Is vinegar a magical elixir?

iStock photo

iStock photo

No doubt you’ve read about the incredible properties of vinegar. It’s  long been used, dating back to ancient cultures, as both a seasoning and preservative. Then a few decades ago, apple cider vinegar became popular as a remedy for  all  sorts of ailments.

Vinegar products are touted as  a cure-all: promoting  miraculous weight loss,  providing relief for those with arthritis and  symptoms like stiffness,  removal of artery plaque,   detoxifying the body and a key factor in maintaining the appearance of a more youthful body and healthy skin. Even reducing dandruff and baldness are on the list.

So can drinking vinegar help you lose weight?

If you follow the diet advice of celebrities like Heidi Klum and  Megan Fox, you would be downing shots of apple cider vinegar before each meal as a weapon in the battle of the bulge. While many celeb diet secrets may be based on science fiction, there indeed is  emerging science pointing to assorted health perks of vinegar.

Vinegar’s effects on, blood sugar management and various blood fats and  weight control are a hotbed of research.

You can’t be blamed, though, if the claims make you think of snake oil. Myths certainly abound.  For the record, though,  vinegar does not get rid of bloating – even if Megan Fox says it does. And it does not detox the body of harmful substances. A healthy liver is responsible for that.

But before turn your nose up at vinegar, it may yet come up smelling like roses.

Research, although much of it on animals, is pointing to a range of benefits. And it’s not just apple cider vinegar that’s being investigated. It’s the acetic acid in the vinegar which is found in assorted fermented products such as  wine, rice, balsamic, flavoured ones like raspberry and even plain old white vinegar.

It may indeed offer some advantages to those struggling with girth control issues, something Japanese researchers have been looking  for due to the growing incidence of obesity in that country.  In one study, researchers assessed the effect of vinegar on mice fed a high-fat diet. One group of mice were given vinegar while the other water. They found that the vinegar suppressed body fat accumulation at a very basic level – through the animals’ genes.  But that wasn’t all. The vinegar also boosted metabolic rates or calories burning capacity.

Their next study focussed on obese humans.  In the twelve-week investigation, the same researchers compared the consumption of three different plans. The groups were to maintain a consistent food and exercise pattern and vary only the vinegar they consumed. One group consumed a beverage containing 2 tablespoons of vinegar, another with one tablespoon of vinegar and finally, a placebo where no vinegar was consumed  2 tablespoons of vinegar, another with one tablespoon of vinegar and finally, a placebo where no vinegar was consumed.

Both vinegar consuming groups had some very positive results. Those consuming the most vinegar lost the greatest amount of  body fat – particularly around the waist, where excess fat can be most harmful to health – and had lower levels of triglycerides in the blood when compared to the group who consumed less vinegar.  The group with no vinegar showed no changes in any of these measures. All three groups consumed a similar number of calories as well as comparable exercise routines.

Before you run to your kitchen to down some vinegar – something I was tempted to do as I looked at the accumulating research – keep in mind that vinegar is an acid. Having a pre-meal shot could be irritating to your digestive tract.  Research also shows that  it can erode your dental enamel.

Instead consider using it in your meals – for example, on your salads and in soups and stews. It can certainly be a tasty condiment to liven up many nutrition-packed options.

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Up next: vinegar’s potential effect on blood sugar and blood cholesterol readings as well as appetite control.

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What’s your take on vinegar? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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