Type 2 diabetes is a preventable chronic disease that affects how your body controls sugar (glucose) in your blood.
Medications, diet, and exercise are the standard treatments. But recent studies vouch for something you can find in most kitchen cabinets too: apple cider vinegar.
Around 1 in 10 Americans have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If apple cider vinegar has the potential as a natural treatment, that would be good news indeed.
What the research says
While a number of studies have looked at the link between apple cider vinegar and blood sugar management, they’re usually small — with varying results.
“There have been several small studies evaluating the effects of apple cider vinegar, and the results are mixed,” said Dr. Maria Peña, an endocrinologist in New York.
“For example, there was one small study done in rats showing that apple cider vinegar helped lower LDL and A1C levels. But the limitation to this study is that it was only done in rats, not humans,” she said.
Research from 2004 found that taking 20 grams (equivalent to 20 mL) of apple cider vinegar diluted in 40 mL of water, with 1 teaspoon of saccharine, could lower blood sugar after meals.
Another study, this one from 2007, found that taking apple cider vinegar before bed helped moderate blood sugar upon waking up.
But both studies were small, looking only at 29 and 11 participants, respectively.
Although there’s not much research on apple cider vinegar’s impact on type 1 diabetes, one small study in 2010 concluded it could help reduce high blood sugar.
A meta-analysis of six studies and 317 patients with type 2 diabetes concludes apple cider vinegar yields beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar and HbA1c.
“The take-home message is that until a large randomized control trial is done, it is difficult to ascertain the true benefits of taking apple cider vinegar,” she said.
Still want to try it?
Apple cider vinegar that’s organic, unfiltered, and raw is usually the best choice. It may be cloudy and will be higher in beneficial bacteria.
This cloudy cobwebbed chain of acids is called the mother of vinegar culture. It’s added to cider or other fluids to start the fermentation of vinegar and is found in high-quality vinegars.
Apple cider vinegar is considered safe, so if you have diabetes, it may be worth trying.
Peña suggests diluting 1 teaspoon of the vinegar in a glass of water to decrease irritation to the stomach and damage to the teeth, and cautioned people who are seeking a cure-all.
“People should be wary of any ‘quick fix’ or ‘miracle solution’ to their healthcare needs, as these suggestions are not usually backed by strong evidence and can lead to more harm than good,” Peña says.
Interested? Shop for apple cider vinegar here.
Who should avoid it
According to Peña, people who have kidney problems or ulcers should steer clear, and no one should substitute it for their regular medication.
Large amounts of apple cider vinegar can result in reduced potassium levels in addition to side effects like tooth enamel erosion.
When taking insulin or water pills such as furosemide (Lasix), potassium levels may drop to dangerous levels. Talk to your doctor if you take these medications.
At the end of the day, the most effective way to prevent and manage diabetes is eating a balanced diet that includes healthy carbohydrates and enough healthy proteins and fats.
It’s important to understand the impact of carbohydrates on your blood sugar, and limit intake of refined and processed carbohydrates, such as foods with added sugar.
Instead, opt for healthy nutrient-dense, fibrous carbohydrates, such as fruit and vegetables. Contrary to past recommendations, whole grains may also be included in those with kidney disease, as the phosphorus content is now known to be poorly absorbed.
Increasing physical activity can also have a positive impact on blood sugar management.
Peña recommends the research-backed solution of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Get helpful fitness tips for people with diabetes.
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