Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of cinnamomum trees, a tropical evergreen tree. The tree grows for two years and then is cut to a stump. Within a year, dozens of shoots start to grow. The shoots are then harvested during the raining season when the bark is bendable. Many cultures have used the extracts from the bark of the cinnamon tree traditionally as medicine.
Cinnamon is good mixed with sugar and sprinkled on toast, added to oatmeal, apple pie and many different home baked cookies. Cinnamon is added to pickles as a natural preservative. Smelling cinnamon stimulates brain activity and helps with memory and problem-solving, but does it improve glucose levels and blood lipids for people with Type 2 diabetes? A particular type of cinnamon, cassia cinnamon, has been shown in some studies to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, while other studies have not found a benefit.
One study from Pakistan looked at whether cinnamon improves blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. Sixty people were grouped into six groups — three were given a daily dose of either 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon and three groups were given placebo capsules. After 40 days all three levels of cinnamon reduced the mean fasting serum glucose (18-29 percent), triglyceride (23-30 percent) LDL cholesterol (7-27 percent) and total cholesterol (12-26 percent) levels. There were no significant changes noted in the placebo groups. The researchers concluded that taking 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon per day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with Type 2 diabetes and suggested that cinnamon be included in the diet of people with Type 2 diabetes.
In 2012, numerous randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of orally administered cinnamon to placebo active medication or no treatment in persons with diabetes were analyzed by two review authors, independently. The authors concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon for diabetes.
Also in 2012, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published results of a study that showed cinnamon may be effective in moderating postprandial (after meal) glucose response in normal weight and obese adults.
Another review of several recent studies in 2012 concluded that the use of cinnamon has a potentially beneficial effect on glycemic control. One study published in 2009 found that a 500 milligram capsule of cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved hemoglobin A1C levels (a measure of how much sugar is attached to red blood cells over the previous three months) in people with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine believes that there is inadequate high-quality clinical evidence to support the use of cinnamon for any medical condition.
Whether cinnamon can lower blood sugar or not appears to depend on what source you go to for information. Recent research suggests that cinnamon may be helpful as a supplement to regular diabetes treatment in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Since cinnamon is considered an unproven treatment there isn’t an established dose available. A recommendation of ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) of powder daily is often seen as a safe amount. Research studies have used between 1 and 6 grams of cinnamon. Heavy cinnamon use may irritate the mouth and lips, causing sores. Cinnamon can cause an allergic reaction. It appears that cinnamon is safe to take in reasonable amounts. To know whether it impacts your blood glucose or not, try it for a few weeks and see if you notice any difference.
Cassia cinnamon has high levels of coumarin which may be toxic to people with liver issues.
Cinnamon shouldn’t be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking care if you have symptoms that need to be addressed.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.