Written by Dr. Michael Murray
One of the most popular natural products of all time is apple cider vinegar. It has almost a cult following for a lot of applications. Less-known in the Western Hemisphere is black vinegar. Learn more about the scientific support for their uses, how they're different and what's important to know to get the best benefits from adding one of them into your daily routine.
Support for Apple Cider Vinegar
For years apple cider vinegar has been used as a general intestinal tonic to improve digestion, relieve gas and bloating, help with occasional heartburn and balance pH levels. Although a weak acid, ACV promotes alkalinity in the body. More recently, its uses have expanded into the areas of blood sugar control and weight loss. However, even this use is not new, as ACV was recommended as as a weight-loss aid as early as the 1820s.
Recent scientific investigations show ACV helps improve carbohydrate metabolism in several ways. For example, it has been shown to delay gastric emptying in healthy subjects and those with diabetes. Delaying gastric emptying helps slow down the absorption of glucose, giving the body a chance to process it more effectively and avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels. ACV also has the ability to increase the body’s uptake of glucose, particularly in skeletal muscle. This comes from improving insulin action and may also be helpful for promoting weight loss.
ACV & Weight Loss Benefits
In one double-blind study published in 2009 in the medical journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, subjects were randomly assigned to three groups of similar body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. During the 12-week treatment period, the subjects in each group ingested 500 ml of a beverage containing either one tablespoon of ACV, two tablespoons of ACV, or a placebo each day. Body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups than in the placebo group, adding up to an average weight loss of 2-4 pounds in the subjects taking the vinegar.
This weight loss may not seem significant, but it must be kept in mind that there wasn’t any conscious effort to lose weight and subjects were instructed to make no major changes to their diet or activity levels. Therefore, as part of a concerted effort including dietary changes and exercise, vinegar’s weight lost benefits may increase.
Why "The Mother" Is Important
While some of these beneficial effects are related to acetic acid, there are also studies that indicate that the “mother” components found in unfiltered ACV create additional benefits. For example, in an animal study, the beneficial effects of ACV supplementation on serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, liver and kidney membrane lipid peroxidation, and antioxidant levels were studied in mice fed a high cholesterol diet.
Results showed quite clearly that ACV not only lowered blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but it also exerted a protective effect against red blood cell, kidney, and liver oxidative injury. It was able to produce these effects by exerting direct antioxidant effects as well as increasing the levels of antioxidant enzymes. These later effects are not likely due to the acetic acid content, but rather the presence of mother compounds.
Is Black Vinegar Superior?
Black vinegar is an inky-black vinegar derived from fermented unpolished black or brown rice. While apple cider vinegar (ACV) is more popular in the United States, black vinegar (BV) possesses even greater health-promoting properties, as it contains considerably higher amounts of amino acids, polyphenols, trace minerals, and organic acids than other vinegars including balsamic and ACV. Not surprisingly, BV has been shown to possess the same high antioxidant activity as ACV and other forms of vinegar.
In addition, other health benefits have been noted with BV, especially in relation to weight loss. For example, a study in rats showed BV to possess a couple of very interesting anti-obesity effects. In the development of obesity, the increase in the size of visceral fat cells leads to greater amounts of compounds that inhibit the action of insulin, leading to insulin resistance. BV was shown to significantly reduce the size of fat cells compared to not only a control group, but also a group that got the same corresponding amount of acetic acid. What the result means is that it was the additional compounds in BV, and not acetic acid, that were responsible for the effect on the fat cells. In the BV group, the number of small adipocytes in the subcutaneous and visceral fat tissues were increased while the number of large adipocytes was decreased.
BV also impacted key regulatory genomes involved in fat cell formation. What this means is that it can literally stop fat cells from being created. Again, these effects were related to compounds other than acetic acid, most likely the phenolic compounds found in BV.
Just as with apple cider vinegar, a black vinegar product should contain the full spectrum of mother compounds to ensure the maximum benefit.
To get the greatest benefit from ACV or BV, it appears that it must not only contain acetic acid, but all of the other compounds typically found in the mother. That recommendation is true whether the product is in liquid or pill form. The dosage is typically one tablespoon, or its equivalent as a dried powdered extract in capsule form, with a glass of water.
In addition, taking vinegar at bedtime has been shown to decrease fasting glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that ACV may cause the liver to produce less glucose.Hence, taking an additional dosage at bedtime may also be helpful for both blood sugar control and weight loss.