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Saturday was national vinegar day, and the entire month of November is devoted to diabetes awareness in America. What might these two observances have in common?

Several small studies suggest that apple cider vinegar may have a beneficial impact on lowering blood glucoses. These studies sparked my interest, as cider vinegar is a natural product that has been around for more than 10,000 years, it is very inexpensive and already is in the cupboards of many households. In addition, vinegar adds a tremendous amount of flavor and “zing” to foods without calories, fat, carbohydrates or sodium.

In one study, 29 subjects were given 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before eating a high carbohydrate meal, consisting of a bagel and orange juice. All participants achieved lower readings when their blood glucoses were tested after the meal.

Those in the study who had “pre-diabetes” experienced the most significant reduction. One hour after the meal, their blood glucoses were cut in half compared to the placebo group. A follow-up to this study found an additional benefit of moderate weight loss when subjects consumed 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar prior to eating two meals each day for four weeks. The average weight loss was 2 pounds, with some losing as much as 4 pounds.

An earlier study in Sweden found that pickled cucumbers blunted blood sugars from spiking after subjects ate a high carbohydrate breakfast, whereas eating fresh cucumbers did not — the addition of vinegar in the pickling process was thought to be the beneficial factor.

A third study looked at the potential benefit of vinegar consumed at bedtime on the next morning’s fasting blood glucose. This study consisted of 11 adults with Type 2 diabetes who consumed either 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or water with a piece of cheese at bedtime. Fasting blood glucose levels were reduced by up to 6 percent with the vinegar treatment.

Acetic acid is thought to be the beneficial component in vinegar. It has been attributed to reduced starch digestion and/or delayed gastric emptying. Studies on rats have demonstrated that acetic acid may reduce the release of glucose from the liver, which is a major culprit in elevating fasting blood glucose for many people with Type 2 diabetes.

If you are considering experimenting to see whether the addition of apple cider vinegar helps to lower your blood glucose, do so with caution and common sense. Do not test this is you have problems with acid reflex or ulcers. Do not drink it without first diluting it in large glass of water or one of the other recipes listed below. Doing so could be hard on tooth enamel and the esophagus.

Other ways to incorporate cider vinegar in to meals include:

  • Drizzle on a large fresh salad.
  • Pour over streamed broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts or cabbage.
  • Marinate raw vegetables, such as sliced cucumbers, onions and tomatoes in it.

Additional research, with larger study groups will hopefully tell us more about the potential benefits of cider vinegar on diabetes control in the future.

Cider cocktail

12 ounces diet lemon-lime soft drink, such as Diet 7-Up

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

5 drops liquid sugar substitute, such as Stevia

Cranberry Cider Zinger

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons cranberry juice

1½ cups water

1 packet sugar substitute

Cider Tea

1 mug of hot steeped tea

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoons honey

Dash of cinnamon

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Joanne Hutson is a registered dietitian in the diabetes education department at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

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