One reason that I love visiting with my brother is that he provides me with some insight into health information that is trending around the internet. Since my day job now keeps me in the hospital’s kitchen, I feel a little disconnected sometimes from what new diet/health trends are out there at the moment. While my brother was visiting a couple weekends ago, he asked about foods that have an effect on your metabolism, like apple cider vinegar for example. I knew that this food has been a hot topic for years but I hadn’t yet taken the time to see if there was any legitimate research out there to back up the claims. Take the time to Google “health benefits of apple cider vinegar” and you’ll likely see these:
- A powerful tool for weight loss as it kick starts your metabolism
- Helps you eat less by increasing satiety/slowing digestion of starches
- Clears up your skin and helps heal blemishes
- Lowers blood sugar
- Regulates blood pressure and lowers bad cholesterol
- Flushes toxins out of the body
After spending some time in PubMed, I found little research to back up most of those claims. As usual, I was expecting to find that all those potential benefits were bogus – but I was wrong. I actually found legitimate studies to support the relationship between acetic acid (found in apple cider vinegar) and blood sugar regulation. It can also lower triglycerides, a number you’ll see on your cholesterol panel from your doctor. All types of vinegar should have these two benefits, but apple cider is the most commonly consumed. (Perhaps because it is easiest to supplement by adding to water or juice in the morning.)
Apparently, acetic acid acts on your blood sugar metabolism in a manner very similar to the diabetes drug, Metformin. That’s right! Numerous studies in both animals and humans found that blood sugar was better regulated after a meal if vinegar was included. The explanation for this provided in the articles I found was a little complicated, but let me try to break it down for you.
Consuming acetate in the form of apple cider vinegar kick starts a metabolic process that results in an increase of an enzyme called AMPK. (The drug Metformin does this as well.) This increase in AMPK leads to greater cell sensitivity to insulin and reduced production of glucose in the liver. Increased sensitivity to insulin leads to lower blood sugar after a meal since insulin opens the gate for glucose to enter cells. (A process that seems to be sped up with the help of extra AMPK!) In the same cycle that increases AMPK, the levels of other enzymes which control lipogenesis (or the creation of fat) and triglycerides (a key player in heart disease) are decreased. To say it simply, acetate (from vinegar) alters your metabolism to encourage fat break down rather than fat storage.
So, is apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar) the key to health and longevity? Just like any fad food, I wouldn’t say that you’ll achieve optimal health just by incorporating vinegar into your diet. However, I don’t see any harm in adding vinegar to your meals on a regular basis. I know I love apple cider vinegar in salad dressing. Vinegar can be found in other foods too such as pickles, olives, and mustard. For a jump start on adding a little more vinegar to your diet (besides drinking it as is popular in the natural health world) check out these tasty recipes!