Looking for an innovative way to lower your blood glucose levels? Head for the kitchen spice rack!
Cinnamon has been in use over 4,000 years for culinary and medicinal purposes. The type of cinnamon found in brands such as McCormick and used in the hallmark study conducted on individuals with diabetes is referred to as cassia cinnamon. This form of cinnamon comes from the inner bark of cinnamon trees that grow in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Although cinnamon has been suspected to have blood glucose lowering effects, it was not until 2003 that this suspicion was confirmed and published in the widely respected journal, Diabetes Care. In the study, 60 people with Type 2 diabetes were given three different doses (1, 3, and 6 grams) of cassia cinnamon or placebo daily for 40 days. The results not only showed a very significant drop in fasting blood glucose of 18-29%, but also resulted in a 23-30% lowering of triglycerides, and an impressive 7-27% drop in LDL or "bad" cholesterol with all doses of cinnamon.
Cinnamon appears to be effective for blood glucose control because the spice contains powerful plant compounds called polyphenols, which make cells more receptive and sensitive to insulin and help cells take up more glucose. Polyphenols are also found in other plant foods such as green tea, red wine, and olive oil. It is important to remember that some forms of cinnamon in the supermarket may not be cassia cinnamon. Other commercially available forms of cinnamon, such as Ceylon cinnamon, may not offer the same blood glucose-lowering benefits.
Not only does cinnamon have positive effects on blood glucose levels, but the spice also has anti-inflammatory effects. Because people with diabetes may have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals and these chemicals can lead to diabetes complications, adding cinnamon to your daily diet can serve as an inexpensive way to further protect your health.
To mimic doses of cinnamon that were shown to be effective in the Diabetes Care study, one would need to consume 1/2 teaspoon or more of cinnamon daily. Cinnamon can be added to beverages such as tea, orange juice, smoothies, or added to coffee grounds before brewing. Cinnamon can also be sprinkled into natural applesauce, oatmeal, plain or vanilla yogurt, or used on top of 100% whole wheat toast.
You can make your own cinnamon tea by boiling 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder with a cup of water for 10-15 minutes, cooling, and then drinking. For those who dislike the taste of cinnamon, a tested and proven water extract of cinnamon, Cinnulin PF®, is also available as a dietary supplement.
The main concern for people with diabetes is that cinnamon could increase the risk of low blood glucose reactions in those already taking insulin or certain types of diabetes medications. To reduce the likelihood of unexpected reactions, more frequent blood glucose checks are recommended during the first 4-6 weeks of use. Like other plants to which allergies are possible, some people may develop a skin rash or constricted breathing from cinnamon. Medicinal doses of cinnamon are also not recommended during pregnancy.
Cinnamon is a widely available and effective natural agent for optimizing blood glucose and lowering inflammation. Adding cinnamon to your daily program of proper diet, exercise, and stress management can offer another edge for achieving and maintaining blood glucose control.