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Researchers Study Vinegar as a Preventative Diabetes Medication

A nutritionist studying the effects of vinegar on blood sugar levels discovers that the sour liquid mimics the action of commonly prescribed oral diabetes medications.

Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, has long been prescribed as a natural treatment for various ailments, including acne, allergies, asthma, arthritis, indigestion, insect stings, night time leg cramps, hypertension, warts, sore throat, cold sores, burns, sunburns, and even hiccups. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used vinegar as an antiseptic and antibiotic 1000's of years ago. Diabetics drank vinegar teas for diabetes control before the invention of modern day diabetes medications.

Professor Carol Johnston, a nutritionist at the ArizonaStateUniversity, has been studying the benefits of vinegar as a diabetes medication, researching its effect on blood glucose levels. Johnston and her fellow researchers performed three separate studies over a number of years.  In the first study, they gave people with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes (a pre-diabetic state associated with insulin resistance), and healthy controls four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar just before a high carbohydrate breakfast. The vinegar slowed the rise of blood sugar levels in the type 2 diabetics almost 20%. Those with prediabetes experienced an even greater benefit, with their rise in blood sugar slowed almost 35%. Even the healthy study participants experienced lower blood sugar and insulin spikes than the control group that was not given vinegar.

"Both the blood glucose and insulin were better managed after the meal when they consumed vinegar," says Johnston, "It appears that the vinegar mimics the action of both acarbose [generic Precose] and metformin [generic Glucophage], which are two of the commonly prescribed medications for diabetics." Johnston suspects it's the acetic acid in the vinegar that helps with diabetes control. "The acetic acid in vinegar may inhibit enzymes that digest starch, so that carbohydrate molecules aren't available for absorption", she theorizes.

In a follow up study, participants with type 2 diabetes who did not require insulin injections but were taking oral diabetes medications were given either 2 tablespoons of vinegar or water with an ounce of cheese before going to bed. Those given the vinegar at saw their fasting blood sugar levels reduced an average 4% the next morning.  Those with the highest fasting blood sugar levels achieved the most benefit, experiencing a drop of 6%.

In the most recent study, researchers concentrated on the effects of vinegar on healthy participants.  They fed both healthy participants and diabetics a standard evening meal, and then a breakfast high in complex carbohydrates with or without vinegar following an overnight fast. The non-diabetics given vinegar with their meals had a 20% reduction in post-meal blood sugar levels compared to those who weren't given vinegar.  Two teaspoons of vinegar was determined to be the most effective amount, taken with the meal instead of before eating.

In a welcome but unexpected twist, participants given the vinegar in the longer-term study also lost weight. "The group that got the vinegar lost several pounds on average," said Johnston. Obesity and insulin resistance are closely related to each other, and to diabetes.  Unrelated studies have shown that improving insulin sensitivity in pre-diabetics can delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. If something as simple as a couple of teaspoons of vinegar before meals could help address both obesity and high blood sugar, vinegar could gain recognition as a cost-effective oral diabetes medication. "Further investigations to determine the efficacy of vinegar as an antidiabetic therapy are warranted, says Johnston." As many who could benefit from vinegar are put off by its strong taste and the quality of existing vinegar supplements such as capsules is inconsistentFeature Articles, Johnston's team is now working on a more palatable medicinal vinegar tablet.

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Lynn feels strongly that everyone should have access to affordable medicine



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