To most of us, cinnamon has been known as one of the stable spice in our household. It is often used to lift up the flavor of our desserts or appears as the warm and familiar scent dispersing from the candles throughout the living room. Who would ever imagine cinnamon beyond just an ordinary flavor or scent and can be used as a potential supplement for diabetic management?
Prior moving onto the details in scientific evidence, I would like to clarify the major types of cinnamon. The two major varieties of cinnamon are Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia cinnamon) and Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon cinnamon). Cassia cinnamon which is of the less expensive variety is the mainstream type of cinnamon sold in supermarkets, where as Ceylon cinnamon is often referred as the true cinnamon as it is more expensive and has a sweet taste. Cinnamomum cassia has been used in most scientific studies carried out.
What science has told us about cinnamon?
Cinnamon’s potential beneficial effects on the parameters associated with diabetes have been a topic of debate ever since the preliminary clinical study carried out by researchers in Pakistan. The study was performed on a group of type 2 diabetics and the results demonstrated a daily dose of (1-6g) of cinnamon contributed to the reduction of all blood glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Other studies which looked at the effects of short term supplementation of cinnamon also found a comparatively lower post-meal rise in blood glucose levels in cinnamon groups. However, a meta-analysis completed by Barket and colleagues which considered 5 randomized-controlled trials involving a total of 282 subjects questioned the supportive results for cinnamon and found no significant beneficial effects on overall blood glucose control, fasting blood glucose and blood lipids.
The topic has again become debatable since the publication of a subsequent randomized controlled trial which demonstrated the greater HbA1c lowering effects in cinnamon group compared to usual care alone. Another group of Scandinavian researchers who performed a crossover trial also found a relationship between cinnamon and the reduction of insulin demand despite the lack of change in blood glucose levels which reinforced the results reported in the same journal in 2007 by the same researchers.
Are we convinced that diabetic control can be accomplished effortlessly with an additional cinnamon capsule a day?
Although there has been a growing body of research showing the relationship between cinnamon and the beneficial effects on the parameters associated with diabetes but we should acknowledge the meta-analysis results and also bear in mind that majority of the studies are of short term thus a long-term clinical trial involving a larger group of diabetics is yet to be done.
Should we add this magical spice to the usual diabetic management plan?
Firstly, safety for consumption as a supplement is our first priority. Consumption of a large amount of cinnamon (often as a supplement) may be associated with side effects including stomach upset, tachycardia and excessive perspiration. Women should avoid excessive consumption of cinnamon and cinnamon supplement during their pregnancy as the exact amount of toxic dosage to human is still unknown.
Secondly, although Cinnamomum cassia might play a potential role in reducing insulin demands and HbA1c but its role in blood glucose and lipids reduction is yet to be supported by further long term studies.
Lastly, a magical spice should not be treated as the answer for diabetic management. Diabetes is a life long illness which requires long term lifestyle changes. There are many vital elements involved in diabetic care and it is proven that a balanced regular diet, exercise and healthy weight are few of the key elements to success in diabetic management on top of prescription medications. Diabetics should not treat a touch of ‘magical spice’ as an excuse for indulging in excessive amount of unhealthy desserts and snacks. Instead, we can all enjoy a touch of cinnamon to uplift flavors and excite our taste buds. Discuss with your dietitian in ways that you can include cinnamon as part of your healthy diet.
- Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 26.12 (2003): 3215-3218.
- Mang B, Wolters M, Schmitt B, et al. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. European Journal of Clinical Investigation. 36.5 (2006): 340-344.
- Hlebowicz J, Darwiche G, Björgell O, et al. Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying and satiety in healthy subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 85.6 (2007): 1552-1556.
- Baker WL, Gutierrez-Williams G, White CM, et al. Effect of cinnamon on glucose control and lipid parameters. Diabetes Care 2008; 31:41– 43
- J. Hlebowicz, A. Hlebowicz, S. Lindstedt, et al. Effects of 1 and 3 g cinnamon on gastric emptying, satiety, and postprandial blood glucose, insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide 1, and ghrelin concentrations in healthy subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009; Volume 89, Pages 815–821
- P. Crawford. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 2009; 22(5):507-12.