5 Benefits and Uses of Coconut Vinegar
By Alina Petre, MS, RD
It's made from the sap of the flowers of coconut trees. This sap ferments for 8–12 months, naturally turning into vinegar.
Coconut vinegar has a cloudy, white appearance and a slightly milder taste than apple cider vinegar. It can add a touch of sweetness to salad dressings, marinades, soups and warm dishes.
It is claimed to offer a range of health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, a stronger immune system and a healthier heart. However, not all benefits are supported by research.
Here are 5 benefits and uses of coconut vinegar, backed by science.
1. Contains Probiotics, Polyphenols and Nutrients
Coconut vinegar is often touted as a rich source of many nutrients, as the sap used to make it is rich in vitamin C and potassium. The sap also contains choline, B vitamins, iron, copper, boron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc (1).
That said, research on how fermentation affects the vinegar's vitamin and mineral content is lacking. It's also worth keeping in mind that some manufacturers make coconut vinegar from coconut water rather than coconut sap.
Coconut water contains fewer nutrients than sap and is fermented for a shorter time, using a fermentation starter, such as cane sugar or apple cider vinegar. This is believed to yield a vinegar of lower nutritional value—though no studies can currently confirm this.
Regardless, coconut vinegar is typically consumed in very small amounts, meaning it likely won't contribute many nutrients or polyphenols to your diet.
Coconut vinegar contains probiotics, polyphenols and may be rich in certain vitamins and minerals. However, it's typically consumed in small amounts and therefore unlikely to contribute large amounts of nutrients to your diet.
2. May Lower Blood Sugar and Help Fight Diabetes
Coconut vinegar may help lower blood sugar levels and offer some protection against type 2 diabetes.
Just like apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar contains acetic acid—the main active compound in vinegar.
The blood-sugar-lowering effects of vinegar appear strongest when ingested with meals (12).
Coconut vinegar may provide similar benefits as other types of vinegar. However, no studies have looked at the direct effects of this type of vinegar on blood sugar levels or diabetes risk. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm these effects.
Coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound which may help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. However, there are no studies specifically on coconut vinegar. Therefore, more research is needed.
3. May Reduce Hunger and Help You Lose Weight
Coconut vinegar may also help you shed unwanted weight.
Moreover, research in humans reports that having vinegar with your meals may help you feel fuller for longer. In one study, people who added vinegar to one meal ate up to 275 fewer calories over the rest of the day compared to those who didn't add vinegar (17, 18).
One small study further reports that ingesting vinegar with meals may slow down the rate at which your stomach empties—potentially leading to increased feelings of fullness (19).
Research also links vinegar to weight loss.
In one 12-week study, participants who had 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar per day lost up to 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg) and reduced their body fat by up to 0.9%. In comparison, participants in the control group gained 0.9 pounds (0.4 kg) (14).
Studies specifically on coconut vinegar are lacking. However, since it contains the same active compound as other types of vinegar, it may act in the same way. That said, more research is needed to confirm this.
Coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound linked to reduced hunger, increased feelings of fullness and weight and body fat loss.
4. May Improve Heart Health
Coconut vinegar may improve the health of your heart.
In part, this may be due to the potassium content of the coconut sap used to make this type of vinegar. Potassium is a mineral linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke (1, 20).
In humans, research shows that taking 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar per day may help reduce belly fat and blood triglyceride levels—two additional risk factors for heart disease (14).
One observational study notes that women who ate salad dressings made with oil and vinegar 5–6 times per week were up to 54% less likely to develop heart disease (27).
However, keep in mind that this type of study cannot show that the vinegar caused the drop in heart disease risk. Human studies on the specific effects of coconut vinegar are lacking, so more research is needed.
Coconut vinegar may act in a similar way to other types of vinegar, potentially reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as belly fat, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.
5. May Improve Digestion and Immunity
Coconut vinegar may contribute to a healthy gut and immune system.
In part, that's because coconut vinegar is made by letting the coconut flower sap ferment for 8–12 months. This process naturally gives rise to probiotics, which are bacteria beneficial to your gut health (4).
Moreover, coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, a compound which may help fight off viruses and bacteria. For instance, acetic acid is effective against E. coli bacteria, a well-known cause of food poisoning (28).
For it to work, simply add a bit of the vinegar to water and soak your fresh fruits and vegetables in the dilution for about two minutes. One study showed that this simple washing method can reduce bacteria by up to 90% and viruses by up to 95% (29).
Coconut vinegar may also be effective at preventing the growth of G. vaginalis, a major cause of vaginal infections. However, this benefit was observed in a test-tube study. Therefore, it's still unclear how to use the vinegar to achieve this benefit in real life (30).
What's more, this vinegar is also touted to boost the immune system due to its potential nutrient content. The sap used to make coconut vinegar is indeed a great source of iron and vitamin C, two nutrients linked to stronger immune systems.
Coconut vinegar contains probiotics and acetic acid—both of which may contribute to a healthy digestion. It may also provide some immune-boosting nutrients, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Is Coconut Vinegar Safe?
Coconut vinegar is generally considered safe.
That said, it is acidic, so regularly drinking it straight up may damage your esophagus and the enamel on your teeth.
For this reason, coconut vinegar may be best ingested diluted in water or mixed with other ingredients, such as oil in a salad dressing or marinade.
Like other types of vinegar, coconut vinegar may help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. People taking blood-sugar- or blood-pressure-lowering medications may want to check with their healthcare practitioner before adding coconut vinegar to their diet.
Coconut vinegar is generally safe. However, people taking blood-sugar- or blood-pressure-lowering medications may want to check with their doctor before regularly adding this, or any, vinegar to their diet.
The Bottom Line
Coconut vinegar is a unique alternative to other types of vinegar.
It has a milder taste, appears to be nutritious and may offer several health benefits. These range from weight loss and a lower risk of diabetes to a healthier digestion, immune system and heart.
That said, though research links vinegar consumption to these benefits, few studies have been done specifically on coconut vinegar and none have compared it to other types of vinegar.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>