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Folk science

This will hopefully be the first of a series of posts on folk medicine vs. science. It will not be a debate on which is better. Rather, it will be an examination of all available science on the efficacy of folk remedies. Hopefully everyone will find this as interesting as I do.

To start things off we are going to examine the basis for use of the Gaea of the alternative medicine movement:

Apple Cider Vinegar

First her, then ACV, then all that other stuff about titans and eating children

What we have in apple cider vinegar is perhaps, at least according to all of the folklore out there, the greatest medicine known throughout the world. It’s purported to affect everything from arthritis and acne to sore throats and strength endurance. It can even get rid of your dogs flees. I have compiled a fairly extensive list from many different sources on some of the most common benefits to ACV consumption:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • diabetes
  • flu
  • heartburn
  • Reduce sinus infections and sore throats
  • Balance high cholesterol
  • Cure skin conditions such as acne
  • Protect against food poisoning
  • Fight allergies in both humans and animals
  • Prevent muscle fatigue after exercise
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Increase stamina
  • Increase metabolism which promotes weight loss
  • Improve digestion and cure constipation
  • Alleviate symptoms of arthritis and gout
  • Prevents bladder stones and urinary tract infections

These are the more commonly held conditions that benefit and there are literally thousands of anecdotal accounts of to read online that agree.

The available science doesn’t prove most of these benefits, nor, however, does it disprove them. In fact, there is a woeful lack of any experimental data on this centuries old folk remedy that, I believe, is tantamount to negligence on the scientific community.  Anything that has a following as strong, and old, as ACV should be studied but the point of this blog isn’t to debate the politics of science research so I won’t digress further.

Despite this, I have found a few studies that researched ACV.

  1. According to this study, where you can only read the abstract, taking ACV slowed gastric emptying and lowered glucose and insulin levels after eating vs. not taking it. This study inadvertently lent credit to the weight loss benefits of ACV. By keeping insulin levels in check, fat accumulation is kept in check to a small degree. Combine this with slower rates of gastric emptying, which means you feel full for longer and eat less, and you have a potent combination for fat loss or, at the very least, fat prevention. One could also argue that keeping insulin levels low would help prevent diabetes but that wasn’t the point in this instance.
  2. A study done by the Central Research Institute in Japan found that vinegar(they didn’t specify which kind but they all have acetic acid which is the beneficial component of vinegar in the study) reduced body weight, fat mass and serum triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) in obese patients. Again I could only find the abstract but this is a very positive confirmation for the weight loss and cholesterol benefits to ACV as well as a thin connection to diabetes prevention as keeping body fat down is a great way to prevent it.
  3. Another study conducted by the came Japanese group was done on rats using acetic acid. They concluded that acetic acid consumption increased fat burning proteins that inhibited the accumulation of body and liver fats without changing food consumption or skeletal muscle weight. While this was done with acetic acid and not ACV, as stated acetic acid is the main acid in all vinegar. Another check for fat burning/weight loss and, possibly diabetes prevention.

These were the only relevant studies that I could find. Even though there isn’t much, the science that is there certainly lends credence to the weight loss/fat burning properties of ACV.

Another plus to taking apple cider vinegar is that can help prevent acid reflux. It’s well established that taking any acid will down regulate the bodies natural production, thus preventing the accumulation of stomach acids that lead to reflux.

I think, even in the face of limited research, it’s safe to say that ACV has some definite positives that agree with the alternative/folk medicine crowd. I would like to reiterate that, although there is no proof for the other uses for ACV, there is no research disproving it. Being that is it so incredibly cheap and will help you stay lean and sexy, I see no reason NOT to take it and maybe get a little extra something out of it.



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