Can apple cider vinegar really help manage diabetes?


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By Dragana Jokic, M.D.

Is vinegar really not just for salad anymore? Some celebrities claim it helps them maintain their figures. Some people stand by home remedies using vinegar to treat everything from dandruff and excessive sweating to fungal infections and warts.

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A study at Arizona State University tested whether a 2-tbsp. dose of vinegar taken at bedtime could lower waking glucose levels. The hypothesis was based on some limited studies that had indicated a similar amount of vinegar at mealtimes reduced glucose levels. In the test, individuals taking the vinegar showed a 4 to 6 percent reduction in glucose concentrations, much as with the mealtime tests.

However, all of the studies seeking to prove that apple cider vinegar can manage diabetes have been small and the glucose reductions haven’t been great enough to control diabetes. Apparently, it might help a little and probably won’t hurt, although a Mayo Clinic report found mixing vinegar with insulin might decrease potassium levels, which could lead to diabetic complications.

Medication, regular exercise, healthful eating habits and regular doctor visits remain the cornerstones of diabetes control and nothing will take their place. Still, many people have an interest in consuming vinegar and other products to give them an edge but the American Diabetes Association says evidence is insufficient to recommend using vinegar to control diabetes and advises caution.

If vinegar does have an effect, researchers suspect that it may work by slowing the digestion of starches, delaying the emptying of food from the stomach (which may also reduce appetite and aid weight loss), altering glucose production in the liver, and through other unknown mechanisms.

But before changing your diet, supplements or any lifestyle factors, discuss your plans with your doctor or ask for a referral to a registered dietitian who is also a diabetes educator. This is the person who will help tailor a plan to fit your needs. A single change may require additional alterations to your medications or other aspects of your treatment plan. Also, more frequently checking your blood glucose can help you learn quite a bit about the effect various foods have on your blood glucose.

Though many kinds of vinegar are commonly used in cooking — and you should feel comfortable using vinegar in normal amounts — if you swallow it by the tablespoon, you could set yourself up for some undesirable side effects. Vinegar’s high acidity can wreak havoc on the digestive system and bones — and interact dangerously with blood pressure and diabetes medications.

Enjoy apple cider vinegar in your salad dressing, if you like, but don’t let it take the place of diet, exercise, proper medications and regular doctor visits if you are an individual living with diabetes.
Dragana Jokic, M.D., is on staff at the Joslin Diabetes Center, Affiliate at Raritan Bay Medical Center, a member of the Meridian Health family, located in the Medical and Surgical Pavilion, 2 Hospital Plaza, Old Bridge. She is board certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism and Internal Medicine. As an affiliate, the medical center provides the latest advances in diabetes treatment, patient education and support services. Raritan Bay is recognized with the American Diabetes Association Education Recognition Certificate. To make an appointment, call 732-360-4070.

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