Cinnamon has been used for several thousand years in traditional Ayurvedic and Greco-European medical systems. Native to tropical southern India and Sri Lanka, the bark of this evergreen tree is used to manage conditions such as nausea, bloating, flatulence, and anorexia.
It is also one of the world’s most common spices, used to flavor everything from oatmeal and apple cider to cappuccino. Recent diabetic diet research has revealed, however, that regular use can promote healthy glucose metabolism and should be included in the diabetic diet guidelines.
Promote Healthy Blood Sugar
A study performed at the US Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center isolated insulin-enhancing complexes in the spice that are involved in preventing or alleviating glucose intolerance and diabetes.
Scientists at Iowa State University determined that the nutrients in the common spice are able to up-regulate the expression of genes involved in activating the cell membrane’s insulin receptors, thus increasing glucose uptake and lowering blood glucose levels.
These benefits have been confirmed in animal experiments. For example, when rats were given two different doses of the spice for three weeks, glucose infusion into their cells more than doubled, even with the lower dose studied. The extract improved insulin action by enhancing the insulin-signaling pathway in skeletal muscle, resulting in increased glucose uptake.
The spice can even help control the negative effects of a diet high in fructose, a simple sugar. When rats were fed large amounts of fructose for three weeks with or without the addition of the extract to their drinking water, the spice improved the glucose infusion rate in the fructose-fed animals so much that it equaled that of control rats eating a standard chow diet.
According to the study authors, this suggests that the early use of this tasty spice could prevent the development of insulin resistance in those who consume abundant fructose sugar.
Fight Against Heart Disease
Because the incidence of cardiovascular disease is increased up to fourfold in type II diabetics, researchers have sought out nutrients that can simultaneously improve glucose metabolism and lipid levels. In a recent study published in Diabetes Care, cinnamon proved to be such a dual-action agent.
Sixty adults (30 men, 30 women) with type II diabetes were divided into six groups. The first three groups consumed one, three, or six grams of the spice daily, while the other three groups consumed equivalent numbers of placebo capsules.The spice or placebo was consumed for 40 days, followed by a 20-day washout period.
After the initial 40-day period, all three levels of the spice reduced mean fasting serum glucose levels by 18-29%. The one-gram dose also reduced triglyceride levels by 18%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by 7%, and total cholesterol by 12%. Higher doses produced even greater reductions in triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol.
Even better, these decreases persisted throughout the 20-day washout period. While glucose and triglyceride levels increased modestly during the washout period compared to day-40 levels, they remained below the levels recorded before cinnamon supplementation began.
Meanwhile, LDL and total cholesterol levels continued to decline throughout the 20 days after cinnamon use stopped.
This study suggests that cinnamon has sustained effects, so the benefits should continue even if a dose is occasionally missed. The results also suggest doses of one gram or more are likely to be beneficial in controlling blood glucose and lipid levels.
Cinnamon thus appears to be one of the most powerful nutrients available for improving glucose metabolism. USDA researchers at the Beltsville center studied the effects of 49 herbs, spices, and medicinal plant extracts on glucose utilization in the fat cells of rats.
They found that this common cooking spice was the most bioactive product, followed by witch hazel, green and black teas, and allspice.
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