Drinking apple cider vinegar before meals may lower sugar levels in the bloodstream, and could therefore help people with diabetes, according to a 2013 study from Arizona State University cited by Prevention magazine
But experts caution against viewing apple cider vinegar as a cure-all: "[M]uch of what you read about this product on the Internet is overstated, or simply unfounded," writes physician and bestselling author Joseph Mercola
"While apple cider vinegar probably won't make you skinny, it does appear to help with diabetes and blood sugar control," WebMD reports
, also referring to the 2013 study, which was authored by Arizona State nutritionist Carol Johnston.
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The acid in apple cider vinegar appears to block some of the starch we eat from being digested, which in turn keeps blood sugar levels from rising — an "anti-glycemic" effect similar to that of some medications, Johnston tells WebMD.
Participants in her study who drank a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (sometimes called ACV) mixed with 8 ounces of water before a meal had "lower blood glucose levels compared to participants who didn't consume the tart solution," Prevention reports.
In another study, people with type 2 diabetes for whom insulin was ineffective had lower levels of blood glucose after downing two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed, Reader's Digest reports
Based on these findings, Reader's Digest and other lifestyle and health publications are touting the virtues of apple cider vinegar — and not just for diabetics.
"A few swigs of apple cider vinegar could help keep your blood sugar levels balanced, according to several studies that have shown a link between the two," Reader's Digest reports.
Lifehack lists "blood sugar regulation"
as one of 15 benefits of apple cider vinegar and recommends two tablespoons at bedtime.
But some experts warn against overestimating apple cider vinegar's medicinal properties — or underestimating its potential side effects.
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"Trying to use vinegar to treat diabetes is like trying to bail out a flooded basement with a teaspoon," Michael Dansinger, director of the Tufts University diabetes lifestyle coaching program, told WebMD.
He added: "I'm concerned that drinking vinegar, even diluted in water, increases acid in your system, which puts a strain on your kidneys and bones."
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