The Benefits of Vinegar Beyond Weight Loss

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study found that body weight and belly fat were significantly reduced by adding just a single tablespoon of vinegar to one’s daily diet. Is there any benefit to vinegar consumption if you’re not overweight? Well, the subjects’ triglycerides normalized, and, for those taking the larger dose of two tablespoons per day, there was a dip in blood pressure. Those effects may have just been because of the weight loss, though. Other than taste, is there any benefit to normal-weight individuals sprinkling vinegar on their salads? What about vinegar for controlling blood sugar? That’s the topic of my video Can Vinegar Help with Blood Sugar Control?.

If you feed people a half cup of table sugar, as their blood sugars spike, their artery function can become impaired. The higher the blood sugars go, the more the arteries take a hit. There’s a drug, though, that can block sugar absorption. By blunting the blood sugar spike with this drug, you can prevent the arterial dysfunction. This demonstrates that it’s probably good for your heart if you don’t have big blood sugar spikes after meals. In fact, how high your blood sugars spike after a meal is a predictor for cardiovascular mortality. So do people who eat lots of high glycemic foods, like sugary foods and refined grains, tend to have more heart attacks and strokes? Yes. They also appear more likely to get diabetes—but maybe people who eat lots of Frosted Flakes and Wonder Bread have other bad dietary habits as well?

The diets that have been put to the test in randomized controlled trials and proven to prevent diabetes are the ones focusing on cutting down on saturated fat and ramping up the consumption of fiber-rich whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, without specific regard to lower or higher glycemic loads. The drug has been put to the test, though, and blunting one’s mealtime blood sugar spikes does seem to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, as well as reduce the risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure. So is there any way to prevent these blood sugar spikes without having to take drugs? Well, one way would be to not sit down to a half cup of sugar!

Yes, the drug can slow the progression of your atherosclerosis. You can see in my video Can Vinegar Help with Blood Sugar Control? how the arteries going to your brain narrow somewhat more slowly with the drug than without it. But wouldn’t it be better to eat a diet that actually reverses heart disease and diabetes? The healthiest diet to prevent the meal-related blood sugar and fat spikes—the oxidation and inflammation—is a diet centered around whole plant foods. But what if you really want a bagel? Instead of spreading drugs on it, spreading on some almond butter may help blunt the blood sugar spike from refined carbs. Another option is to dip your baguette in some balsamic vinegar.

“The consumption of vinegar with meals was used as a home remedy for diabetes before the advent of pharmacologic glucose-lowering therapy”—that is, before drugs came along—but it wasn’t put to the test until 1988. After all, how much money can be made from vinegar? Well, according to The Vinegar Institute, millions of dollars can be made! But a single diabetes drug, like Rezulin, can pull in billions—that is, until it was pulled from the market for killing too many people by shutting down their livers. The drug company still made out like a bandit, though, having to pay out less than a billion to the grieving families for covering up the danger.

There’s no liver failure from schmearing peanut butter on a bagel, though, and it cuts the blood sugar response in half. Similarly, drinking four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar diluted in water gives the same blunting of the spike—with the additional advantage over the peanut butter of lowering insulin levels in the blood. This is something peanut butter apparently can’t do. But putting peanut butter on your bagel is presumably better than having a bagel with lox because fish causes triple the insulin response. Red wine also increases insulin levels, though not as much as fish does, and also shoots up triglycerides. Non-alcoholic red wine, however, doesn’t cause the same problem.

What about vinegar? Not only may a tablespoon a day tend to improve cholesterol and triglycerides over time, vinegar can drop triglycerides within an hour of a meal, as well as decrease blood sugars and the insulin spike, potentially offering the best of all worlds.


Was that bursting with information or what? It’s because of everyone’s kind support that I was able to hire more than a dozen researchers to help me plow through the literature. I’m extremely grateful so many of you were able to see the potential and help NutritionFacts.org become what it is today. Onward and upward!

What’s that about belly fat being reduced? Check out other videos in my series on vinegar:

Did I say reverse diabetes? Reverse heart disease? For examples, see:

Sharing information that can help people prevent and reverse common diseases is my life’s work. Check out the full story in my series of introductory videos.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

 

Vinegar, Wine, and Artery Function

In my video Vinegar and Artery Function, I discuss a famous study from Harvard University published back in 1999, which found that women who used oil and vinegar salad dressing about every day went on to have fewer than half the fatal heart attacks compared to women who hardly ever used it. That’s less than half the risk of the number-one killer of women.

Researchers figured it was the omega-3s in the oil that explained the benefit. I know you’re thinking: Those who use salad dressing every day probably also… eat salad every day! So perhaps it was the salad that was so beneficial. But no, they were able to adjust for vegetable intake so it didn’t appear to be the salad. Why, though, does oil get the credit and not the vinegar? Well, what about creamy salad dressings? They’re also made from omega-3-rich oils like canola, in fact even more so than oil and vinegar dressing. So if it’s the oil and not the vinegar, then creamy dressings would be protective, too. But they’re not. They found no significant decrease in fatal heart attacks rates or in nonfatal heart attack rates, for that matter. Now, it could be the eggs or butterfat in these dressings counteracting the benefits of the omega-3s or perhaps the vinegar is actually playing a role. But how? 

In my Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Weight Loss? video, I highlight a paper entitled, “Vinegar Intake Enhances Flow-Mediated Vasodilatation via Upregulation of Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Activity.” In other words, vinegar enhances arterial function by allowing our arteries to better dilate naturally by boosting the activity of the enzyme in our body that synthesizes nitric oxide, the open sesame signal to our arteries that improves blood flow. Acetate is cleared out of your blood within half an hour of consuming a salad with a tablespoon of vinegar in it. This apparently isn’t enough time to boost the AMPK enzyme, but within just ten minutes, those kind of acetate levels can boost the activity of the nitric-oxide-synthesizing enzyme within human umbilical cord blood vessel cells in a petri dish.

But what about in people? Researchers also measured the dilation of arteries in the arms of women after they had one tablespoon of rice vinegar, one tablespoon of brown rice vinegar, or one tablespoon of forbidden rice vinegar that’s made from black or purple rice. All the vinegars appeared to help, but it was the black rice one that mostly clearly pulled away from the pack. Black rice contains the same kind of anthocyanin pigments that make some fruits and vegetables blue and purple, and may have independent benefits. For example, if you give someone a big blueberry smoothie containing the amount of anthocyanins in one and a half cups of wild blueberries, you get a nice spike in arterial function that lasts a couple of hours.

Thus, the highest maximum forearm blood flow in the forbidden rice vinegar group might be attributed to an additional or synergistic effect of anthocyanin with the acetate. But it could also just be the antioxidant power of anthocyanins by themselves. This could mean that balsamic vinegar, which is made from red wine, may have a similar effect, as it’s been shown to have remarkably higher free radical scavenging activity than rice vinegar. Could it be enough to counter the artery-constricting effects of a high-fat meal? We’ve known for nearly 20 years that eating a single high-fat meal like Sausage and Egg McMuffins with deep-fried hash browns is crippling to our arteries, halving their ability to dilate normally within hours of consumption. Even a bowl of Frosted Flakes, with its massive, unhealthy sugar load, it has no acute effect on the arteries because it lacks fat.

We aren’t just talking about animal fat. A quarter cup of safflower oil had a similar effect. In fact, the very first study to show how bad fat was for our arteries basically dripped highly refined soybean oil into people’s veins. Does this apply to extra-virgin olive oil, which isn’t refined? We know that some whole food sources of plant fat, such as nuts, actually improve artery function, whereas oils, including olive oil, worsen function. But you can see, smell, and taste the phytonutrients still left in extra virgin olive oil. So are they enough to maintain arterial function? No. Research showed a significant drop in artery function within three hours of eating whole-grain bread dipped in extra-virgin olive oil, and the more fat in the subjects’ blood, the worse their arteries did.

What if you ate the same meal but added balsamic vinegar on a salad? That seemed to protect the arteries from the effects of the fat. Because balsamic vinegar is a product of red wine, you might ask whether you’d get the same benefits drinking a glass of red wine. No. They found no improvement in arterial function after red wine. So why does balsamic vinegar work, but not red wine? Maybe it’s because the red wine lacks the benefits of the acetic acid in vinegar or because the vinegar lacks the negative effects of the alcohol. A third option might be that it was the salad ingredients and had nothing to do with the vinegar.

To figure out this puzzle, non-alcoholic wine was tested. The result? Non-alcoholic red wine worked! So maybe it was the grapes in balsamic vinegar and not the acetic acid. Indeed, if you eat one and a quarter cups of seeded and seedless red, green, and blue-black grapes with your Sausage and Egg McMuffin, you can blunt the crippling of your arteries. So, plants and their products may provide protection against the direct impairment in endothelial function, unless those products are oil or alcohol.


Check out my other videos on vinegar:

We are only as healthy as our arteries. For more videos on what may help or hurt, see:

Note that there is a level of sugar intake that can adversely impact artery function. I discuss this in my video How to Prevent Blood Sugar and Triglyceride Spikes After Meals.

Surprised about the alcohol data? For more on wine, see:

If you’ve been able to find forbidden rice vinegar, please let me know. I’d love to try it! You may be interested in my video on how pigmented rice may beat out brown rice: Brown, Black, Purple and Red (Unlike White on) Rice.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Resveratrol Supplements Are Finally Put to the Test

“If one searches the Internet for anti-aging interventions, a vast array of techniques are offered, from starvation regimes to dietary supplements and growth hormones. All are for sale, but none so far have been proven as the magic bullet, despite exorbitant claims on many of the websites.” Resveratrol is one supplement you’ll likely come across, a component of red wine that gained notoriety as a possible explanation for the so-called French Paradox, which turned out to be not so paradoxical after all (see What Explains the French Paradox?).

As I discuss in my video Resveratrol Impairs Exercise Benefits, it turns out that “[c]ountries with high wine consumption are those in which saturated fat consumption used to be low but increased in recent years.” So, the low mortality from ischemic heart disease may just reflect the earlier, lower levels of saturated fat consumption, and the wine may just be a confounding factor. It did, however, help spark interest in resveratrol, the purported active ingredient of red wine about which scientific papers are now published every day.

More than a hundred of those papers on resveratrol have been called into question, though, as one of the leading researchers in the field was found guilty of taking millions in taxpayer money only to fabricate and falsify his data.

Hundreds of studies still remain, though. Does this mean pills can now replace a healthy diet? Even a group of resveratrol scientists don’t think resveratrol is worth supplementing: “In contrast to the lacking data on resveratrol in humans, the animal data are promising and indicate the need for further human clinical trials.” In rodents, resveratrol supplementation decreased cardiovascular risk factors, improved cardiovascular function and physical capacity, and decreased inflammation, leading to improved vascular function. But, when it was put to the test in people, almost the exact opposite was found.

Specifically, combining resveratrol with athletic training abolished the reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides normally associated with training; had a more arterial-constricting effect than a dilating effect; “and led to a significantly lower increase in the training-induced increase in maximal oxygen uptake.”

Rodents on resveratrol get enhanced exercise performance, but, in people, the resveratrol induced a 45 percent lower increase in maximum aerobic capacity compared with those taking a sugar pill. The human subjects were working out like crazy, and the resveratrol undercut their efforts.

This raises a larger issue. Mouse models are a cornerstone of modern biomedical research, and yet systematic studies as to their usefulness are rarely done. Consider this: nearly 150 human clinical trials testing anti-inflammatory drugs have failed—without exception—after those same drugs had shown promise in trials on mice. In analyzing the carry-over from the mouse trials to the human trials, researchers determined that “[t]he result was surprising, almost shocking: the correlation was not only poor, it was virtually absent for the main study areas: burns, trauma, endotoxemia.” It turns out, for example, that mice may be up to a million times less sensitive to inflammatory endotoxins than humans.

The takeaway is that the negative effects they found add to the growing body of evidence questioning the positive effects of resveratrol supplementation in humans. Maybe the problem, though, was resveratrol supplementation—that is, giving people capsules containing 50 times the resveratrol they would normally get from eating grapes, berries, peanuts, or chocolate. Was it just too much of a good thing? To see if the amount one gets from drinking red wine would be beneficial, we can look to the Chianti region of Tuscany to determine whether resveratrol levels achieved with diet help protect against inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and death. The answer? None of the above. Despite the fact that U.S. annual sales of resveratrol supplements have reached $30 million, there are limited and conflicting human clinical data demonstrating any human benefits, and there are no data concerning its long-term safety.

The exercise study was supported in part by a manufacturer of resveratrol supplements. To their credit, however, the researchers responded to an angry letter by a supplement company consultant that “it is our opinion that we, as scientists, have a responsibility to report what we find, and not to twist our findings to fit the commercial interests.”


The benefits of red wine over white do not appear to be due to the resveratrol, but to the estrogen synthase blockers. See Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine.

What about the role of red wine in the Mediterranean diet? I have a whole series of videos, including:

I just published a whole new series on alcohol. Check it out:

Sadly, the epic failure of resveratrol supplements is par for the course when it comes to trying to get your nutrition in pill form. See, for example:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

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