It's always nice to hear that something simple can be used to defend against a very complicated disease process. That being the case, here's some nice news: Researchers in Japan have found that plain vinegar can help in the breakdown of fat deposits.

Vinegar is a mild solution of acetic acid. It makes a versatile, safe household cleaner and adds zip to many an otherwise bland dish. That vinegar might have weight-loss properties has long been rumored in alternative medicine circles, but those properties had never been scientifically tested.

A study published by the American Chemical Society has changed all that. Tomoo Kondo and colleagues at the Central Research Institute of the Mizkan Group Corporation, showed that "laboratory mice fed a high-fat diet and given acetic acid developed significantly less body fat (up to 10 percent less) than other mice," according to the Society.

Kondo and company, in their study, theorize that "acetic acid fights fat by turning on genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes. The genes churn out proteins involved in breaking down fats, thus suppressing body fat accumulation in the body."

The researchers add that they "intend to perform further clinical studies to confirm fat pad reduction and energy consumption enhancement by vinegar intake. Moreover, we will investigate the effect of acetic acid on fatty oxidative activation in other organs, particularly skeletal muscles."

Photo courtesy of and the Food Collection.

By John Casey from John Casey is a New York-based health and science writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times,, Parade magazine,, Self magazine, and other publications.

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