Is White Vinegar Good for Health?

Traditional healers have used vinegar to fight infection for thousands of years. Modern scientists have identified a positive effect of vinegar on heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Manufacturers create many types of vinegar, but all of them — including white vinegar — offer benefits. Learning about these positive effects can help you improve your health and fight disease.

White vinegar can help you safely remove the bacteria from your produce. (Image: Philippe Desnerck/Photolibrary/GettyImages)

Tip

Vinegar improves lifestyle-related diseases, such as those affecting your arteries, heart and body composition, according to an April 2016 review in Current Opinion in Food Science.

Benefits of White Vinegar

A September 2016 paper in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety describes several health benefits of white vinegar. These positive effects include lowering blood sugar and providing polyphenols. Other known benefits of white vinegar include killing the bacteria on produce as well as that on your toothbrush. More speculative effects include using white vinegar to help treat jellyfish stings.

Scientists have identified acetic acid as the critical substance in vinegar. In the U.S., commercial white vinegar typically features 5 percent of this organic acid. This concentration has enough power to kill many — but not all — pathogens, including bacteria like Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This property adds to the many white vinegar uses, as it's a potent sanitizer.

You can take advantage of the disinfecting power of white vinegar by creating a do-it-yourself cleaning solution. Combining tea tree oil, club soda and vinegar makes an effective cleaner for ceramic surfaces. In fact, this home-made solution outperformed bleach in this application.

Use Vinegar to Clean Produce

Foodborne illness caused by bacteria remains a problem, despite the many efforts grocers make to control it. Washing your produce offers you a simple way to limit your exposure to these harmful bacteria. Adding white vinegar while washing produce can help increase the effectiveness of this before-meal cleaning, according to an August 2014 report in Food Control.

These researchers looked at the efficacy of white vinegar for cleaning bacteria from lettuce. Compared to rinsing only with water, adding vinegar dramatically improved removal of Listeria monocytogenes. It also kept the texture and color of the lettuce intact.

Use Vinegar on Your Toothbrush

The disinfecting power of white vinegar can also improve your oral health. A May 2014 paper in the Scientific World Journal showed that you can use vinegar to kill the bacteria often found on your toothbrush. For example, white vinegar was best at killing Streptococcus mutans — the primary cause of tooth decay.

An article in the January/February 2018 edition of World Journal of Dentistry describes a simple way to clean your toothbrush using household chemicals. Combining white vinegar and table salt created the most efficient solution. Following a daily routine of swishing your toothbrush in this solution before letting it dry in an upright position will help keep the bacteria off your toothbrush.

Use Vinegar to Decrease Glucose

The dramatic rise in diabetes has led a search for foods that help control blood sugar. Vinegar is known to slow digestion, making it an excellent candidate for glucose control. While studies specific to white vinegar and diabetes are rare, a January 2013 report in the Journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology explored this possibility in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Participants added 15 milliliters of white vinegar to their middle meal each day for a month. Compared to a placebo, this treatment caused a decrease in fasting blood sugar. It also lowered HbA1c — a common biomarker for diabetes.

You can easily tap into the glucose-lowering power of white vinegar, similar to the subjects tested in this study. An October 2018 article in Consumer Reports offers several tips for adding vinegar to your diet. For example, you can make a vinegar-based beverage or drizzle it on vegetables and meat.

Use Vinegar for Blood Flow

The blood-sugar-lowering effect of white vinegar suggests that it might be useful in improving blood flow, as high levels of blood sugar impair blood flow. The June 2015 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured a study that tested this hypothesis in people with impaired glucose tolerance.

Subjects received a small dose of vinegar before a mixed meal. Compared to a placebo, this treatment increased blood flow and decreased triglyceride and insulin production. The authors interpreted these results as a positive improvement in the subjects' medical condition.

Use Vinegar to Treat Hiccups

You get hiccups when your diaphragm muscle has repeated involuntary contractions. There are many causes of hiccups, but few proven remedies exist to treat them. In Japan, vinegar is sometimes used to relieve hiccups. An August 2015 report in the Journal of Palliative Medicine supports such use.

These researchers gave an intranasal injection of 0.1 milliliters of vinegar to two healthy volunteers and one cancer patient. In each case, the hiccups disappeared immediately after the injection, without side effect. The intranasal injection caused minor nasal irritation in the cancer patient, but was considered tolerable.

Simply sipping vinegar might work, as well. A June 2015 report in Reactions Weekly describes the positive effect of vinegar in a cancer patient with chemotherapy-related hiccups. That patient repeatedly got relief from the hiccups with a single sip of vinegar. In each instance, the hiccups disappeared within 15 minutes.

Use Vinegar for Weight Loss

Vinegar's ability to lower cholesterol suggests that it might help you lose weight, but no study has tested the effect of white vinegar on human body mass. Hawthorn vinegar has a similar acetic acid content as white vinegar, and this fruit vinegar is reported to cause weight loss in some people. An April 2014 article in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Research showed this effect in patients at risk for heart disease.

Participants added 20 milliliters of Hawthorn vinegar to each meal for a month. This dietary change resulted in a decrease of weight of about three pounds. It also lowered blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar.

Be Wary of Side Effects

White vinegar is generally considered nontoxic, but just because a treatment is traditional or natural doesn't mean it's effective and safe. For example, an August 2014 report in the International Wound Journal describes a case in which a patient experienced a chemical burn from combining vinegar and aspirin. Also, apple cider vinegar negatively interacts with some fillers used for making nutritional supplements.

The many positive uses of vinegar make white vinegar good for health, but these benefits might come at a steep price. Vinegar's acidity can also damage your stomach, throat and teeth. People with a diet rich in acidic foods like pickles have a 10 times greater risk of tooth erosion. Such damage is progressive and irreversible.

Poison Control offers some common-sense advice about vinegar. Author Mary Elizabeth May, RN, BA, MPH, discourages people from using vinegar to disinfect wounds. She also suggests avoiding the combination of vinegar and bleach. Finally, it's important to keep vinegar away from your eyes.

Warning

Talk with a health care expert before diagnosing yourself or using vinegar as a treatment. A doctor might catch an underlying medical condition, and can warn you about the possible side effects of ingesting too much vinegar.

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