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Although it has become fashionable to include vinegar as part of the diet, experts warn that it can cause damage to the throat and stomach.
It is said that vinegar – in its various forms – is a “miraculous substance” that can cure anything, from the flu to arthritis and acne. And in recent months there has been a great deal of information about a type of vinegar, apple cider, and its supposed health benefits.
One of the most popular beliefs is that cider vinegar promotes weight loss. The idea came from a study in Japan in 2009. In this 175 obese people followed the same diet for 12 weeks. Half drank a drink with one or two tablespoons of vinegar each day and the other half drank water.
(The study used apple cider vinegar because it is considered a more tasty form of the substance).
At the end of the study, those who took vinegar achieved a modest loss of between half and one kilo, those who drank water did not lose weight.
The researchers then suggested that vinegar could have an impact on the genes responsible for breaking down fat. All participants, however, regained weight after the study.
Since then other studies have been carried out but so far none has corroborated the link between vinegar and weight loss.
Carol Johnson, a professor at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University, USA, has long been investigating the effects of vinegar on health.
As he explains, although popular belief suggests that cider vinegar is special, in reality all vinegar are similar and the only thing that distinguishes them is the taste.
All contain an active ingredient, acetic acid, which is produced by the fermentation of alcohol through the Mycoderma acetic bacteria.
Professor Johnson was initially interested in knowing the effects of vinegar on blood glucose levels.
After 10 years of studying the compound, he found that, in effect, it can help regulate these levels by reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researcher has carried out several experiments that show that drinking a diluted vinegar solution before a high carbohydrate meal reduces the glycemic response (the increase in blood glucose that occurs after consuming food).
His theory is that acetic acid blocks the enzymes responsible for digesting starches (carbohydrates from grains and vegetables), and thus prevents the absorption of glucose they contain.
Experts stress, however, that not digesting these starches (which are calories) does not necessarily lead to weight loss.
“If you want to lose weight, what you need is to exercise and control your food intake,” he says.
In addition, as Carol Johnson told the Washington Post, there is huge publicity behind apple cider vinegar. This works in reducing the glycemic response, but the fact that it is cider vinegar makes no difference because acetic acid is found in any type of vinegar.
Experts also do not recommend ingesting vinegar as a method of prevention or treatment of diabetes. And they affirm that one must be very cautious with the product.
Due to its anti glycemic effect, vinegar can interact with medications and can be dangerous for diabetics who must be treated with insulin.
Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA, told the New York Times: If someone who has diabetes thinks, ‘Oh! I don’t want to take medicine, I can treat myself with vinegar, the recommendation is: Do not.
Experts also warn of the risks of ingesting or applying vinegar without diluting it in water. Acetic acid is a very strong and potentially dangerous compound.
It can damage tooth enamel, cause burns in the mouth and oesophagus and can be inhaled inadvertently and reach the lungs, causing serious injuries.