You’re a busy person who is always looking for ways to do things smarter, faster, and cheaper.
You’re also one of the millions of Americans currently trying to lose some weight.
Here’s a simple hack that can make that process a little easier and more enjoyable.
Scientific evidence has shown that adding vinegar to your diet can speed up weight loss.
How simple is that? You add vinegar to your diet – you lose weight.
And here’s an extra benefit of vinegar. It can increase your insulin sensitivity and improve your metabolic health.
If you’re prediabetic or have type 2 diabetes, vinegar might also help you in your fight against insulin resistance.
Let’s take a look at the weight loss effects of vinegar.
Since I personally use apple cider vinegar, that is the one I’ll primarily be focusing on today.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Generally, vinegar is a liquid consisting of about 5–20% acetic acid.
Acetic acid is the active compound in vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is produced by first adding yeast and bacteria to crushed apples or to cider.
As the mixture ferments alcohol is produced.
To this alcohol mixture, acetic acid forming bacteria are then added.
This causes further fermenting of the alcohol into acetic acid.
Voilà. We now have apple cider vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar has the added health benefit of containing apple pectins which are a source of fiber.
The ancients and vinegar
Mankind has used vinegar since antiquity.
The word vinegar is derived from the Latin words vinum acer (sour wine). In medieval France, it was called vin egre, which again means sour wine.
We see it used as a food in the Bible in Ruth 2:14. Here Boaz asked Ruth to dine with him and encouraged her to dip her bread in the vinegar.
The Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460B.C.), considered the “Father of Modern Medicine”, recommended the use of vinegar to wash wounds and sores.
During the Black Death plague in Europe (1347 to 1771), vinegar was widely believed to help protect against contracting the disease.
Folklore tells the story of four convicted thieves who, while attending the sick, supposedly kept themselves free from the disease by drinking large amounts of vinegar infused with garlic.
From this tale, a vinegar recipe was invented. It’s called Four Thieves Vinegar. If you’re interested in making it, see here.
Today, scientists have proven that vinegar does indeed have significant antimicrobial properties.
There is also evidence that vinegar was used in Asia as a health tonic and as a food from at least 2000 B.C.
But what about vinegar as a weight loss aid? Okay, I’ll get there shortly but first some poetry.
Lord Byron on beauty, vinegar and weight loss
“SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
(“She Walks In Beauty”, Stanza One, Lord Byron)
Ah, Lord Byron (1788 – 1824), he could really turn a phrase.
Byron was also skilled at consuming copious amounts of food. The results, however, disappointed him.
He often lamented that “everything he swallowed was instantly converted to tallow and deposited on his ribs.”
Sounds familiar, right?
History tells us that Byron engaged in legendary diets in order to lose weight.
Interestingly, most of those diets involved vinegar.
For lengthy periods of time, he often existed on only greens or potatoes soaked in vinegar or just plain water and vinegar.
He was also said to starve himself. Today, we might liken that activity to fasting.
Though Byron’s vinegar diets did result in significant weight loss (75 pounds), they were not without criticism.
Brillat-Savarin cautions against using vinegar for weight loss
French politician, lawyer, and gastronome Brillat-Savarin (1755 – 1826) cautioned against using vinegar for weight loss.
He came to this conclusion after enduring the death of a woman he loved.
Brillat-Savarin was deeply in love with a woman that he described as “pleasingly plump”. Over the course of time, he noticed she began to lose weight.
Eventually, she grew very ill.
When Brillat-Savarin questioned her, she finally confessed that because she was teased about her weight, she resorted to drinking a glass of vinegar a day.
She eventually died in Brillat-Savarin arms. She was only 18 years old.
Brillat-Savarin attributed her death to vinegar.
Okay, it’s a sad story and shame on the fat shamers, but drinking a glass of vinegar a day was not a smart thing to do.
However, will vinegar, used the correct way, help with weight loss?
While long-term studies on the use of vinegar for weight loss have been rather meager, there have been several recent studies that have validated vinegar’s use in losing weight.
Let’s take a look at them.
Vinegar increases insulin sensitivity
In 2004, researchers at the University of Arizona studied three groups of people.
The first group consisted of a normal control group, the second consisted of people who were insulin resistant, and the third consisted of people who had type 2 diabetes.
The subjects were given a drink consisting of 20 g (5 teaspoons) of apple cider vinegar, and then they were asked to consume a high carbohydrate meal of a white flour bagel and orange juice.
The results showed that vinegar significantly reduced glucose spikes and increased insulin sensitivity (34%) in the insulin resistant group.
The other groups were moderately affected.
The significance here for weight loss is that since insulin resistance is a major driver of weight gain, reducing it should attenuate weight gain.
How much vinegar must be consumed in order to improve blood glucose after a meal?
In 2010, the University of Arizona performed a follow-up to the previous study.
This study was designed to explore the effects of vinegar on blood glucose spikes after a complex carbohydrate meal.
The study included only healthy subjects.
Researchers found that vinegar indeed reduced blood glucose levels by 20%.
They also found that consuming 10 grams (approximately 2 teaspoons) was just as effective as 20 grams and consuming vinegar just before a meal was more effective than taking it 5 hours before meals.
Too bad Brillat-Savarin’s love didn’t have this information.
The effect of vinegar on the glycemic index of certain starchy foods
It appears that vinegar has the ability to affect the glycemic index (GI) of high carbohydrate foods.
The GI is an indicator of the rise in a person’s blood sugar level two hours after consumption of the food.
For example, a bagel has a GI of about 72 while broccoli has a GI of about 15.
This means a bagel will raise your blood sugar a lot higher than broccoli.
Remember that the higher a food raises your blood sugar, the more insulin will be released by your pancreas.
An excessive amount of insulin released over a prolonged time will drive weight gain and obesity.
Let’s look at the effects of vinegar on some foods.
For those of us who love Asian style food, especially with rice, here is some good news.
Researchers in Japan found that vinegar decreased the glycemic index (GI) of rice by about 20–35%.
Now that doesn’t mean you can go out and eat as much rice as you want. You won’t lose weight that way.
Rice has a high GI.
But for those of us who enjoy it every now and then, maybe drinking a little vinegar beforehand will make us feel a little less guilty because we are lowering its GI a bit.
Interestingly, another study found that cucumbers pickled with vinegar had the potential to lower the glycemic index of starchy foods.
If you’re looking to lose weight, potatoes are probably something you want to avoid in your diet. However, if you must eat them, consider this study.
Researchers found that boiled potatoes that are cooled for 24 hours and served with oil and white vinegar had a GI and an insulin index that were reduced by 43% and 31% respectively.
Also, boiling and cooling potatoes appears to increase the formation of resistant starch which is an excellent source of food for your good gut bacteria.
Remember, if you’re currently taking blood sugar lowering medications, always check with your doctor before increasing your intake of apple cider vinegar.
We’ve looked at how vinegar affects blood sugar when combined with food.
But does it also affect blood sugar when taken separately from food?
vinegar may reduce blood glucose apart from mealtime
In another study done by Arizona State University, researchers wanted to determine if vinegar affected blood glucose levels apart from mealtime in well-controlled type 2 diabetics (not on insulin).
Subjects were given 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime and then their waking glucose concentrations were measured.
Researchers found that vinegar moderately reduced glucose concentrations by 4%.
It appears vinegar may slightly reduce blood glucose levels even when not taken a mealtime.
Vinegar may suppress your appetite
You know that urge to binge eat during dieting can sometimes seem overwhelming.
Drinking vinegar just might help you in that regard.
In one study, researchers wanted to test the effects varying amounts of vinegar taken with a meal of white bread (50 grams of carbohydrates).
They found that vinegar did indeed reduce blood glucose concentrations and insulin response.
The higher amounts of vinegar gave the best results.
What’s interesting in this study is that the carbohydrate quantity stayed the same.
This implies that vinegar has some kind of protective effect on serum insulin response.
However, they also found that vinegar increased satiety. That means that people felt less hungry when ingesting vinegar.
The highest amount of vinegar ingested (28g) resulted in the highest satiety score.
Okay, so we’ve seen that vinegar is helpful for reducing weight gain primarily by improving insulin response, reducing blood glucose levels, and reduce hunger.
However, is there evidence that vinegar is directly related to weight loss?
Is vinegar directly associated with weight loss?
In 2009, researchers in Japan studied the effects of vinegar consumption on 175 obese individuals.
One group ingested 15ml of vinegar daily, another 30ml, and a third a placebo.
At the end of 12 weeks, they found body weight, BMI, visceral fat (belly fat), waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups than in the placebo group.
15mL (1 tablespoon): Lost 2.6 pounds, or 1.2 kilograms.
30mL (2 tablespoons): Lost 3.7 pounds, or 1.7 kilograms.
This is not a lot of weight to lose in 3 months but, remember, all they did was take some vinegar daily.
How does vinegar produce these beneficial effects?
Researchers don’t know exactly how vinegar works to positively influence insulin sensitivity.
However, there are two main theories.
The first theory is that that vinegar may interfere with starch digestion.
A second theory postulates that vinegar may delay gastric emptying.
Neither theory has good evidence to support it. See here.
There can be no doubt, though, that vinegar can support metabolic processes that improve weight loss.
How to take apple cider vinegar
Carol Johnston, a professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University, recommends taking vinegar in the following manner.
- Make sure your vinegar diluted. Undiluted vinegar can damage your throat or esophagus.
- Dilute 1 – 2 tablespoons of apple cider or red wine vinegar with 8 ounces of water.
- Keep total intake at or below 4 tablespoons per day.
- Swallow the mixture right before a meal. If you take it too far ahead or too long after a meal, you’ll lose the benefits.
- If you can’t bear to swallow vinegar in this way, then you can always splash it on a vegetable like Byron did or use it as a dressing on your salad.
It appears that adding vinegar to your diet might give you some mild weight loss.
Also, since vinegar increases insulin sensitivity and reduces blood glucose, it’s definitely something you should consider adding to your health regimen.
However, it won’t work miracles on its own.
If you want to see significant weight loss over a prolonged period of time, a number of different lifestyle changes are necessary.
The most important of these include switching to a low carbohydrate healthy fat diet and incorporating some intermittent fasting.
In the following video, Dr. Jason Fung explains why a low carbohydrate healthy fat diet might be better that caloric reduction diets for weight loss.
Okay, that’s it for this week. Let’s hear what you have to say.
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