Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Cinnamon is its twin.
"Cinnamon mimics the action of insulin, "says Richard Anderson, PhD, a researcher at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, and the coauthor of more than 20 scientific papers on cinnamon and diabetes . "Cinnamon stimulates insulin receptors on fat and muscle cells the same way insulin does, allowing excess sugar to move out of the blood and into the cells."
Several recent studies provide new proof of cinnamon's effectiveness in preventing and controlling diabetes...
• Stopping diabetes before it starts. In Britain, researchers studied healthy, young men, dividing them into two groups-one group received three grams of cinnamon a day and the other a placebo.
After two weeks, the men taking the cinnamon supplement had a much improved "glucose tolerance test"-the ability of the body to process and store glucose. They also had better "insulin sensitivity"-the ability of the insulin hormone to usher glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells.
• Long-term management of diabetes. The most accurate measurement of long-term blood sugar control is A1C, or glycated hemoglobin-the percentage of red blood cells that have been frosted by blood sugar. Seven percent or less means diabetes is under control and a decrease of 0.5% to 1.0% is considered a significant improvement in the disease.
In a study by a doctor in Nevada, 109 people with type 2 diabetes were divided into two groups, with one receiving 1 gram of cinnamon a day and one receiving a placebo. After three months, those taking the cinnamon had a 0.83% decrease in A1C.
Those taking the placebo had a 0.37% decrease.
"We used standard, off-the-shelf cinnamon capsules that patients would find at their local stores or on the Internet," says Paul Crawford, MD, the study's author, in the journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. And that cinnamon, he says, "gives diabetes care providers and diabetic patients an easily accessible, likely safe, and cheap alternative to help treat type 2 diabetes."
Important: He points out that the drop in A1C seen his study would decrease the risk of many diabetic complications-heart disease and stroke by 16%; eye problems (diabetic retinopathy) by 17% to 21%; and kidney disease (nephropathy) by 24% to 33%.
After a bad night's sleep, include cinnamon in your breakfast. Several recent studies show that sleep deprivation-a nearly universal problem of modern life-increases the risk of diabetes.
Solution: Writing in the journal of Medicinal Food, researchers in the Human Performance Laboratory at Baylor University recommend the use of cinnamon to reverse insulin resistance and glucose intolerance after sleep loss.
Oxidation under control. Oxidation-a kind of biochemical rust-is one of the processes behind the development of diabetes. In a study by French researchers of 22 people with prediabetes, three months of supplementation with a cinnamon extract dramatically reduced oxidation-and the lower the level of oxidation, the better the blood sugar control.
"The inclusion of cinnamon compounds in the diet could reduce risk factors associated with diabetes," conclude the researcher, in the journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Bottom line: Cinnamon works. In a review study of the best research on cinnamon and diabetes to date, researchers in England concluded the spice has the power to fight high blood sugar. Their findings were in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
One Teaspoon Daily
"Try to get 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon daily," says Dr. Anderson. Sprinkle it in hot cereals, yogurt or applesauce. Use it to accent sweet potatoes, winter squash or yams. Try it with lamb, beef stew or chilies. It even goes great with grains such as couscous and barley, and legumes such as lentils and split peas.
Or you can use a cinnamon supplement.
Consider taking 1 to 3 grams per day, says Dr. Anderson, which is the dosage range used in many studies that show the herb's effectiveness.
Best: Cinnulin PF-a specially prepared water extract of cinnamon-is a supplement used in many studies showing the spice's effectiveness in supplement form. It is widely available in many brands, such as Swanson and Doctor's Best.
The dosage of Cinnulin PF used in studies is typically 250 mg, twice a day.