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Sugar and Spice

October 28th, 2015

By: Micah Bernard800px-Ground_cinnamon

Cinnamon. What comes to mind when you hear that word? Cinnamon buns, cinnamon glazed apples, snickerdoodles? It’s no secret that cinnamon and sugar are a great pair! But is there more to the relationship between sugar and cinnamon than just the great taste?

People with pre­diabetes or type 2 diabetes must be very careful to manage blood sugar levels. This can be achieved by following a special diet, losing weight, exercising, and taking medications such as metformin. Now there is a common spice that is being investigated as a supplement to help control blood sugar. In 2013, NPR published an article stating that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar.1 But is this claim backed up by science? Researchers in the last few years have been studying the impact of cinnamon on the management of blood sugar and have had promising results.
In 2003, researchers sought to determine if cinnamon could improve blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.2 In this study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes ranging in age from 45 to 58, subjects took either a placebo or one of three amounts of cinnamon: 1, 3, or 6 grams each day. After 40 days, the results showed that cinnamon in any of the three doses helps lower blood glucose levels 18­-29%, while no significant changes were reported in the placebo groups.

Another study in 2006 of 79 diabetic patients looked at whether cinnamon extract helps improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.3 Each person either received a capsule of 3 grams of cinnamon or a placebo three times a day for 4 months. The results showed that the reduction in fasting blood glucose levels in the patients receiving cinnamon (10.3%), was significantly greater than in the control group, who had a reduction of only 3.4%. However, no significant differences were seen in hemoglobin A1c, which is an indicator of average blood sugar levels over the past three months.

A recent study that ran statistical tests on data from ten randomized controlled trials studying cinnamon’s effect on blood glucose found that cinnamon decreased fasting blood glucose levels by 24.59 mg/dl.4 There was no significant difference in the patients’ hemoglobin A1c. The study was unable to determine what the optimal dose of cinnamon or duration of treatment; this is an area where further research is needed.

How does cinnamon do it? Researchers do not fully know how cinnamon works, but they believe it may increase the body’s levels of and sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps your cells take sugar out of the blood stream, thereby lowering blood sugar levels.5 In addition, cinnamon may slow the emptying of the stomach, so there is less of a spike of sugar in the bloodstream.6 There is debate among researchers about what dose of cinnamon should be used to manage blood sugar.

As with any supplement, it is important to check with your doctor before adding cinnamon to your diet. If, after talking to your doctor, you decide to see if cinnamon works for you, it is important to choose the right kind of cinnamon. Cinnamon comes in two varieties, Cassia and Ceylon. Cassia is the more common type found in many supermarkets, however in higher doses, such as those used to control blood sugar, coumarin isolates (not to be confused with the blood thinner Coumadin) found in cinnamon can cause liver damage.1 The Ceylon variety of cinnamon has only trace amounts coumarin isolates, making it safer for the liver.7 So, if you plan to supplement your blood sugar management with cinnamon, ask a pharmacist to help you correctly select the Ceylon variety.

While researchers still do not fully agree on the effectiveness of cinnamon as a supplement for controlling blood sugar in type 2 diabetics and pre­diabetics, many recent studies show promising results. The effects of cinnamon may not be enough to replace a drug intended to control blood sugar, but those with pre­diabetes or diabetes may find it a useful supplement to help manage their condition.

What are your thoughts on using a natural supplement to manage a health condition?

Sources:

1. Aubrey A. Cinnamon Can Help Lower Blood Sugar, But One Variety May Be Best. NPR 2013. Accessed October 15, 2015.
2. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003;26(12):3215­8.
3. Mang B, Wolters M, Schmitt B, et al. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur J Clin Invest. 2006;36(5):340­4.
4. Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL, Coleman CI, Phung OJ. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta­analysis. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(5):452­9.
5. Kaiser C. Cinnamon’s Effect in Diabetes Uncertain. Cinnamon’s Ef ect in Diabetes Uncertain 2013. Accessed 2015.
6. Hlebowicz J, Darwiche G, Björgell O, Almér LO. Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(6):1552­6.
7. Johannes L. Little Bit of Spice for Health, but Which One? WSJ 2013. Accessed 2015.

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12 Responses to “Sugar and Spice”

  1. Aaron J Oliver Says:

    Did the people that were not in the control trial do other activities besides eating cinnamon that may have helped improve their diabetic symptoms. Also, did the control group not do those same activities which may have made it seem that their diabetic symptoms were worse? This is a great blog btw Micah, I would have never known.

  2. Nicholas Rudy Says:

    This is a great article! I wonder what is in cinnamon that exerts the therapeutic effect in type 2 diabetes? I think this could be an interesting avenue of future drug research for a disease that affects millions of Americans.

  3. Katie Distel Says:

    It is really interesting that this could actually be used as a complimentary therapy. I have heard in that past the adding cinnamon to food, especially those with a higher sugar content, can help regulate blood glucose levels, avoiding a spike then sudden drop in energy. I would not have thought to extend that application to those with diabetes. As this information is becoming more broadly known, it will be important to relay the difference between the different types of cinnamon as well as dosage. I’m sure adding a sprinkling of Cassia to breakfast would not cause harm but it doesn’t sound like it would help, either.

  4. David J Fisher Says:

    Great article! This is a really great way for diabetics to control their sugar intake while still enjoying the food they consume. Have they made any progress discovering how cinnamon achieves this result?

  5. Katie Woodard Says:

    This is a really interesting article, Micah! I think it’s especially interesting because the article I posted was about gestational diabetes. I think a great area for future research is to determine if cinnamon can safely help control blood glucose in women with gestational diabetes. Since women commonly eat cinnamon during pregnancy, my initial thought is that cinnamon must not be a teratogen. However, I wonder if taking it daily and in higher doses could cause any complications or if it would be an effective method for treating gestational diabetes.

  6. Monica Saad Says:

    This is a cool post, Micah. I read it about a month ago when it was first posted, and after that I started to do something different with my daily routine. Instead of putting either creamer or sugar in my coffee every morning, I started putting cinnamon in my coffee. I replaced the sugary additives, and it is delicious and I feel better in the mornings after drinking my cinnamon coffee…I thought that was sweet! The taste is still awesome and I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything by making this switch (I recommend anyone that likes cinnamon to try it!). Also, I had no idea that there was two different kinds of cinnamon. When I went to the store to buy some, I checked all over the label to see if it specified which one (Cassia or Ceylon) and it did not. I wonder how one can tell the difference between the two and if they taste differently?!

  7. Caleb H VanDyke Says:

    Thanks for researching such an interesting topic. I wonder if cinnamon helps people who don’t have diabetes at all. I would really like to try to keep up to date on Further research in the subject. Its good to know more “non-pharmacological” therapies as it may increase patient’s compliance and decrease the amount of medications they must take. Hopefully this will decrease the amount of side effects or drug interactions the patient might experience. Great job Micah!

  8. Belinda Darkwah Says:

    I definitely agree that more research needs to be done on the safety and efficacy of cinnamon as a supplement for Type II diabetes. The only problem is that this falls under dietary supplementation so proof of efficacy does not matter, which is unfortunate. I do, however, believe that the health care field is moving towards more of a natural remedy for chronic health conditions. There is a need to find natural substances that can help treat conditions like Type II diabetes and that is why this article interests me. It would be amazing to use cinnamon as part of a drug therapy in controlling type II diabetes. What are your thoughts on naturally occurring substances treating common health conditions?

  9. freddie Says:

    Well done. This article has made me learn something new but I was wondering that, cassia and Ceylon which comes from the same component will still have different efficacy in each of them. Hopefully, one might be better than the other and has left me thinking what could me in cinnamon specifically that help reduce blood glucose in diabetic patient. May be whatever active ingredients in Metformin is also present in Cinnamon (Ceylon) which I am thinking whether its consumption has to be included in preparing your food or can be spread over the food. I am sure of the fact that Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of trees. Overall, is very educative article.

  10. Ankit Pandav Says:

    Great article Micah!
    I wasn’t aware of the benefits of eating cinnamon. In our indian diet we use lots spices, which includes cinnamon as well. So I wonder if the cinnamon is one the reason why Asians seems to have lower rates of diabetes?

  11. Jasmine Gunti Says:

    I love cinnamon so this article was really cool. It is interesting to see that there are different types of cinnamon, because I did not know that before. I wonder if more research is being done to determine the mechanism behind cinnamon lowering blood glucose, because it seems to be a effective method. Also I think studies determining efficacy would be very beneficial. Maybe putting cinnamon in more of our foods would also keep us healthier in the long run.

  12. Ahlin-Joel M Sanvee Says:

    Great blog post Micah ! I never knew that there two type of cinnamon. I am a believer that there is natural cure for everything. I am happy to know that cinnamon can impact the treatment of diabetes. I hope that there will be in the future a pill made of cinnamon that can change the life of millions peoples who are suffering from diabetes. Keep up with the good and hard work !

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