Dear Doc: I take apple cider vinegar every day for my health. Just a tablespoon in water, down the hatch every morning. I don’t know if it’s in my head, but I have more energy and think more clearly. I read there are apple cider vinegar pills. Which is better? — D.N. from the UP

Dear D.N.: Apple cider vinegar has been around for more than a century, first popularized in the 1950s with the best-selling book “Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health,” by D.C. Jarvis. It was a smash hit.

Jarvis claimed apple cider vinegar did just about everything you could imagine a supplement to do. He overstepped a bit when he started manufacturing his own brand. The Food and Drug Administration said you can claim whatever you want in a book, but when you sell the cure it’s a different matter.

Now, on to the claims about this. Some people claim apple cider vinegar lowers the insulin spike that comes after eating a high-carbohydrate meal, making it good for glucose control and possibly even a prevention for diabetes.

Others take it for weight loss. A Japanese study of more than 150 men and women showed that drinking one tablespoonful of the stuff twice a day helped them lose three to five pounds. That’s not a lot of weight, but if you’re trying to get into that tight-fitting outfit for your next special event, it might be worth it.

Another claim is that it affects pH balance and helps keep GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) at bay. Topically, it’s been a home remedy for skin infections and warts.

So which apple cider vinegar to buy? They’re all good but if you want to find out which one is best, I’d go to the website consumerlab.com, where a number of them were tested. Heinz, the one I use for my salad at home, was one of their approved brands. It’s inexpensive and it should do the trick.

Now, what about the vinegar pills? Stay away from them. Consumer Lab found that the pills don’t list their level of acetic acid, the active ingredient in the vinegar. Some pills had as little as 0.4 percent, while others were over 30 percent. Stick with the liquid stuff.

Dear Doc: I drink Crystal Light, a powdered sugar-free drink mix, on a daily basis. It’s my drink of choice. Is this and others like it in the same category as diet sodas? I started worrying after I read your column that diet soda may cause strokes. — L.M. from Buffalo

Dear L.M.: I’m not sure. The study I discussed compared nurses who drank diet soda at least twice a week to those who did not. It appeared diet soda and stroke might be linked. Note I said “might” because it’s an observational study.

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This study didn’t look at the type of beverages you’re drinking, but these have similar ingredients to diet soda — artificial sweetener, citric acid, caffeine and who knows what else. Bottom line: Buyer beware.

Dear Doc: A while ago, an 80-year-old man said he could not do yoga because when he laid flat he got dizzy. I attend a senior yoga class twice weekly in my hometown. The instructor encourages us to use a block, folded mat or towel under the head if it is uncomfortable to lie flat. She also encourages us to have a folding chair close by for balance poses in case we need to hang on or just touch the chair occasionally. Maybe these modifications would work.

By the way, I am an “old nurse.” I worked at Methodist Hospital in Madison when you were a youngster just starting out. What I remember about you is that you were the first doctor ever who suggested we call you by your first name! It was quite revolutionary. Of course, you also wanted to call us by our first names, which was also quite amazing. You made us RNs feel like important members of the health care team and, believe me, it was much appreciated! — M.L.A., RN

Dear M.L.A.: Thanks for your very kind words. When I started out in practice, doctors all wore white coats all the time — very formal, very hierarchical. As a child of the ’60s, I thought this was really poppycock. I wanted us all to be a team, and that’s how medicine has developed. It’s now a team sport, not a gladiator one.

Your suggestions for this senior in yoga were good ones. Keeping those joints well-oiled prevents falls and makes your life much sweeter. Stay well.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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