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Does vinegar or lemon juice help with blood sugar?
I have been skeptical about patients who come in and tell me that they are taking vinegar for their health. This is usually apple cider vinegar and it just seemed silly to me but I have also felt that this is like so many supplements -- probably not harmful but probably not helpful. However, it appears that this "silly" idea may have some merit.

Does balsamic vinegar contain lead?
I purchased several small bottles of balsamic vinegar for party favors for friends. Once home, I noticed that the warning on the side says that this product contains lead!

Is this thickened balsamic vinegar safe to eat?
This is exactly what your vinegar should be like. As it ages, balsamic vinegar thickens and takes on sweeter and more complex flavors. There's no need to thin it out.


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A Look at Vinegar and Diabetes

There may be something to vinegar and diabetes after all: two studies from Arizona State University's Department of Nutrition, led by Carol S. Johnston, PhD., suggest that taking apple cider vinegar orally may help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose levels.

Oil and VinegarIn 2004 Dr. Johnston submitted a brief report to the journal Diabetes Care (27:1;281-2). She and her team recruited 8 non-diabetics, 11 people who were insulin resistant (pre-diabetic) and 10 people with diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The participants drank either a diluted and sweetened vinegar solution or a placebo, then ate a standard meal. Their blood was collected before the meal and then 30 and 60 minutes later and tested for glucose and insulin analysis.

They found that those who were insulin resistant and drank the vinegar solution had 34% better insulin sensitivity, while this was improved only 19% for those with type 2 diabetes. Those who were insulin resistant also saw their insulin and glucose levels fluctuate much less after the meal.

The second study (Diab Care 2007;30(11):2814-5) of vinegar's effect on diabetes was much smaller. Dr. Johnston and her team recruited 11 men and women with diagnosed type 2 diabetes (not taking insulin) whose diabetes was considered well controlled. Before the start of the study the subjects kept detailed food and glucose records for three days to provide a baseline. Then they were given a standardized meal plan to follow for 2 days. Half of the subjects drank 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with an ounce of cheese just before bedtime, while the other half had 2 tablespoons of water with the cheese. After a brief return to their normal diets the two groups switched so that the initial vinegar group was having water while the initial water group had vinegar.

Again, the vinegar appears to have helped improve the participants' fasting glucose levels: when taking the vinegar the participants' glucose levels improved 4% as opposed to when they had the water (2%). Those with a higher fasting glucose seemed to benefit the most from the vinegar. The authors note, however, that they could not rule out the cheese having something to do with the results.

What this means for you

These are great early results and it's clear that this is a good direction for future studies. Studies that include far more people will need to be done on the effect of vinegar on insulin and glucose levels before you can throw away your diabetes medication in favor of apple cider vinegar. Certainly a post-dinner salad with a vinegar dressing won't hurt and may help.

First posted: December 2, 2009