Cinnamon-for-Diabetes Increases Sugar Metabolism

The benefit of cinnamon-for-diabetes is based on the capability of one component to increase sugar metabolism in cells by up to twenty- times. Studies at the USDA’s Human Nutrition Research Center revealed that an ingredient in cinnamon mimics insulin and increases the sensitivity of the cells to insulin.  

Recent studies have shown many potentially beneficial health effects of cinnamon such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-microbial activity, blood-glucose control, reducing cardiovascular disease, boosting cognitive function, and reducing risk of colon cancer.

Studies also indicate that cinnamon-for-diabetes beneficial effects can occur with as little as a half teaspoon of cinnamon a day. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to rice pudding moderated the high blood sugar response normally experienced following dessert. This does not mean that we should all run out and buy a sugar loaded pastry just because it has some cinnamon on it.

Cinnamon is used to flavor a variety of foods. It is especially popular in bakery goods from bear claw pastries to sweet cinnamon and pecan rolls. Now I love cinnamon and use it in oatmeal, on toast, and in hot tea to name a few but sugar is to be avoided. 

Flavoring black tea with cinnamon is an excellent way to get the right amount of cinnamon. Black tea is also another good way to boost insulin activity.  One of my personal favorites is wheat toast with unsweetened apple sauce sprinkled with cinnamon. I also use cinnamon in my fruit and berry smoothies.

Cinnamon, the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree has two main types, Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese Cassia cinnamon. Cinnamon is available in either its whole quill form (cinnamon sticks) or as ground powder. While Ceylon cinnamon is primarily produced in Sri Lanka, a South Asian country, it is produced in several other countries as well.  

The cinnamon-for-diabetes beneficial effects appear to be real but all cinnamon is not made equal. Both Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon contain coumarin. Coumarin is a naturally occurring plant compound with strong anticoagulant properties and may have toxic effects on the liver. The coumarin content in Ceylon cinnamon is small and the coumarin level in cassia cinnamon appears to be much higher.  It is always important to discuss the use of any herb, including cinnamon, with your physician.

I believe moderate amounts of cinnamon to be healthy but it would be prudent to avoid cassia cinnamon because of the increased health risks involved with higher levels of coumarins. This is another instance when it is important to read labels. Unfortunately we don’t always know what kind of cinnamon is used in commercially prepared foods.  It would probably be a safe bet that cinnamon in commercially prepared foods is cassia because it is cheaper than Ceylon.

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References and suggested reading:        

  • Go to retirement-resources·         
  • "cinnamon." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.
  • William Sears, M.D., Prime Time Health, Little, Brown & Company.·        
  • Russell L. Blaylock, MD, Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life, Health Press.
  • Bailey CJ, Day C. Traditional plant medicines as treatments for diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1989;12:553–64. [PubMed]
  • Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003;26:3215–8. [PubMed]
  • Shen Y, Fukushima M, Ito Y, Muraki E, Hosono T, Seki T, et al. Verification of the antidiabetic effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) using insulin-uncontrolled type 1 diabetic rats and cultured adipocytes. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74:2418–25. [PubMed]

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