Effects of Acetic Acid (Vinegar) on Glycemic and Insulinemic Response to Food: Inhibitory Effects on Digestive and Other Enzymes

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 9 No. 2 • April 2006

Effects of Acetic Acid (Vinegar) on Glycemic and Insulinemic Response to Food: Inhibitory Effects on Digestive and Other Enzymes

Acetic acid (as found in vinegar) is a very interesting food, as it has been reported in a number of studies to reduce glycemic and insulinemic responses to foods such as a starchy meal, possibly by delaying gastric emptying.1 One study2 reported finding that a vinegar supplement [20 g apple-cider vinegar, 40 g water, and 1 tsp saccharin (diluted) sweetener] significantly improved postprandial glucose and insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects as compared to those who received a placebo. As a constituent of many types of foods, such as pickled cucumbers, salad dressings, and soups, vinegar is easy to incorporate into a diet.

Moreover, as reported by another study,3 vinegar decreases the activities of a number of intestinal glucose transporters and disaccharidases (digestive enzymes that break down disaccharides into their two constituent sugars; sucrose, for example, is broken down into fructose and glucose by sucrase, a disaccharidase) in Caco-2 colon-cell culture. They report that earlier studies suggest that when food containing 10–150 mmol/L of acetic acid is eaten, the concentration may reach the millimolar level in the small intestine (where the acetic acid is absorbed). Cells were cultured for 15 days in a medium containing acetic acid in the range of 0 to 5 mmol/L.

Findings: Acetic acid inhibited sucrase activity in a dose-dependent manner. Even 1 mmol/L of acetic acid inhibited sucrase activity by 30%. Exposure to 5 mmol/L of acetic acid (about 1 tsp of vinegar per quart) for 15 days decreased sucrase activity by approximately 50% compared to the control culture, while other organic acids, including citric, succinic, L-maric, L-lactic, L-tartaric, and itaconic acids, did not. This means that it was not merely a pH effect. In addition, the 15 days of 5 mmol/L of acetic acid resulted in about a 40% decrease in maltase and almost a complete inhibition of trehalase and lactase (perhaps a problem for those with mild lactose intolerance). Moreover (and this is particularly interesting), the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) was reduced to 30% of the control. ACE inhibitors have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, and numerous studies have found results in animals and humans indicating that treatment with ACE inhibitors may reduce age-related declines in physical performance, possibly due to a reduction in body-fat mass.4,5,6 ACE inhibitors also protect the kidneys from age-related functional decline.


  1. Liljeberg et al. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr 52:368-71 (1998).
  2. Johnston et al. Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 27(1):281-2 (2004).
  3. Ogawa et al. Acetic acid suppresses the increase in disaccharidase activity that occurs during culture of Caco-2 cells. J Nutr 130:507-13 (2000).
  4. Carter et al. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition, body composition, and physical performance in aged rats. J Gerontol: Biol Sci 59A(5):416-23 (2004).
  5. Onder et al. Relation between use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and muscle strength and physical function in older women: an observational study. Lancet 359:926-30 (2002).
  6. Carter, Onder, et al. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition intervention in elderly persons: effects on body composition and physical performance. J Gerontol: Med Sci 60A(11):1437-46 (2005).

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