this was in Greece, the sandwiches were spread with butter, not mayonnaise or mustard. The combination of carbohydrates released from the white bread and fat from the butter and cheese was essentially a guarantee that blood sugar levels will go up after eating. The only question was, how much?

Half of the volunteers in the study drank 50 ml (about 1/4 cup) of water before they ate their sandwich. The other half drank 50 ml of a mixture of 30 ml of vinegar and 20 ml of water, which is as acidic as most people can possibly stand.  The doctors took blood sugar readings continuously for 4 hours after the meal. 

In the group of volunteers who had a tiny glass of water before their meal, blood sugar levels quickly rose to an average of 214 mg/dl (11.1 mmol/L) and stayed there. In the group of volunteers who drank vinegar before their meal, blood sugar levels only rose to 155 mg/dl (8.6 mmol/L). 

That's a very important difference. If your blood sugar levels are soaring past about 170 mg/dl (9.3 mmol/L) after meals, your body will slowly become insulin resistant. Your fat cells will be primed to store every single extra calorie, and your pancreas will have to work harder and harder to keep up with sugars in your bloodstream. This small difference probably won't keep anyone from experiencing any immediate type 2 diabetes symptoms, but it will greatly slow, stop, or possibly even reverse the progression of the disease over the long-term. Using vinegar regularly may even help you avoid one of the most distressing of all insulin resistance symptoms, weight gain.

If your blood sugar levels stay below the same level, then you don't become insulin resistant. You still have to limit what you eat to stay healthy, but you won't have insulin resistance making that process harder and harder all the time. And if you simply cannot avoid eating carbohydrates, consuming vinegar at the same meal may lessen their ill effects.

How does vinegar work? Scientists think it may slow the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach. This means that the pancreas has longer to secrete insulin to take care of the sugar "dump" from the digested meal, or an insulin shot has longer to work in the bloodstream. It's also thought that the bicarbonate released from the digestion of vinegar itself slows the absorption of sugar through the lining of the small intestine, and that acetic acid surviving the digestive process helps the muscles soak up sugar from the bloodstream, too.

One thing is for sure. Vinegar has a place in the diet for a person with type 2 diabetes. Use vinaigrette on a salad, eat pickles (low-salt is best), or, like the people in the Greek clinical trial, drink your vinegar from a shot glass.  Use vinegar every day to help keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Selected Reference:

Mitrou P, Raptis AE, Lambadiari V, Boutati E, Petsiou E, Spanoudi F, Papakonstantinou E, Maratou E, Economopoulos T, Dimitriadis G, Raptis SA. Vinegar decreases postprandial hyperglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2010 Feb;33(2):e27.

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