Cinnamon And Blood Glucose
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | May 8, 2007

Several studies have been published on the possible benefits of cinnamon for reducing serum glucose (GLU) in diabetics. With something as common as cinnamon, which so many people use as a spice, this got a lot of press. The problem with research-by-headline is that we don’t always get the complete story. Could something as familiar as cinnamon really have a beneficial effect on your blood sugar? The purpose of this Newsletter is to examine the research on cinnamon to find out.

Does cinnamon reduce serum glucose?
The first notable study on cinnamon included 60 diabetic subjects who were randomly assigned to one of six groups--three experimental and three placebo (1). The researchers used three doses of cinnamon: 1 gram, 3 grams, and 6 grams of cinnamon administered in capsules; they matched the same number of placebo capsules in the control groups. The results showed a linear decrease in the levels of GLU over 40 days of up to 29.3% in the 6-gram group. What’s interesting is that serum cholesterol and triglycerides also decreased for those taking cinnamon.

In a study conducted in 2006, researchers used an extract from cinnamon in a study of 79 type-2 diabetics with poorly controlled GLU (2). The subjects were attempting to control their GLU by diet or oral antidiabetics. The amount of cinnamon extract corresponded to 3 grams of cinnamon powder per day. The experimental subjects lowered their GLU an average of 10.3% over the four months of the study, compared to only 3.4% in control subjects. This modest decrease in GLU was statistically significant. There were no significant changes in blood lipids.

Finally, in another study published in 2006, researchers randomly assigned 25 diabetic women to placebo or 1.5 grams of cinnamon per day. There were no significant changes in GLU, hemoglobin A1C, or insulin levels after six weeks, nor were there any significant changes in blood lipids.

The Problem
There are two major issues with the research on cinnamon to date. The first is that there were so few subjects in these studies; the total number of subjects in all three studies was 164. The best that can be said is that these were pilot studies that provide the basis for a much larger study because the results were generally positive.

Second, diet wasn’t controlled in any way. Some subjects may have changed their diet in the Khan study (1) that accounted for the results. Or they may not have changed their diet, which makes the results more meaningful. That will need to be addressed in future studies.

What should you do?
Lifestyle reigns supreme in the quest to control insulin resistance and diabetes. However, it takes time to transition from an overweight, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet to a lifestyle that is conducive to good health. Cinnamon may help modulate GLU during the transition. Based on the studies, 1-2 grams of cinnamon would seem to be the proper amount taken over the course of the day. There are 5 grams in a teaspoon. That means that you’d want about ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon 2-3 times per day.

If you’re going to use cinnamon, there are three things you must do.

First, tell your doctor what you are going to do. He or she can explain what changes you may need to make in your medications, if any, if your GLU decreases.

That raises the second point. If you are going to use cinnamon, you must check your GLU regularly according to what your doctor has recommended. You have to record your GLU levels so you and your doctor can decide any permanent modifications in your medications.

Finally, you must take the cinnamon consistently. Too often, people try something, see good results and then stop. You have to continue to take the cinnamon consistently as you change your lifestyle. Remember--change your lifestyle, change your life.

References:
  1. Khan, A, et al. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People with Type-2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003. 26:3215–3218.

  2. Mang 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):340-4.

  3. Vanschoonbeek, K, et al. Cinnamon Supplementation Does Not Improve Glycemic Control in Postmenopausal Type-2 Diabetes Patients. J. Nutr. 2006.136:977–980.
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