As interest in a healthy microbiome has grown over the last several years, fermented foods and beverages have become more popular. Not only are consumers increasingly turning to pre-, pro- and even postbiotics for improved gut health, but for the myriad other benefits that come along with a healthy microbiome.
One such ingredient gaining popularity is apple cider vinegar, whether on its own or as part of a wellness shot or drink. While vinegar has long been lauded for its gut health benefits, a recent study has indicated apple cider vinegar may also confer benefits when it comes to mood (Nutrients. 2021; 13:4020).
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to link daily vinegar ingestion in healthy young adults with improved mood,” the authors noted.
Researchers at Arizona State University, after a prior study investigating the effects of red wine vinegar on blood glucose levels, sought to examine the potential role vinegar could play on mental health, noting gut-brain connection.
To gather this data, the researchers found 25 healthy, college-aged student volunteers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020. The study consisted of a four-week, placebo-controlled trial wherein half the students drank an apple cider vinegar drink (two tablespoons vinegar diluted in one cup water) twice daily with meals. The other half consumed a low-dose vinegar pill, which the researchers noted contained enough vinegar to give off an odor, but not enough to elicit an effect. This allowed the researchers to ensure the control group could not self-identify and that the study would remain blinded. Both groups then answered questionnaires about their mood before, during and after the four-week period, and also submitted urine samples for analysis.
After four weeks, the resulted pointed toward the apple cider vinegar having a positive effect on mood. Participants in the cider group reported a 20-34% reduction in poor mood, while the placebo group actually reported a slight increase in poor mood over the same period.
The urine samples help paint a picture as to why.
“Several of the metabolic alterations associated with vinegar ingestion were consistent for improved mood,” the authors wrote, “including enzymatic dysfunction in the hexosamine pathway as well as significant increases in glycine, serine, and threonine metabolism.”
If immunity has been the topic du jour over the last two years, mental health is not far behind. Even before the pandemic upended the everyday lives of the global population, the promotion of mental health was trending up. The researchers noted, “over 40% of college students self-report moderate-to-severe depression, a 77% increase over the past decade,” concluding, “simple and safe strategies that effectively reduce depression in this population are urgently needed. These data warrant continued investigation of vinegar as a possible agent to improve mood state.”