The other day, as I pushed my cart around Whole Foods, a new book touting the wonders of apple cider vinegar caught me by surprise. Mainly, I was taken aback that people still considered the ingredient a magic elixir. I was under the impression that notion had been debunked way back when phones still had cords.
People have been writing books on the subject at least since that era, and apparently they haven't stopped. A quick search on Amazon revealed more than 20,000 results for publications on apple cider vinegar, many written in the past several years and most subtitled with words such as "natural miracle cure," "detox," "weight loss," "healing power" and "anti-aging." Clearly, this gold-amber liquid still has some allure, so I decided to investigate if there is any research to back it up.
It turns out there is substantial evidence that consuming vinegar can help keep blood sugar under control, which in turn may ultimately decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease, among other benefits.
Carol S. Johnston, associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, who has been studying the effects of vinegar for more than 10 years, says, "Vinegar appears to inhibit the enzymes that help you digest starch." When starch is not completely digested, you get a smaller blood sugar (glycemic) response - "20-40% less in healthy people and in diabetics" - after eating a high-glycemic food such as a bagel, according to Johnston's findings. The vinegar has a more moderate blood-glucose impact when a fiber-rich whole grain is eaten (because there is less of a spike to begin with) and no effect when no starch is eaten.
On top of that, undigested starch may have a prebiotic effect, meaning as it passes through the intestines it becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut. Well-fed gut bacteria generally translates to a healthier you because these microorganisms help support good digestion and our immune systems, among other benefits.