Spices like cinnamon not only enhance sweet dishes but also work to bring down our blood sugar levels. Favored in TCM and Ayurveda for centuries, now medical practitioners are happy to let you sprinkle some cinnamon on all your foods if you are borderline or already diabetic.
Whether it’s a heavenly slice of apple pie, warm cinnamon rolls, or a mug of hot chocolate, there’s no doubt that cinnamon and sugar go wonderfully well together. So it may come as a surprise to many of us that cinnamon can actually help control our blood sugar levels.
Rising sea levels or temperatures aren’t the only things keeping many of us awake at night. Over 80 million Americans – that’s every fourth person – are struggling with rising fasting blood-glucose levels. This is over and above the 25 million Americans already diagnosed with diabetes. While spices have traditionally played a role in healing, cinnamon has emerged as a simple but effective solution for controlling sugar levels and keeping diabetes at bay.
The bark of the cinnamon tree is the source of the cinnamon sticks and powder found in the market. Researchers have isolated a compound in the bark called methyl hydroxy chalcone polymers (MHCP). This element has been shown to increase insulin-dependent glucose metabolism by over 20 times in vitro.1 MHCP has a two-fold action. It activates the enzyme that helps insulin to stick to the cells, while also suppressing the enzyme that blocks insulin from cell bonding. That’s a double dose of goodness, leading to greater insulin sensitivity in the body. As a result, the body responds well to insulin and is able to process glucose better, thus keeping blood sugar levels under control. And the lower the sugar level, the further you move away from diabetes.2
With or Without Sugar
It also turns out this heady spice has mildly curative properties when it comes to diabetes. That is to say, it works to keep those with elevated sugar levels (prediabetics) from crossing over and can even help control diabetes. A meta-analysis of various studies showed that the Cinnamomum spp. bark lowers the fasting blood glucose levels in both type 2 diabetics and prediabetics, with an average reduction of 3 to 5 percent.3 Another study, in which cinnamon was administered in varying amounts to participants for 40 days, found an 18–29% drop in mean fasting serum glucose.4
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have always endorsed the goodness of cinnamon. TCM relies on several single-herb prescriptions for type 2 diabetes and cinnamon figures prominently in this list.5 Many Ayurvedic formulations also incorporate cinnamon for its bioactivity and positive effects on sugar and cholesterol levels.6
What To Sprinkle
Cinnamon is found in two types: Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume) and Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum Ness). These are dried, rolled into tubes known as quills, and made available either as whole quills or cinnamon sticks or as ground powder. The Portuguese were the first to discover the richness of Ceylon cinnamon and took it to many parts of the world. To this day, the best quality cinnamon, the Ceylon variety, comes from Sri Lanka. The Cassia cinnamon, though more widely available and cheaper, has one downside – higher coumarin content. This plant compound is an anticoagulant and can even damage the liver when used in large quantities.7 So, if you’re a big fan of cinnamon and use it a lot, get hold of the Ceylon variety.
About a teaspoon of cinnamon, sprinkled over your cereal, coffee, or salads, can keep you on the right side of the diabetes border. And it tastes great too, so what’s not to love!
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Anderson, Richard A., C. Leigh Broadhurst, Marilyn M. Polansky, Walter F. Schmidt, Alam Khan, Vincent P. Flanagan, Norberta W. Schoene, and Donald J. Graves. “Isolation and characterization of polyphenol type-A polymers from cinnamon with insulin-like biological activity.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 52, no. 1 (2004): 65-70.|
|2.||↑||Safdar, Mahpara, Alam Khan, M. M. A. K. Khattak, and Mohammad Siddique. “Effect of various doses of cinnamon on blood glucose in diabetic individuals.” Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 3, no. 5 (2004): 268-272.|
|3.||↑||Davis, Paul A., and Wallace Yokoyama. “Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis.” Journal of medicinal food 14, no. 9 (2011): 884-889.|
|4.||↑||Khan, Alam, Mahpara Safdar, Mohammad Muzaffar Ali Khan, Khan Nawaz Khattak, and Richard A. Anderson. “Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 26, no. 12 (2003): 3215-3218.|
|5.||↑||Xie, Weidong, Yunan Zhao, and Yaou Zhang. “Traditional Chinese medicines in treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011).|
|6.||↑||Sridharan, Kalpana, Roshni Mohan, Sridharan Ramaratnam, and Deepak Panneerselvam. “Ayurvedic treatments for diabetes mellitus.” The Cochrane Library (2011).|
|7.||↑||Archer, Alan W. “Determination of cinnamaldehyde, coumarin and cinnamyl alcohol in cinnamon and cassia by high-performance liquid chromatography.” Journal of Chromatography A 447 (1988): 272-276.|