The Alcohol—Vinegar Cure

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Here are two prescriptions I can go for: Drink some wine; eat some salad dressing. Recent studies show that 1–2 alcoholic drinks a day appear to cut the risk of diabetes by 45% and that 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal lowers blood glucose levels after the meal.

Vinegar seems to increase insulin sensitivity and slow the rate at which sugar is absorbed from a meal into the bloodstream. So it helps people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have shown that vinegar is associated with reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well.

Most of these studies come from Europe. A Greek study published in Diabetes Care says that we do not know how vinegar reduces blood glucose. Vinegar may delay gastric emptying, block simple carbohydrates from breaking down into sugar, and/or stimulate liver and muscles to soak up more glucose.

This is actually nothing new. Studies have shown that vinegar improves insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 or insulin resistance. Now we know it helps people with Type 1 as well.

But vinegar is not that easy to take straight or dissolved in water. Probably the best way for most people is to mix it with other flavors and use it as a salad dressing or on cooked vegetables.

Maybe the alcohol prescription would be more fun. An article from Reuters news service reports on a Dutch study of 35,000 people. People who had one or two alcoholic drinks a day had 45% less chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, compared to teetotalers. Forty-five percent is a pretty big benefit from drinking a glass of wine or liquor!

This result has been seen before, but scientists refused to credit the alcohol. They theorized that the moderate drinkers might live healthier lifestyles in other ways. The Dutch study suggests other lifestyle factors do not explain the findings, because “the lower risk was seen among men and women whose diabetes risk was already relatively low because of their weight and lifestyle habits — namely, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.” Since even those who were living relatively healthy lives saw the benefit, the drinking seems to be the most likely candidate for the source of their better health. The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Moderate drinking also helps arthritis. Another Reuters article reports on a Swiss study of 2,900 adults with rheumatoid arthritis. The study found that, “light-to-moderate drinkers showed slower progression in their joint damage compared with non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers, on the other hand, showed the greatest progression.” The subjects were followed over an average of four years. The study was reported in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

What’s the Connection?
I have to think the alcohol and vinegar effects are related. Alcohol and vinegar both come from fermented plant matter. In moderate amounts, they seem to make the body use carbohydrates more efficiently, and possibly to reduce inflammation. This seems to be a benefit for people who eat much plant-based food. There must be some kind of evolutionary connection here, but I don’t know what it is. Maybe you guys can figure it out.

We don’t need to know the whys of these findings to make them work for us. The cardiac benefits of moderate drinking have been reported many times. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate drinking means two drinks a day for men 65 and under, one drink a day for women or men over 66. Mayo says drinking more than that puts you at risk for certain types of cancer, liver problems, and heart failure. (Editor’s Note: Additionally, because of the risk of alcoholism and other health conditions associated with drinking alcohol, most health experts currently do not recommend that nondrinkers take up moderate drinking for the sake of potential health benefits.)

It doesn’t seem to matter if the alcohol comes in the form of liquor, wine, or beer. They’re all good, if you don’t overdo it. Some studies hint that red wine may be best, but no one is sure.

A similar thing may apply to vinegar. Apple cider vinegar gets all the publicity for being a natural treatment for almost any problem, but some studies use other kinds of vinegar, so it might not make a difference which one you use.

If you can’t drink, perhaps because of a history of alcoholism, you might try resveratrol tablets. Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes and may account for part of the health benefits of wine.

If you don’t want to have vinegar, you can take vinegar capsules. A reader named Renee Gerger says, “Vinegar pills have changed my blood sugar control in a positive manner…I have dawn syndrome and by taking two pills at bedtime I have eliminated it completely. I now have normal readings in the a.m. and most of the day.” Renee said she has been able to reduce her repaglinide (brand name Prandin) by taking the vinegar capsules.

I’m seriously planning to try these treatments. I’ve already got my vinegar (balsamic). I’m going wine shopping tomorrow. Do you think I’m wasting my time?

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