Could dash of vinegar treat diseases?
*From cutting cholesterol to soothing jellyfish stings, experts reveal products’ unlikely healing powers
Vinegar to many people is no more than a tasty accompaniment to chips.
Yet this humble condiment is being investigated as a way to help with everything from burns to jellyfish stings and even heart disease.
In fact, new research suggests vinegar could be an alternative to antibiotics and diabetes drugs.
Vinegar has long been valued for its medicinal properties. As far back as 400BC, Hippocrates began using it as a healing drink for fever. Now scientists are examining this historic cure-all more closely.
Last month, a report in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety reported vinegar contains a cocktail of chemicals that combat bacterial infection, reduce levels of harmful fats and sugars in our blood and even fight cancer.
Vinegars contain natural acids called polyphenols and brown-coloured chemicals called melanoidins, which can kill harmful bacteria.
These two chemicals are anti- oxidants, which may protect against heart disease, inflammation and cancers. The acetic acid in vinegars is also important. It helps our bodies to regulate the levels of fat and sugar in the blood, says the report by food technologists at China’s Huazhong Agricultural University.
They say early laboratory studies have shown that Asian vinegars made from rice and other grains may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Meanwhile, an British National Health Service (NHS) team at Birmingham University has successfully tested acetic acid taken from ordinary household malt vinegar on serious burns.
These open wounds are often at serious risk of infection, but anti-biotics can be powerless because they do not reach the skin’s surface effectively, and resistance to these drugs is growing.
However, the researchers believe acetic acid may stop sticky biofilms of bacteria — that feed each other and form a defence against anti-biotics — forming on wounds.
Dr. Mark Webber, a senior researcher in microbiology and infection at Birmingham University, discovered that even in highly diluted form (as little as 0.3 per cent), vinegar acid can kill lethal bugs such as staphylococcus.
Last year, in the journal PLOS One, his team reported vinegar ‘offers great promise to be a cheap and effective measure to replace antibiotics’.
Webber says it is already being used informally in his hospital.
“This has been anecdotally effective, particularly in treating pseudomonas (bacterial) infections that kill many burns patients,” he says. He is now testing the benefits of vinegar-soaked bandages.
Swallowing vinegar may provide an effective remedy for the chronic inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis, which causes stomach pain, diarrhoea, fever and fatigue.
A laboratory study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that doses of vinegar reduced the levels of bacteria-produced proteins in the stomachs of lab mice.
These proteins can cause gut-damaging inflammation. Vinegar produced a healthier balance of microbes in the mice with ulcerative colitis. Symptoms also reduced significantly.
The Chinese researchers say vinegar might provide a new preventative dietary strategy for the disease. The acetic acid in cider vinegar may even help cut the risk of heart attacks and stroke, too.
A yet-to-be-published study investigated this, with 30 volunteers split into three groups: one drank 2 tbsp (30ml) of cider vinegar diluted in 200ml of water twice a day before meals.
The second group did likewise with malt vinegar. The third group was given a placebo.
Dr. James Brown, a biomedical researcher at Aston University in Birmingham, who oversaw the trial, said the cider vinegar group experienced a 13 per cent reduction in their cholesterol levels.
There was also a ‘significant’ reduction in triglycerides — blood fats that our bodies create after consuming meat, dairy and cooking oils.
The malt vinegar group did not have such reductions, though the reason for the difference is unclear. Brown says the results show therapeutic promise.
Previous research in the journal Diabetes Care in 2004 found that drinking around two tablespoon of vinegar diluted in water just before meals lowered blood sugar levels for those with type 2 diabetes by between 20 and 40 per cent.
It is thought the acetic acid in vinegar dampens down the process by which enzymes convert dietary starch into sugar, so there is less harmful sugar in the blood.
Vinegar has long been used as an antidote to the venom of the box jellyfish, one of the deadliest creatures on Earth.
And earlier this year, a study in the journal Toxins by the University of Hawaii proved that diluted vinegar does stop jellyfish sting cells firing venom into the victims bloodstream and make the venom less toxic.
Be warned, though, that drinking even small amounts of undiluted vinegar can damage the oesophagus. Two heavily diluted tablespoons should be the maximum consumed daily.
And experts say you should not apply vinegar from your kitchen cupboard directly to wounds, but should seek proper medical advice.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online
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