Old-time vinegar 'cure' lacks proof, but it can't do much harm


March 08, 1994|By Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

Jack McWilliams is a retired farmer from Tuscumbia, Ala. These days he's getting rich selling vinegar.

The product making him a wealthy man is called Jogging in a Jug. It is a combination of apple juice, cider vinegar and grape juice and sells in our local supermarket for about $6 a bottle (64 ounces).

According to Jack, Jogging in a Jug is flying out of stores -- 10,000 bottles a day. He began in 1990 with just 18 bottles in northwest Alabama. Now it is distributed throughout the Southeast and is spreading across the country.

Jack McWilliams is no doctor; he'd be the first to admit that. But he maintains that the benefits of vinegar can be traced back to the Bible. He says that 2 ounces of his concoction daily will boost "energy and stamina" and is good for arthritis, cholesterol and the heart.

Jack told us that vinegar produces an amoebic action, causing the cells to expand and contract, clearing themselves of toxins. We could find no confirmation of this theory in the scientific literature. But vinegar certainly does have a history in folk medicine.

Readers of this column have sent in their own stories. Norma in Dunnsville, Va., offers the following: "I'm one of those people doing the vinegar trick. I make my own concoction and allow one tablespoon vinegar daily. It's not too bad once you get used to it. Far more palatable to me than a glass of wine!

"My question: How will I know if in fact it is doing anything positive for me? I have read it is touted to remove fatty deposits from your blood, which in turn would be good for your heart. Do I have to wait for an autopsy to determine the results? . . . Maybe I'm just turning myself into a PICKLE."

As far as we can tell, there is no medical evidence that vinegar will lower cholesterol or protect against heart attacks or anything else for that matter. We don't know if vinegar will help anyone, but it is unlikely to do much harm. Before spending a bundle on Jogging in a Jug, though, you might want to try to find your own formula with a taste you like.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

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