Vinegar - the centuries-old culinary ingredient and traditional remedy - could help fight ulcerative colitis, say researchers, after testing its effects on mice with the disease.
Millions of people around the world have ulcerative colitis - an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) where there is chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the colon or large intestine.
Although the causes of ulcerative colitis are not well understood, research suggests gut bacteria may play an important role.
Now, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and led by Jilin University in Changchun, China, describes how vinegar appears to suppress inflammatory proteins while also increasing beneficial bacteria in the guts of mice.
The researchers carried out their investigation after learning of a previous study that had suggested vinegar - used in traditional medicine - might be a remedy for ulcerative colitis.
For their study, the researchers gave vinegar and its main ingredient acetic acid to mice chemically induced to develop symptoms of ulcerative colitis. They administered the substances by putting small amounts in the animals' drinking water.
The results showed that either substance significantly reduced symptoms of ulcerative colitis in the mice.
Vinegar suppressed inflammation triggers, improved friendly bacteria
The researchers found that vinegar reduced inflammation in the colon by suppressing proteins and molecular processes that trigger inflammation.
- Ulcerative colitis is slightly more common in males
- Lack of standard criteria for diagnosis means we do not know precisely how many people have ulcerative colitis
- Some believe urbanization could be a contributing factor to the disease.
The authors note that "vinegar inhibited inflammation through suppressing Th1 and Th17 responses, the NLRP3 inflammasome, and MAPK signaling activation."
Also, from an examination of the animals' stools, the researchers found that mice treated with vinegar for a month before chemically inducing colitis had higher levels of friendly bacteria in their gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
The authors note that other studies have shown these strains of bacteria are beneficial to mice with symptoms of colitis.
The researchers also found that vinegar appears to reduce a type of cell death that is triggered by stressful conditions.
They say only further studies will be able to establish if their findings are true of humans.
Meanwhile, Medical News Today learned of another study from Rockefeller University in New York, NY, that shows how neurons and macrophages in the gut work together to help prevent damage from inflammation.