Taking vinegar — especially apple cider vinegar — as a dietary supplement is a longtime folk remedy with many claimed health benefits. In recent years, researchers have been interested in what effect, if any, taking vinegar has on blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Vinegar is widely available, comes in standardized concentrations, and is extremely inexpensive — so if it could be used to help manage diabetes, that would be a huge win for people with diabetes and for the healthcare system as a whole.
But despite the many smaller studies that have found health benefits from taking vinegar — including in the context of diabetes — there haven’t been large-scale studies of the kind that might lead to vinegar being included in official treatment recommendations. That may be, in part, because no one company stands to gain much financially from vinegar sales, so there isn’t a ready funding source for the extremely expensive clinical trials that would be needed to confirm vinegar’s efficacy as a diabetes treatment. Prescribing vinegar would also go against the current medical model, in which prescriptions are written for a tested formulation, filled at pharmacies, and closely tracked.
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But as a new research article shows, the evidence of significant health benefits from vinegar supplementation in people with diabetes continues to build — and may be worth discussing with your doctor.
Benefits seen in blood glucose, lipid levels
The article, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, looked at previously published studies involving vinegar supplementation in people with or without type 2 diabetes, including those who were overweight or obese. Each of the 16 included studies lasted at least a week, with an average study period of eight weeks. A total of 910 participants took part in the studies, taking between 750 and 3,600 milligrams of vinegar daily, depending on the study.
The results demonstrated a variety of metabolic benefits from taking vinegar. Probably the most impressive result was that in people with type 2 diabetes, vinegar supplementation resulted in an average drop in fasting blood glucose levels of 35.73 mg/dl — a meaningful change that demonstrates a difference in how the body handles glucose. Taking vinegar was also shown to result in lower blood triglyceride levels, by an average of 7.37 mg/dl in people with diabetes and an impressive 20.51 mg/dl in people without diabetes who were overweight or obese. Each of these results was in comparison with taking either a placebo — an inactive treatment — or a very low dose of vinegar that was supposed to be similar to a placebo.
No other significant benefits were seen from vinegar supplementation, in measurements such as cholesterol levels, A1C (a measure of long-term blood glucose control), body-mass index (BMI, a measure of weight that takes height into account), or body fat percentage.
Should you start taking vinegar?
As the article’s authors write, there are certain limitations to their findings. For one, five of the 16 studies they included in their analysis didn’t specify the dose of vinegar participants took — so it’s hard to know what the actual average dose of vinegar was among all participants. Also, only one study controlled for how much vinegar and other acids people consumed in their regular diets, separately from the vinegar supplements.
Still, the study demonstrates that vinegar almost certainly has a beneficial effect on your metabolism, and is usually well tolerated with no meaningful side effects. So it may be worth having a discussion with your doctor about taking vinegar as a supplement, on top of the lifestyle measures you already use to help control your diabetes. One possible harmful downside to look out for is any effect of taking vinegar on your dental health — so it’s important to dilute any vinegar you take according to your doctor’s recommendations, and to make sure it doesn’t stay in your mouth for long. It’s also important to monitor your blood sugar levels carefully if adding vinegar to your routine to prevent possible hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and monitor for any other effects. (If needed, your doctor may adjust your medication regimen based on the results.)
Ultimately, the article’s authors write, “high-quality, longer-term studies in larger cohorts” are needed to determine whether vinegar should be prescribed as a therapy for diabetes or other metabolic disorders.