Cinnamon shows promise as blood sugar-lowering agent

As a general rule, those seeking to achieve long-lasting health and vitality would do well to ensure that blood sugar levels do not rise too high. One reason for this is that high blood sugar levels increase ‘glycation’ in the body, when sugar binds to proteins to damage them. The complications of glycation can be seen most readily in diabetics, where they can manifest as damage to diverse parts of the body including the retina, kidneys and nerves.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I advise a relatively low carbohydrate diet, particularly for diabetics. Obviously, eating less sugar (in the form or sugar and/or starch) will generally do wonders to help temper blood sugar levels. For example, low carbohydrate diets have been shown to have the power to control diabetes in many cases. See here, here and here for more relevant science on this.

However, in addition to cutting back on carbs, other natural approaches may help control blood sugar levels, including the use of appropriate supplements. On natural agent that has received at least some attention with regard to this is cinnamon. Cinnamon is an ‘insulin sensitiser’, which basically means it helps insulin to do it’s job. One key role of insulin is to reduce blood sugar levels. Recently, some scientists at Thames Valley University on the outskirts of London, UK, reviewed the relevant evidence in the area [1].

The review looked at a total of 8 studies. In five of these, the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar levels was assessed in type 2 diabetics. In the remaining 3 studies, cinnamon was trialled in non-diabetics.

In 2 of the diabetic studies, blood sugar levels were found to be lowered with cinnamon compared to placebo. One study showed decreases of 18-29 per cent in fasting blood glucose levels, while the other showed a decrease of about 10 per cent. One of the non-diabetic studies also showed a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels (of 8.4 per cent). The authors of this review concluded that Whilst definitive conclusions cannot be drawn regarding the use of cinnamon as an antidiabetic therapy, it does possess antihyperglycaemic [blood sugar lowering] properties and potential to reduce postprandial blood glucose levels. Further research is required to confirm a possible correlation between baseline FBG [fasting blood glucose] and blood glucose reduction and to assess the potential to reduce pathogenic diabetic complications with cinnamon supplementation.

Further support for the idea that cinnamon might be of value in the treatment of diabetes comes from a recent study in which type 2 diabetes were treated with cinnamon (1 g a day) for 90 days [2]. Those taking cinnamon (in addition to standard diabetic care) saw a statistically significant reduction in HbA1c values (HbA1c provides a measure of blood sugar levels over the preceding 3 months or so). Individuals receiving just standard diabetic care did not.

This study is hampered by the fact that there was no true ‘placebo’ group (a group taking a dummy medication) in addition to standard care. Yet, it does appear to lend at least some support to the notion that cinnamon may help to moderate blood sugar levels.

References:

1. Kirkham S, et al. The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Diabetes Obes Metab 2009;11(12):1100-13

2. Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Board Fam Med. 2009;22(5):507-12

6 Responses to Cinnamon shows promise as blood sugar-lowering agent

  1. merryweather 3 December 2009 at 2:39 am #

    Isn’t it funny how traditional culinary wisdom knew this??? I live in Germany and one of the standard spices to add to starchy sweet dishes, such as creamed rice, is cinnamon. In fact, many sweet dishes, cakes too, also require the addition of cinnamon in this country.

    I have stopped eating wheat and have replaced it most mornings with creamed rice and cinnamon – it is delicious! I know it’s a bit on the carby side, but I need a dose of carbs in the morning.

    merryweather

  2. Susan 4 December 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    Cinnamon is really nice on pasta, but I have it with oat bran and oat germ cereal for breakfast. Add boiling water and it swells up in 10 minutes or so. Have it with yoghurt. No added salt also, unlike most breakfast cerials !. I’ve heard cinnamon is supposed to lower cholesterol. Is that true?

  3. Katrina 7 December 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    I have used cinnamon now for many yers since being diagnosed as type 1 diabetic. I find it does have a significant effect on loowering my overall insulin requirement. I value it so much that I won’t stay away from home without my packet of cinnamon to put on porridge in a morning.

    Excellent blog post.

  4. Type1Diabetic 10 December 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    That’s interesting.
    I’m type 1, so will give this a try.
    I have a fairly low carb diet in any case, and a pretty low insulin requirement at the moment, but ways to decrease blood glucose are always welcome.

    I have one or two reservations generally, though.
    On my very low carb days I have, occasionally, suffered from ketones in the urine (and all the horrible side effects that ketoacidosis entails, albeit in a fairly mild form) with normal or, in some cases, low blood glucose levels.
    I treated these the only way I could think of (couldn’t find any info on it) – by taking insulin which necessitated taking extra carbohydrate to leep blood glucose up.

    It makes me wonder whether people suffering from type 1 diabetes should reduce their insulin requirement too much – evidently there are times when you need it for more than just regulating glucose levels and, as such, whether a low carb diet is always appropriate.

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