What's the connection between vinegar and blood pressure?

Meet sunomono salad, an Asian cucumber salad that helps balance blood pressure through one important ingredient: Vinegar.

 Suomo salad.  (photo credit: SU-LIN VIA FLICKR)
Suomo salad.
(photo credit: SU-LIN VIA FLICKR)

Salad is one of the most important parts of any diet or nutritional change, but it can do more than just be a cornerstone of a healthy diet. 

A new observational study from Japan highlights the virtues of preparing foods with vinegar. Scientists from Osaka University researched and reported that regularly eating a Japanese cucumber and seaweed salad called sunomono helps older men (40+) maintain lower blood pressure.

Previous research showed that people who drink 30 ml. of vinegar on a daily basis tend to have lower blood pressure levels. However, the people studied also lost a significant amount of weight which may explain low blood pressure levels.

Researchers claim that this in-depth sunomono salad test was a unique opportunity to conduct an observational study  to assess if vinegar consumption correlates with fluctuations in blood pressure. Sunomono is a very common food in Japan, usually eaten by older people and found in every supermarket and is a great dietary source of vinegar among the Japanese.

What did the researchers find? 

  (credit: SARAH R/FLICKR) (credit: SARAH R/FLICKR)

To investigate this issue, researchers recruited 1,498 men and women over the age of 40 who had already had their blood pressure checked or had other health problems. Among the same group, 746 subjects underwent a blood pressure test and were classified according to the guidelines of the Japanese Society for Hypertension. Those participants then completed a nutritional survey that focused heavily on the consumption of foods containing vinegar such as the Sunomono salad.

Vinegar is difficult to research because it’s not a major ingredient; you might get a little vinaigrette in a salad or pickles, But people rarely drink the vinegar solution of pickles. In sunomono, vinegar is part of the dish and people usually eat it with the vegetables, the study authors explained.

When researchers evaluated all the data collected, a pattern began to emerge. "Men who didn’t eat sunomono had significantly higher blood pressure, even though their weight and BMI were the same. We believe it can promote the growth of good microbiota in the gut, but we’ll need more studies to confirm this," they said.

Eating sunomono at least once a month was correlated with lower mean blood pressure among male subjects. This was true even after the study authors accounted for numerous other factors including BMI, age, smoking history and sodium, potassium and alcohol consumption habits.

"We’re not sure how vinegar causes these health benefits; increasing vinegar intake doesn’t lead to further improvement in blood pressure. Yet, diet is one of the easiest things to change!" they concluded.

"We’re not sure how vinegar causes these health benefits; increasing vinegar intake doesn’t lead to further improvement in blood pressure. Yet, diet is one of the easiest things to change!"

The study authors