Apple cider vinegar has links to an array of health benefits, such as aiding weight loss to relieving cold symptoms. But does taking it help people with diabetes?
Scientists have yet to back up the majority of the health claims around apple cider vinegar with significant clinical research. However, some evidence has emerged to suggest that apple cider vinegar may have particular benefits for the management of diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that leads to an inability to manage blood sugar levels properly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 1980, around 108 million people had diabetes. Its prevalence has significantly increased over the past few decades to an estimated 422 million in 2014.
This article looks at the research that links apple cider vinegar and diabetes, as well as ways to take apple cider vinegar effectively.
According to scientists, apple cider vinegar has the potential to impact different types of diabetes in a variety of ways.
Some research, such as this review from 2018, draws a connection between apple cider vinegar and reduced blood glucose. This leads some people to believe that apple cider vinegar could provide benefits for people with diabetes who need to manage their blood glucose levels.
There are two primary forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In type 1, the pancreas does not produce insulin because the body's immune system attacks the cells that make it. A person with type 1 diabetes will need to take additional insulin.
Type 2 occurs when the body's cells become less sensitive to the glucose-reducing effects of insulin. This means that the body absorbs less glucose, which leaves more circulating in the bloodstream.
Diet has a controlling influence on type 2 diabetes and is an essential consideration for people with type 1.
However, while apple cider vinegar is a low-risk addition to a diabetes diet, many studies on the vinegar are small and have reached mixed conclusions concerning its effects on blood sugar levels.
Studies of apple cider vinegar's impact on blood sugar levels tend to be small and have mixed results.
Most studies on apple cider vinegar have examined its potential to reduce blood sugar. A 2018 review examined both its long- and short-term effects and found that many results favored the groups using vinegar, although often not by a significant margin. Groups had both main types of diabetes.
The review reports that apple cider vinegar caused a small, significant reduction in HbA1c results after 8–12 weeks. HbA1c levels reflect a person's blood glucose levels over many weeks or months.
On a short-term basis, groups taking apple cider vinegar saw significant improvement in blood glucose levels 30 minutes after consuming the vinegar. However, the differences between the vinegar and control groups reduced after this time frame.
Other studies looked to identify the mechanisms behind this reduction in blood sugar level. One crossover, randomized study from 2015 suggested that apple cider vinegar may improve the way that the body absorbs blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity in the skeletal muscle.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which some researchers claim has effects on reducing obesity. However, the source of the vinegar, such as apple cider, affects its impact on the body.
Obesity can trigger the development of type 2 diabetes.
While this research does not indicate that the same results would occur in humans, it does highlight the mechanisms that might lead to a drop in blood glucose after taking apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar's effects on people with type 1 diabetes are the subject of fewer specific studies. The last study that looked into this took place in 2010 and showed that 2 tablespoons (tbs) of vinegar could help reduce hyperglycemia, or high glucose levels, after meals.
An even older study from 2007, however, suggested that apple cider vinegar might make symptoms worse. It might slow the process through which the stomach empties, affecting glucose management in people who regularly take insulin.
The mixed nature of research and the lack of recent studies into apple cider vinegar and type 1 diabetes make it difficult for doctors to recommend it as a complementary intervention for people with this type of diabetes.
However, taking apple cider vinegar is unlikely to cause serious harm. Always monitor levels to measure whether it works and make dietary adjustments accordingly.
People who wish to consume apple cider vinegar should dilute 1–2 tbs of apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water.
Drink it before meals or just before bedtime, when it has the greatest reducing impact on blood sugar.
As with most kinds of vinegar, a person should not consume undiluted apple cider vinegar. On its own, the vinegar can cause stomach irritation or damage tooth enamel.
Apple cider vinegar is also a versatile cooking ingredient. People can use it in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and soups, and it works well with many types of meat and fish.
People are most likely to see the distilled varieties of apple cider vinegar on sale. This type of apple cider vinegar is clear and has no color.
Apple cider vinegar has high acidity levels and some research has demonstrated its corrosive effects on enamel, the protective covering on the surface of teeth.
The authors of a 2014 lab study immersed tooth enamel in a range of vinegars of acidities that varied between 2.7–3.95 PH. The enamel in apple cider vinegar saw a loss of 1–20 percent over 4 hours.
However, despite suggesting that large amounts of apple cider vinegar may lead to dental decay, the study did not account for the protective action of saliva.
Consuming moderate amounts of apple cider vinegar has an extremely low risk of damaging the teeth.
People with type 2 diabetes may want to consider consuming diluted apple vinegar cider, as scientists believe it safe to drink. It may also provide some benefit in terms of helping to control blood sugar levels. However, there is little scientific evidence to support its benefits.
People should not consider apple cider vinegar or any other isolated dietary change to be a quick fix for diabetes.
Eating a high-fiber diet that contains the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, and healthful fat, alongside regular physical exercise, are the most effective methods of controlling diabetes.
Is apple cider vinegar better than other types for blood sugar control?
The type of vinegar that scientists have studied most often for reducing blood glucose levels is apple cider vinegar. However, researchers believe that other kinds of vinegar have the potential to act similarly in the body.
Acetic acid is present in all vinegar, and this is the component that researchers believe influences weight, lipids, and blood sugar management. Some studies use vinegar solutions without stating apple cider vinegar specifically. For example, one study showed that a 30 milliliter (ml) vinegar solution that contained 6 percent acetic acid had positive effects on glucose and lipid metabolism.
Theoretically, any vinegar should help improve these levels based on acetic acid concentrations and the impact of that specific component on blood sugar. Most varieties of food vinegar contain 4-7 percent acetic acid. However, scientists need to carry out more research to confirm the benefits and effects of different types of vinegar.Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.