Rubin: This must be what they said about castor oil

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

On the theory that the nastier something tastes, the better it must be for you, I can now heartily recommend apple cider vinegar.

My go-to guy for health and nutrition information at Henry Ford Health System doesn’t endorse it, and the study in England that’s been making news involved all of 10 people and two months of use.

But that’s just science, or the lack of it. A friend here at the paragraph factory once poured a bottle of expired apple cider vinegar down her kitchen sink, and it smelled so eye-wateringly horrendous she had to leave the room.

That means it must heal you better than Creflo Dollar, right?

If the headlines about the vinegar these past few weeks seemed made for television, that could be because they were.

A British program called “Trust Me, I’m A Doctor” assembled a statistically irrelevant pool of 30 people to test some theories about vinegar. The one that prompted me to actually buy and taste the product showed that:

1. The 10 people who drank diluted malt vinegar for two months had no change in their cholesterol;

2. The 10 people who drank unpasteurized apple cider vinegar had an average cholesterol reduction of 13 percent; and

3. The other 10 people drank a placebo of colored water, so they won.

In fairness, I should point out that countless people over the years have willingly endured apple cider vinegar, including singer Katy Perry, and many of them report that it helps with digestion or acne or weight loss or achy joints or possibly winning the lottery.

Perry, 31, grew up as the child of Pentecostal ministers and was not allowed to eat Lucky Charms because the name reminded her mother of Lucifer. Yet that same mother insisted Perry substitute apple cider vinegar for pop, Perry told Self magazine, along with “strange green juices.”

Overall, Perry said, “I really am glad for that, even though it was disgusting.”

No quick fix

I can’t honestly tell you whether I’d never heard of apple vinegar before this recent spate of publicity, or simply never paid attention to it.

After a trip to my local health food store, I now know that it comes in tablets or liquid and that if you’re willing to pay $14.99 for 32 ounces instead of $6.39, you can get it blended with honey, which can only help.

Either way, says physician and nutritionist Tom Rifai, “no so-called miracle is going to be any more than a drop in the bucket.”

Rifai is Henry Ford’s regional medical director of metabolic health and weight management. (“We have a lot of hospitals,” he explains, “so I have a long title.”)

“Before anybody starts thinking about acetic acid,” he says, that being what you’ll find in apple cider vinegar, “they should start thinking about what they’re putting it on top of.”

There’s also vinegar in ketchup, in other words, and if you’re inserting it into your body atop a large order of french fries, it’s not helping.

Rifai’s slogan is “Reality meets science.” He acknowledges, for instance, that apple cider vinegar before meals may help lower blood glucose levels, a particularly useful thing for people with diabetes.

But is the average person really willing to mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with water and force it down before every meal forever?

It would be considerably easier to cut back on sugar, eat more produce, exercise, lose a few pounds and stop smoking. None of that will induce the response that apple cider vinegar generated from our learned food editor, who took a swig and said, twice:


How about a straw

At the health food store, Helen Giacopelli of West Bloomfield was buying echinacea for her cold and turmeric for some balky joints.

She says she has used apple cider vinegar for various things over the years to good result, and again, she’s not alone. In the fall edition of Cook’s Country, you can even find an appreciative taste test for it in glazes, slaws and sauces.

By itself, though, I’ll go with the assessment of a reviewer at Try using a straw, she says, the better to bypass your taste buds. And expect to it to taste like feet after a hearty summer workout anyway.

That must be how you know it’s working.