Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Vinegar is the latest ingredient in the diet that is claimed to have influence on the blood sugar levels which can help millions of people affected by Type II diabetes disorder. Ideally the blood sugar levels in the blood are to be maintained between 100 and 150 units depending on whether this is measured as fasting or postprandial glucose. With voluminous data available on the scientific aspects of diabetes and its treatment, many drugs are in the market to manage blood glucose levels within the limits and avoid undesirable effect of diabetes on the general health of those afflicted.

Foods have been graded according to their Glycemic Index ( GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) and those foods which can release glucose into the blood faster have invariably high GI values, not to be consumed too much and too often by the diabetic population. Unrefined whole grains and legumes, though rich in carbohydrates tend to have low GI values and therefore considered diabetic-friendly foods. Unfortunately most of the foods being churned out by the processing industry are based on refined grain flours, sugar and other ingredients with high GI values. Legume consumption is very insignificant in Western population while they are cost prohibitive for those who like to consume them, especially the practicing vegetarians. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables also is known to be beneficial to diabetics, though in reality consumption of these protective foods is not up to the desired or recommended levels amongst many populations around the world.

There are many edible food materials claiming to have hypoglycemic effect viz for reducing blood sugar levels, if consumed regularly but their availability and amenability for being acceptable at the desired concentrations for exerting the beneficiary effect is rather limited. Some of these include Onion, Garlic, Mustard, Cruciferous vegetables, Fenugreek, Avocado, Cinnamon, Cherries, Nuts etc. Lack of unanimity amongst the scientists and physicians regarding the logistics of balancing the use of home "remedies" through food and herbs and modern drugs makes it difficult for consumers to adopt practical and effective synergistic daily practices that will ensure successful management of blood sugar. What is needed is a set of guidelines that can categorically lay down different drug-diet combination which will be safe and beneficial.

Latest to arrive on the scene is Vinegar and there are a few advocates espousing the cause of this food ingredient for regulating blood sugar. Taking this food adjunct regularly is claimed to retard glucose absorption from the GI tract. Some scientific studies over the past 10 years do indicate some benefits from vinegar consumption. According to them Vinegar decreases both fasting and postprandial (after-meal) glucose levels significantly and being a cheap food ingredient it can be easily incorporated into the diet. The biologically active constituent of vinegar is acetic acid ( 4-8% by volume) which is the source of pungency in many common food preparations, liked by most people. It is known that acetic acid can inhibit the activity of several enzymes, including amylase, sucrase, maltase, and lactase that break down carbohydrates into assimilable sugars. When vinegar is present in the intestines, probably a significant part of the sugars and starches can be expected to pass through without being digested with the consequent lower impact on blood sugar level. The bicarbonates necessary for glucose pump in the intestine for sending the glucose into the blood stream, is neutralized by acetic acid present in the vinegar. It was also observed that this is not a short term phenomenon because regular intake of vinegar also is reported to reduce the HbA1C values consistently and significantly.

Consuming a table spoon of vinegar before lunch and dinner is supposed to reduce one's weight by about a kg in 4 weeks. Similarly taking 4 table spoons of vinegar regularly is claimed to reduce the glycemic value of food by almost 30%. Interestingly taking vinegar along with the food can only be effective and therefore there appears to be ample scope for food scientists to come up with processed foods loaded with acetic acid without making them over acidic to taste. Vinegar is already established as a tenderizing agent for meat and fish while it is a major ingredient of most salad dressings. There are other acidic foods and adjuncts like pickles, sauerkraut, chutneys, lime juice, etc which also are supposed to exert same effect as vinegar. The findings, if universally accepted, will open up immense opportunities to the food industry to evolve foods that can be beneficial for calorie watchers and others with diet limitations.


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