You know I’ve been an advocate of a happy gut = a happy you for years. And my research on fermented foods, digestive health and probiotics goes back to 2004 when I was part of a Scientific Advisory Board and Health Canada was deciding how probiotics could be added to food. Fast forward 14 years later and I’m now exploring what the heck is drinking vinegar.
What are Drinkable Vinegars?
Is this another celebrity (who failed tenth grade science) or Dr. Oz endorsed detox miracle mixture? Or is there some merit to drinking a typical salad dressing ingredient that brings visions of throat, esophagus and stomach irritation into my mind on a daily basis?
Drinking a vinegar mixture with water (called switchel or shrub) for its proposed health benefits dates back to the Colonial era. Today drinking vinegars are made by mixing fruit (juice or puree) and sugar (or alternative sweetener) together, allowing them to mix and then adding vinegar which ferments. Food companies like BluePrint, Suja, and Kevita have all launched or expanded their drinking vinegar lines and bottling it for grab-and-go accessibility.
When I was at Natural Products Expo West in March, the exhibit hall was flooded with them. I tried a few vinegar shots and preferred Ethan’s Apple Cider Vinegar Shot the best. Each 2 ounce (59 mL) shot claims to be made with 4 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar and is sweetened with organic agave.
Drinking Vinegar’s Proposed Health Benefits
Consumers led by celebrities like Katy Perry are noticing the drink’s health benefits. However, most of these health claims aren’t supported by creditable research. Here are some of the potential health benefits with the most substantial research to date.
Digestive and Immune Health (Diabetes)
The most researched benefit is its effect on improving glycemic control. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, published in the journal of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice in 2017, 11 clinical trials that involved 204 participants were reviewed, where apple cider vinegar and white vinegar were the two vinegars studied (1). The authors concluded that vinegar was effective in reducing postprandial glucose and insulin levels. The possible mechanisms (from past research) include: slower gastric emptying rates, and the inhibition of disaccharide activity in the small intestinal epithelium. Further research is necessary to confirm these mechanisms.
Digestive and Heart Health (Weight Loss)
There is little scientific support for the popular weight loss claim. Nonetheless, the following two studies show the effect of apple cider vinegar on weight loss. In an article published in the Journal of Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry in 2009, 175 obese Japanese subjects (aged 25-60 years of age) agreed to consume either: 15 mL of vinegar (n=59), 30 mL of vinegar (n=58) or water (n=58) daily for 12 weeks (2). Results showed that those who consumed vinegar (i.e., both treatment groups) had significantly lower: body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference and TAG levels compared to the placebo group. However, it is worth mentioning that, after the 12 weeks, the participants lost, on average, 2.6-4.1 pounds, and regained the weight four weeks after the treatment.
In an article that was published in the Journal of Functional Foods in 2018, 38 overweight or obese individuals were randomly put into one of two groups: a reduced calorie diet (250 kcal/day deficit) PLUS 30 mL/ day of apple cider vinegar OR a reduced calorie diet ALONE for 12 weeks (3). Results showed, after the 12 weeks, the group who consumed the apple cider vinegar had:
- Significant decrease in body weight (1.5-6.5 pounds), BMI (0.62-2.42), hip circumference (2.19-9.61 cm);
- Significant decrease in triglyceride levels (42.1-74.1 mg/dL) and total cholesterol levels (increase of 2.5 to a reduction of 12.7 mg/dL);
- Significant increase in HDL-C concentrations (a decrease of 1.05 to an increase of 6.95 mg/dL).
Questions of Concerns
- What are the long-term effects of daily intake on the throat, esophagus and stomach?
- Do drinking vinegars interact with any medications?
- Can long-term intake of vinegars have an impact on potassium and other mineral levels?
Proceed with caution. Remember no single food or ingredient gives the benefits of daily healthy habits including a balanced dietary pattern, exercise and restful sleep.
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- Shishehbor F, Mansoori A, Shirani F. Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses: a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. 2017; 127: 1-9
- Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry. 2009;73(8): 1837-1843.
- Khezri S, Saidpour A, Hosseinzadeh N, Amiri Z. Beneficial effects of apple cider vinegar on weight management, visceral adiposity index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Functional Foods. 2018; 43: 95-102.