Dr. Price’s Medical Note-April 2009, ll

In a recent article on a few medical myths I’ve always been interested in, the next question had to do with vinegar and high blood pressures – known in the medical world as hypertension.

to some interesting home remedies to take care of one’s medical and physical health. One of these remedies passed down from generation to generation is vinegar.

I first heard about vinegar in my third year in medical school in Charleston, S.C. I was talking to a middle-aged patient, whose mother and father also had high blood pressure and had for years believed that it could be cured or controlled with vinegar.

I was astounded at first to hear this, most of all because of the taste of vinegar and the thought that people were actually drinking it straight. The patient then clarified that there were vinegar tablets sold over the counter his family had taken for years to treat hypertension. So instead of just discounting his beliefs, I researched it.

In history, vinegar’s uses go way back to the times before Christ. Historical figures, including Hippocrates and Cleopatra, reportedly used it to clean wounds and make love potions, respectively. In the 18th century, it was used to clean hands while performing autopsies and then to treat ailments from rashes to abdominal pains. Today, it’s being pushed as a cure for diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

Let’s look at the blood pressure theory. In 2001, there was a study showing some lowering of systolic pressures (the top number listed on blood pressure measurements), but this was studied only in rats. In rats, vinegar seemed to prevent the action of a certain system in the kidney, thereby reducing blood pressure by about 20mmHg points.

But there’s a catch, studies have never been conducted in humans. And from my own personal research, there’s a huge difference between people and rodents!Another study in 1999 on nurses was done a little bit differently in that the food studied wasn’t vinegar alone but rather a vinegar-and-oil dressing.

Apparently, the nurses that ate salads with the particular dressing versus nurses that ate salads without it, did not have increased blood pressure or risk of heart disease. This doesn’t mean, however, that they were healthier. There were other factors involved like the mayonnaise content.

Where vinegar does have some evidence with is blood sugars and prevention of diabetes. In those who are at high risk for diabetes, studies have shown modest decreases in glycemic control. Vinegar does this by increasing your body’s response to the insulin you produce from your pancreas, especially if ingested about 30 minutes after meals.

So what does this mean? Unfortunately, the jury’s still out on whether we can consistently say vinegar is the right thing to do for hypertension. However, it actually may prevent high blood sugar or diabetes in those at high risk.

All in all, I always say the more prevention the better. If you ever have any question about your numbers and your risk, discuss it with your doctor before making any decisions on your own that could cause more harm than good.

*The studies quoted in the article can be found onorganizedwisdom.com.

  1. Nicole Price, MD, works for the Durham Family Practice in Durham. Contact her at 220-9800.
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