Healthypedia
Anna Scheucher

Vinegar: A Centuries-Old Tradition To Improve Your Diet

From salad dressing to health elixir: Unveiling the science-backed benefits of vinegar for weight loss, blood sugar control, and more.

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Vinegar has a long and rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. Traces of vinegar have been found in Egyptian urns from around 3000 B.C., and Babylonian scrolls mention its use as a condiment and preservative as early as 5000 B.C. Farmers and travellers in ancient times mixed vinegar with water to quench their thirst.

Vinegar was also a popular beverage in ancient Greece, where ‘oxycrat’ was the most common drink. The Romans drank ‘posca,’ a mixture of water and vinegar sold in the streets, and offered vinegar to Christ at the Crucifixion. At Roman banquets, a bowl of vinegar called an ‘acetabulum’ was always present for people to dip bread in.

Today, research is uncovering the many ways vinegar can support health, from improving digestion to managing blood sugar levels.

Vinegar – Nutrition Facts

Source: usda.gov
Source: usda.gov

Vinegar – Good news

Vinegar is something that most people have standing around in their pantry, but this food might actually do more than simply dress up your salads! Here is the good news about vinegar:

1It improves insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity is a topic that has become increasingly important as diabetes has been on the rise. When people have insulin resistance, their bodies are less responsive to insulin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels by allowing cells to take up glucose from the blood. When this does not work properly, glucose cannot be taken up efficiently, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance does not only lead to illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, but it can also lead to cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).

Vinegar has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity by numerous studies, one of which looked at insulin resistant as well as normal subjects and gave them vinegar before consuming a meal high in carbohydrates (orange juice and a bagel). In both groups, but even more so in pre-diabetic people, vinegar could lower the glucose spike after the meal by as much as 34%!

2It may aid in weight loss

While there have not been any long-term studies done on the effects of vinegar on weight loss, results from numerous shorter studies have come to a surprising conclusion: vinegar intake does reduce body weight and body fat mass, especially in people with obesity.

One study, in particular, looked at the effect of 15ml, 30ml, or 0ml of vinegar on body weight, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels of obese Japanese subjects over a treatment period of 12 weeks. All of those factors were significantly lower in both groups with vinegar intake than in the placebo group.

In order to reap the most benefits from this food, experts recommend diluting vinegar in a glass of water and drinking it right before your meals.

Not only will this help with weight loss, but it will also stabilize your insulin, which brings us to our next point.

3It may improve heart health

We already cited that vinegar can improve insulin sensitivity and, therefore, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as a result of insulin resistance. However, this beverage might help your heart in other ways as well. In a meta-analysis of 9 different studies, it was found that consuming vinegar significantly reduced serum total cholesterol and fasting plasma glucose. All in all, there was a significant positive effect of consuming vinegar on FPG levels and blood lipid levels, which suggests that vinegar is great for improving heart health.

4Antioxidant effects

Antioxidants are substances that can combat free radicals in the body. Free radicals bring damage to cells and tissues and can even lead to cancer. The good news? Studies have found that vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, in particular, is rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that administering ACV orally to mice has shown an increase in the activity of antioxidant enzymes.

5Protects from bacteria

One of the things vinegar has been used for centuries is disinfecting. One notable example is from ancient Rome, where vinegar was used by soldiers to clean and disinfect wounds. But why would people still use this fermented liquid? Well, science has now proven that vinegar has antimicrobial activity against bacteria such as E-Coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans! One study, in particular, has found a significant decrease in the percentage of inflammatory cytokines when treated with apple cider vinegar.

Vinegar – Bad news

So, after all these benefits, is there anything to be wary of when consuming vinegar?

1Watch the enamel

You may have heard that acid is not good for your teeth, and vinegar is no exception to that rule. During an 8-week randomized trial about vinegar and its effects on insulin, it was also determined whether daily vinegar consumption reduced tooth wear. In the control group, the dental erosion using the basic erosive wear examination did not change, whereas the BEWE of the vinegar-consuming adults increased by 18%. This means you should be careful when ingesting vinegar and, if possible, use a straw when drinking it.

2Decreased appetite and nausea

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Numerous studies done on humans and animals have found that consuming apple cider vinegar can decrease appetite, which may be a good thing if your goal is a reduction in calorie intake. However, many people who consumed these ACV drinks also reported feelings of nausea, so that might be an unpleasant side effect.

3Oesophagus burns

Since vinegar is so acidic, it could potentially cause burns in your oesophagus. The good news? There are no reported cases of such burns from vinegar, however, you should make sure to always dilute vinegar enough before consumption to avoid possible side effects.

Different kinds of vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is by far not the only vinegar out there. Here are a few of the most commonly known vinegar and how they are made:

  • Balsamic vinegar: Balsamic vinegar is made from fermented grape must and is often used in salad dressings, marinades, etc.

  • White vinegar: White vinegar is made from distilled grain alcohol, giving the vinegar a sharp, tangy flavour. It is often used for cleaning or household remedies, but also for pickling.

  • Red wine vinegar: As the name suggests, red wine vinegar is made from fermented red wine. Similar to balsamic, this vinegar is often used in salads, but also for sauces or stews.

  • Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar has its origins in Asia and is, as you can tell by the name, made from fermented rice. This vinegar is mild and a bit sweet and is used in a lot of Asian dishes, particularly sushi rice.

  • Champagne vinegar: Champagne vinegar is the result of fermenting champagne. This light, delicate vinegar is often used in dressings or sauces.

  • Malt vinegar: Malt vinegar is actually made from malted barley, which gives this vinegar a very rich flavour. Oftentimes, this vinegar is used in British cuisine for dishes such as fish and chips.

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Fun & curious facts about vinegar

  • The word vinegar comes from the French word ‘vin aigre’, which means sour wine.

  • Vinegar has been used for thousands of years – the first known use of it was by the Babylonians in 5000 BC to preserve food and make beverages.

  • Vinegar is not only used for food, but also for cleaning, removing stains, and even repelling insects.

Vinegar in the Blue Zones

Vinegar is used in various cultures and cuisines all around the world, but some countries, such as Japan, use vinegar more than others. In Japan, vinegar is used in a variety of dishes, like sushi rice, pickled vegetables, or salad dressing. In Japan, they often use Japanese rice vinegar, which is relatively mild and a bit sweet.

Let’s sum vinegar up

Vinegar is an amazing food that can potentially be used to lose weight, improve insulin sensitivity, and lead to improved cardiovascular health. On the downside, the acid in vinegar may cause enamel erosion, which is why using a straw is your best bet when approaching this substance. Depending on your body, you may feel a loss of appetite or some nausea when consuming vinegar, and you should keep in mind to always dilute it to avoid potential harm to your throat.

All in all, vinegar is a great addition to your diet that might yield many health benefits along the way.

Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues!

If you want to find out more about vinegar, we recommend you read the book ‘The Obesity Code’ by Doctor Jason Fung. He is a specialist physician, nephrologist, and New York Times best-selling author of ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’, ‘The Diabetes Code’ and ‘The Cancer Code’. Dr. Fung has experience treating thousands of patients for decades and shares his insights on weight loss, diets, nutrition, type 2 diabetes reversal, and intermittent fasting.

book cover Obesity Code

The below is Dr. Jason Fung’s short and informative video on how vinegar helps weight loss.


Healthypedia FAQ

You can dilute 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar in a glass of water and drink it before meals.

The best vinegar is usually an organic option that is unfiltered, but you can choose any vinegar you like.

You can drink it in water, but you can also add it to your salad dressings, put it in sauces, or over food.

You should store vinegar in your pantry. Depending on which vinegar you get, you may refer to storage instructions on the packaging.

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