Characterized by a tart flavor, vinegar is an essential ingredient in many popular culinary creations. Throughout history, it has had a number of other useful applications, including use as a cleaning agent and as a remedy for various physical ailments such as the treatment of wounds. More recently it has been suggested that vinegar, particularly red wine vinegar, might be useful in managing blood sugar levels.
Vinegar can be made from just about any food containing natural sugars and is the product of a chemical process that converts ethanol to acetic acid. Red wine vinegar is made from red wine. The Food and Drug Administration defines vinegar as a product that contains at least 4 grams of acetic acid per 100 milliliters. Acetic acid is not only responsible for the tart taste of vinegar but is also thought to be responsible for some of its proposed health benefits.
Blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose circulating in your bloodstream. Because too much or too little sugar can have dire consequences for the body, blood sugar is strictly regulated by a hormone produced in the pancreas called insulin. Individuals with type 2 diabetes have developed a resistance to insulin and as a result often experience sustained high blood sugar levels.
Link Between Vinegar and Blood Sugar
According to research conducted by Carol Johnston, Ph.D., R.D., vinegar has a positive effect on blood sugars in both healthy and diabetic individuals. However, more research is needed to fully understand the exact mechanism involved and the dosages required to achieve long-lasting therapeutic effects. In 2010, Johnston published a study in "Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism" suggesting that 2 teaspoons of vinegar were sufficient to elicit a response and that results were most pronounced when the vinegar was taken with the meal as opposed to five hours before.
Red Wine Vinegar Versus Other Vinegars
Since acetic acid is thought to be responsible for vinegar's effect on glucose, the type of vinegar shouldn't matter. However, red wine is also being investigated for its role in improving insulin sensitivity. The assumption is that the benefits seen with red wine will translate to red wine vinegar, making it even more potent. Unfortunately, the concentration and availability of the active ingredient(s) are likely key. It is not clear if therapeutic amounts of these phytonutrients are available in red wine vinegar in the amounts normally ingested. Furthermore, it is possible that the benefits credited to red wine are in fact largely due to the alcohol, which is known to improve insulin sensitivity.