Cinnamon for Blood Sugar Control |Dr Michael Greger
Can Cinnamon Help Treat Diabetes?
Several studies have investigated the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar, but the results are inconclusive.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Maureen Namkoong, RD
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There are medications available to help manage type 2 diabetes (not to mention a diabetes-friendly diet and regular exercise), but some researchers suspect that there could be a more natural source of blood sugar control: cinnamon.
Although some studies have investigated the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar levels, there isn't enough evidence to draw any definitive conclusions yet. "There's not very much research on it," explains Philip A. Kern, MD, an endocrinologist and director of the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Center at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington. But there is potential.
The studies that have tried to measure the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar levels in regards to type 2 diabetes have been small and not well controlled. In general, a reliable study is one that is large (at least 500 to 1000 patients), has patients randomly assigned to different groups, and is double-blind — meaning neither the researchers nor the subjects know who is getting the treatment. That type of detailed and careful research just hasn't been done on the subject of cinnamon’s role in diabetes, says Dr. Kern, adding that the results of the small studies that have been conducted "are all over the place."
Still, some research is promising. For instance, one study showed that 30 people who consumed 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon supplements were able to reduce their triglycerides and blood sugar levels.
"Some studies report a benefit, and some studies don't report a benefit," says Kern. His initial reaction was dubious, he admits, but after studying what little research is available, the effects of cinnamon are "probably something deserving of a larger study."
Cinnamon: A Dash or a Dollop?
The amount of cinnamon needed to produce a positive effect is unclear. In some of the clinical trials, people with diabetes were given about 1 gram of cinnamon in a capsule — an amount that's about the size of the tip of your pinkie finger.
Swallowing that much cinnamon powder would be downright painful (and probably not taste very good), so Kern says you shouldn't try to ingest cinnamon on your own in an effort to lower blood sugar. You also shouldn't think you're getting a big health benefit by chowing down on a big cinnamon bun or sipping a cinnamon latte: Even if additional research concludes that cinnamon is of benefit in lowering blood sugar and managing diabetes, Kern says you're still not getting a free pass for the added carbs, sugar, and calories.
So what's the takeaway message? Kern believes it's not so much that people with diabetes should eat more cinnamon, but that "maybe [it] has apropertythat might be beneficial." He adds, "If researchers could figure out exactly what it is about cinnamon, one could design a drug that would target that beneficial property.”
So, Kern says, if anything does come of cinnamon as a blood sugar-lowering agent, the recommendations for patients with diabetes might be in the form of a new medication that has captured the properties of cinnamon, not necessarily dietary changes.
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