The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Vinegar Help Control Blood Sugar?

Scientific research suggests that including vinegar in a meal can help keep blood sugar from soaring afterwards. This may help explain the French paradox.

Controlling blood sugar after a meal is a challenge for millions of people. Those with prediabetes or confirmed diabetes must make a concerted effort not to let blood glucose get out of control. But even healthy people benefit when they keep blood sugar under control. Are there some relatively simple foods that can help? Here is a question from someone who heard that vinegar might be beneficial in this regard:

Q. Is there any truth to the theory that taking 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar at lunch and again at dinner reduces blood sugar? Do you have any suggestions for controlling blood sugar? My doctor says I have prediabetes.

A. There is some evidence that adding vinegar to a high carbohydrate meal can help moderate the resulting rise in blood sugar (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July, 2010). Adding a vinaigrette dressing to salad at the end of the meal, as the French do, might be an easy way to accomplish this.

New Research to Support Vinegar vs. Blood Sugar Elevations:

When we responded to the question above a few years ago there was not a lot of research beyond the article cited. But in the Journal of Diabetes Research there was a fascinating study (online May 6, 2015) that confirmed the benefits of vinegar Here are the conclusions:

“In summary, our study showed that, in type 2 diabetes, vinegar reduces postprandial [post meal] hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinaemia, and hypertriglyceridaemia without affecting lipolysis. As a result, vinegar’s effect on carbohydrate metabolism may be accounted for, at least in part, by an increase in insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, demonstrating an improvement in insulin action in the skeletal muscles. However, further studies are required to examine the long-term effects of vinegar in type 2 diabetes.”

 What this means is that vinegar facilitates absorption of glucose into muscle thereby lowering blood sugar, reducing excess levels of insulin and also helping to control triglyceride levels after a meal.

This isn’t the only study demonstrating such success. Another paper published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June, 2015) found that in people with blood sugar problems:

“…vinegar ingestion before a mixed meal results in an enhancement of muscle blood flow, an improvement of glucose uptake by the forearm muscle and a reduction of postprandial hyperinsulinaemia and hypertriglyceridaemia. From this point of view, vinegar may be considered beneficial for improving insulin resistance and metabolic abnormalities in the atherogenic prediabetic state.”

 What Else Can You Do to Control Blood Sugar?

Other strategies include avoiding highly processed carbs and sugar while increasing intake of vegetables and nuts. Supplements such as vitamin D and selenium, fenugreek, bitter melon or nopal cactus may also be helpful.

You can learn about the details for these and many other nondrug approaches in our Guide to Managing Diabetes.  Losing weight, as difficult as that is, and following a low glycemic-index diet can be very helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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What is the “mother kind” of apple cider vinegar?

What is meant by “the Mother” when referring to apple cider vinegar?

I have also seen on-line where zinc, alpha-lapolic acid (sp?) , and milk thistle are useful in lowering blood sugar. Have not tried any of these.

The Dr. Dean Ornish diet/lifestyle, which is high in whole grains, very low fat, vegetarian, w/ a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and veggies, has lowered my A1C to 5.3 from 5.8. The diet is 70% carbs. I have been prediabetic for 9 years, no longer see an endocrinologist, and no longer check my sugar daily. Thanks, Dr. Ornish (and the local Medical Center which hosts the program). My experience is not atypical and the hospital has its own research to prove it.

How much water?

If I ate that many carbs my blood sugars would be sky high. I am very carbohydrate intolerant.

I tried vinegar (the “mother” kind). I developed horrible stomach pains within a couple of weeks after trying about a tablespoon or two a day. It was really bad for me. I stopped taking it and the pain went away. Not everyone can use vinegar.

My mother-in-law tried adding vinegar and wound up with an ulcer.

I was near diabetic to the point that my doctor had me get a blood glucose meter and start checking my blood sugar, etc.
I made a few (Hey! I am an ice cream addict big time and still am) lifestyle changes, but I tried using apple cider vinegar (with the “Mother”) before each meal. That worked for me so I bought a quart bottle for a friend who had just lost (due to his diabetes) another part of one of his feet. He tried it, made no other changes, and now has cut his need for insulin down to 2 units instead of the very high amount he was taking. His doctor never heard of using apple cider vinegar, but told him to keep doing what he did and it is still working for him (and me) 8 months later. We both started with two tablespoons full of vinegar in water and now both of us use just one before each meal. Well, he does that. I only take it sometimes now and only check my blood sugar occasionally too and I am now always “OK”.
I would recommend that diabetics and near diabetics give it a try. It can not hurt and worked for me and my friend. Note that this is not Apple Cider Vinegar from Walmart or the grocery store, but Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother from a health food store and I still eat what everybody says (including me, even though I am eating organic ice cream) is an unhealthy amount of ice cream.

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