Cinnamon is a well known spice with an extensive history of use as a pungent and sweet flavouring agent.
Cinnamon is a well known spice with an extensive history of use as a pungent and sweet flavouring agent. Cinnamon spice or True Cinnamon comes primarily from Sri Lankan and is known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum. Another species closely related to True Cinnamon is called Cinnamomum cassia. This species of cinnamon is now thought to be an inferior substitute to Cinnamomum zeylanicum
New research on this common spice has shown that cinnamon may significantly help people with type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes improve their ability to regulate their blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1, accounting for up to 85% of people with diabetes (2). In Type 2 diabetes the pancreas does produce insulin which is the hormone that tells the body to remove excess glucose in the bloodstream, however, the cells that usually take glucose up from the blood become resistant to the effects of insulin. This results in high blood glucose levels.
As glucose builds up in the blood, tiredness, weight-loss and blurred vision may be some of the resulting symptoms. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in people over the age of 55 and the risk increases with age.
Data first published New Scientist in August 2000 (3) found that cinnamon improved the ability of fat cells in diabetics to respond to insulin and greatly increased glucose uptake by the cells.
The active ingredient in cinnamon is a water-soluble polyphenol compound called methyl hydroxyl chalcone polymers (MHCP). In test tube studies, MHCP has shown to mimic insulin, activate the insulin receptor, and promote the effects of insulin on previously resistant cells (3).
In a human clinical trial (4), volunteers with type 2 diabetes were given doses of cinnamon powder, in capsules after meals. All volunteers in the trial responded to the effects of cinnamon with an average blood sugar level of 20% less than the control placebo group, some even achieving normal blood sugar levels.
In addition to the positive effects on blood sugar levels, those taking cinnamon also showed significantly lowered levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Test tube experiments have indicated that cinnamon also neutralises free radicals, which tend to be elevated in diabetics.
In effect, cinnamon helps to sensitise cells to the effects of insulin thereby lowering blood sugar levels, making this an extremely useful tool in the management of diabetes. Cinnamon is potentially an highly beneficial complement to conventional diabetic medications however, it is important that those on diabetic medication talk to their health care provider before use.