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Downing a shot of vinegar a day might keep the doctor away

Arizona State University part of research team looking into healthful properties of cider vinegar.

Marilyn and Jerry Mielke drink apple cider vinegar in the kitchen of their Bridgetown, Ohio, home. They say it eases an assortment of ailments, including sore throats and sunburn.

Marilyn and Jerry Mielke drink apple cider vinegar in the kitchen of their Bridgetown, Ohio, home. They say it eases an assortment of ailments, including sore throats and sunburn.

The use of apple cider vinegar as a health and beauty aid has prompted lively debate.

Pop sensation Fergie says she does a shot of vinegar every night to help maintain her physique. Last month, Natural Solutions magazine recommended taking a few tablespoons with meals to counter acid reflux.

Meanwhile, the April issue of Health magazine listed honey-and-vinegar mixtures among its list of “health whoppers” that do nothing for arthritis pain.

Although a daily cocktail of apple cider vinegar may sound like another celebrity trend, folk remedy or harmless placebo, recent studies support centuries of anecdotal evidence – and suggest vinegar might ease or prevent a variety of ailments.

A Swedish study, published in April, found that people who ate white bread with vinegar felt full up to two hours later, while those who ate just bread started losing their satiety after 30 minutes.

In a study from Arizona State University, the blood sugar spikes of people with type 2 diabetes were 4 percent to 6 percent lower in the morning when participants took two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before going to bed.

In January, a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology recommended that an anti-inflammatory diet including vinegar “should be considered for the primary and secondary prevention of coronary artery disease and diabetes.”

These findings don’t surprise or concern those who have practiced and preached the virtues of ACV – as those in the know refer to apple cider vinegar – for decades.

“It’s working for me. I’m still living and I can go out and do all the things I did when I was 45,” says Jerry Berube, 85.

Old folk remedy

Berube, who lives in Montgomery, Ohio, with his wife, Patricia, says he hasn’t had a cold or sore throat in 35 years. He’s never battled weight gain or suffered from arthritis. His last blood pressure reading was 124/73 – good by anyone’s account – and although he takes a few vitamins, he has no prescription medications.

Berube partly credits his vitality to the drink he’s sipped nearly every night since 1973: one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with one tablespoon of honey and 8 ounces of warm water.

Even physicians who don’t support ACV as a remedy see little harm in drinking moderate amounts diluted with water or juice.

“The placebo effect is very strong. I don’t argue with that if it makes them feel better. But I can’t promote it and say, ‘Yes it’s going to help you,’ ” says Dr. Debra Krummel, researcher with the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Nutrition.

Research from Arizona State University and the University of Lund in Sweden – the only groups known to be investigating ACV – has focused on ACV’s potential for managing diabetes and hunger.

“I was doing low-carb diets with diabetics. But I came across (ACV) and I thought, ‘Wow, no one is talking about this. This could be easier than changing their entire diet,’ ” says Carol Johnston, chairman of the department of nutrition at Arizona State, who has been researching ACV since 2000.

In the study, acetic acid – found in any vinegar – controlled the blood sugar spikes that diabetics experience after a meal or first thing in the morning. Because these spikes destroy cells that produce insulin, ACV and other antiglycemic agents could prevent or delay the onset of the disease for those diagnosed with pre-diabetes – a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

More study needed

The few studies that have examined ACV’s benefits for other health conditions have been promising, but incomplete.

A 10-year study, published in 1999, found that women who ate salad with oil and vinegar five to six times a week had decreased levels of fatal ischemic heart disease, but researchers couldn’t determine the beneficial ingredient.

Others see little need for research when drugs often are more effective. Johnston’s study, for example, found that a pre-meal dose of ACV lowered diabetics’ blood glucose spikes by 3 percent to 6 percent, but pharmaceutical hypoglycemic agents reduced spikes by 10 percent to 15 percent.

Without more clinical trials and FDA approval, doctors and nutritionists who stick with “evidence-based practices” aren’t likely to discuss a vinegar remedy with patients.

Kathy Sprinkle of West Chester Township, Ohio, began sipping the concoction a few weeks ago.

Sprinkle, 51, uses it to curb her appetite and soothe occasional stomach upset. She acknowledges the remedy could be the equivalent of a sugar pill, but says that doesn’t bother her.

“It may be a placebo effect, but I think the whole placebo thing is underrated,” Sprinkle says.

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