Why Balsamic Vinegar is Awesome: Better Weight & Blood-Sugar Control

Note: This is the second post in a series that discusses some of the health benefits of Balsamic Vinegar. Click here to read the intro post, and click here to read the post on probiotics in BA.

Blood Sugar & Insulin

It’d be easy and truthful to say, “Studies show Balsamic Vinegar (BV) may play a role in reducing the glycemic effect in response to caloric consumption”.

Yet, this would leave you with nothing more than a quip and, likely, more than a few follow-up questions.

SO, before you start chugging your nearest bottle of BV, let’s let’s talk some scientific basics!

What is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar (aka blood glucose) describes levels of a basic unit of energy (glucose) on a cellular level found in your blood.

When you eat, your body breaks down food into glucose molecules. The glucose molecules then enter your bloodstream. Finally, the glucose is:

  • Used as immediate energy. (You’re using glucose as you’re reading this! It’s your brain’s fuel source.)
  • Stored as glycogen.1
  • Stored as fat.2

(Note: Bear in mind your body may be handling glucose in one or more of the above ways at any given time. This depends on an individual’s homeostatic needs.)

As glucose enters your bloodstream, your pancreas responds by secreting something called insulin.

Ok, so what’s Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that regulates your blood sugar (again, “sugar” = “glucose”), and helps deliver glucose from your blood into your cells for fuel.

It’s natural for your body to experience a “spike” in insulin after eating. However, too drastic of spikes happening too frequently for a long enough period of time can lead to insulin resistance3.

Becoming too insulin resistant can eventually result in weight gain and even Type II Diabetes development.

In the simplest of terms: The more sugar in one’s diet, the more frequent and drastic these insulin spikes occur.

Anything we can do to limit the amplitude and frequency of these spikes can make us healthier!

How Can This Affect My Weight?

As someone becomes “more resistant” (or “less sensitive”) to insulin, the more their body opts to store increased amounts of glucose as glycogen in the liver.

Over time, the liver can become overwhelmed with the excess glycogen, and will begin to store the glucose as fat. (This can even lead to a fatty liver!)

The (very) basic equation is as follows:

Insulin Sensitivity = More Favorable Glucose Storage & Use

Insulin Resistance = Glucose More Likely to be Stored as Fat; A Precursor to Metabolic Syndrome / Type II Diabetes


Furthermore, a reduction in drastic and frequent insulin spikes often leads to better post-meal satiety.

Ever had a big, high-sugar meal where you end up feeling ravenous a suspiciously short amount of time after eating? And often – the new hunger cravings have you searching for more high-carb, high-fat foods, right?!

Well, that reaction is attributed to the profound spike – and subsequent nosedive – your insulin levels have experienced.

The hunger resulting from this insulin rollercoaster often means more frequent overeating. And, thanks to the nature of the cravings, one won’t be eating the right things. 😞

Where Does Balsamic Vinegar Come In?

As evidenced by this 2014 study in the Journal of Food Science, BV is one of several vinegars to contain compounds that provoke an anti-glycemic effect when consumed before or with a meal.

But why?!

Once again (originally discussed here), the signs point to Acetic Acid4 earning the limelight! To break it down simply, it’s thought to act on two fronts:

  1. Acetic Acid may reduce the amount of sugars/carbs absorbed by the body by increasing gastric emptying.
  2. Acetic Acid may aid in sugars/carbs being delivered more efficiently to tissues. Ideally, this blood glucose would be delivered to your muscles and liver for future energy rather than stored as fat.

In either case, the takeaway is that the glucose is being encouraged to not remain in your bloodstream. This means less insulin production is required, and this means a reduction in insulin spikes.

And, as discussed above, less insulin spikes will leave you feeling more satiated and less inclined to snack on unhealthy foods. Hooray!

Doesn’t Balsamic Vinegar Have Sugar?

Good catch! Yes, BV does have an amount of sugar in it, but we should be looking at the bigger picture. I’ll encourage you to consider the following:

  • BV is typically not consumed in high-volume amounts. This means, the grams of sugar per serving won’t likely be enough to send anyone into a hyperglycemic (a.k.a. “sugar OD”) state. In fact, BV is considered to be a “low-glycemic” food!
  • Acetic Acid has properties that counteract high blood sugar levels and discourage the storage of glucose as fat.
  • Big Horn’s BV options are about as healthy as they come! We don’t add any extra sugar, maltodextrin, Sucralose, or fructose to our traditionally made balsamics. Nothing but the best, clean BVs are to be found when purchased through our store or website. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Blood sugar, insulin, and weight management are things that require thoughtfulness and commitment when addressing.

Even with certain pharmaceuticals gaining recent popularity, one’s metabolic health isn’t something that can (or should) be addressed with a single “magic bullet”.

Our point is, BV can play a very nice (and very delicious!) role in an overall path to greater health and wellness, but it’s a limited one.

For instance, downing a spoonful of BV before polishing off a dozen donuts isn’t quiiiite going to counteract that impending metabolic disaster. BV is, however, a great piece of the bigger health puzzle.

As always, we encourage readers to seek further advice from their own medical providers and dig into the research that’s out there. We’re confident you’ll find BV to be one of many effective tools in your health-and-wellness toolbox!

Thanks for reading, and stay healthy ❣️


Footnotes

Glad you’re here for the footnotes! Welcome to the weeds. 🙂

1What is “Glycogen”? How is it different from glucose? When do I need it?

Glycogen is simply the stored form of multiple glucose molecules. Glycogen is stored in your liver and within your muscles, and it’s your body’s way of handling excess glucose for future use!

When your body needs to call upon certain metabolic pathways (i.e. needs to create energy), this glycogen will be summoned into action. This energy pathway that uses your stored glycogen is called the “glycolytic pathway” or “anaerobic glycolysis”.

In the case of the glycolytic pathway, think lifting weights or other short, hard, interval-type efforts.

The average person tends to store enough glycogen in their liver & muscles for about 60-90-minutes’ worth of moderate-to-hard interval activity before experiencing a “crash” in performance (if not feeding during the activity and / or reducing intensity).

There are several main metabolic pathways, but they’re outside the scope of this footnote (let alone this blog). 😉

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2When is glucose stored as fat?

The short answer? Once your body deems your liver and muscle glycogen fills are “topped up” based on your energy needs. (Energy output and body composition dictate these needs.)

“Are we an active person with plenty of muscle mass that will likely make eager use of this glycogen? Or… are we more sedentary, and shall we consider putting this excess into ‘long-term storage’ (a.k.a. ‘Fat’)?”

– A Typical Human Body

The human body tends to be relentlessly efficient… even if that “efficiency” doesn’t exactly bode well for a beach body.

We’ll not take this topic too much further into the territory of body composition and individual macronutrient needs / tweaks. But, knowledge of the basic “formula” can come in handy when considering calories consumed and energy needs.

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3Insulin Resistance – Good or Bad thing?

Being resistant to insulin is, decidedly, a bad thing.

Insulin resistance can occur when one’s body is so overwhelmed by high levels of exogenous (eaten) glucose (sugar) that the ability to properly manage and deliver the glucose lessens.

As such, glucose levels within the blood can rise drastically, creating a state of hyperglycemia. If not properly addressed, this may lead to weight gain and even the development of Type II Diabetes.

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4Acetic Acid

In this case, Acetic Acid is the byproduct of fermentation of the grapes used to make balsamic vinegar. It is shown to have multiple health benefits including the presence of probiotics and blood-glucose-regulatory effects.

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