Questions are often asked about the use of herbs and spices to help control blood glucose levels. Today’s blog will feature recent information about the relationship between cinnamon and blood glucose control. Readers may look upon the data with interest but all individuals should consult with their physician about using any herbs or spices to help with medical concerns.

cinnamon can lower blood glucose in diabeticsRecently (2014) the American Society for Nutrition partnered with the McCormick Science Institute to evaluate publications and research articles on spices and herbs and how they can potentially help to improve the health of Americans. The papers included topics on herbs and spices and positive health effects on issues such as inflammation, insulin resistance and cardiac health. All of these topics affect the health of patients with diabetes. The results were presented at a scientific summit in May of 2014. (1,2)

If you’re interested in the McCormick Science Institute read their mission statement and related information.  

Results of a few studies that were carried out on people with diabetes that were cited in the above mentioned review:

  1. A study was carried and published in 2003 evaluating 60 men and women with type 2 diabetes and if different doses of cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) would improve blood glucose. All subjects were over 40 years of age, did not use insulin but were on  sulfonylurea medications, did not take medications for other conditions and had fasting glucose levels of 140-400 mg/dl (7.8-22.2mmol/l) Subjects were randomly assigned to six different groups. There were placebo groups as well as groups that consumed one, three or six grams of cinnamon per day for 40 days. Capsules taken by mouth delivered the placebo material (wheat flour) or cinnamon. After the 40 days were over there was a 20 day washout period. Results found that all doses of cinnamon reduced fasting serum levels between 18-29%. It was also found that after the cinnamon was stopped for 20 days that there was a sustained effect of the cinnamon. The author concluded that intakes of less than 1 gram per day may be helpful in reducing blood glucose levels. (3)
  2. (Clara’s note: this is a very small study that is over 10 years old.)
  3. Another study followed 66 patients in China with type 2 diabetes that were randomized to 3 different groups. The groups were given a placebo, 120 mg/d or 360 mg/d of a cinnamon extract. The participants also took the diabetes medication glicazide. The blood glucose levels were significantly dropped in both groups that took the cinnamon extract. (4)
  4. Results of a meta-analysis (2013) of 10 randomized controlled studies (n=543 people) studying cinnamon consumption at levels between 120mg/d up to 6 grams/d for 4-18 weeks   showed significant decreases in fasting glucose levels. (5) 
  5. Other studies not included in this review did not show a significant change in glucose levels of type 2 patients. (6) 

Is cinnamon recommended for use by people with diabetes by prominent healthcare associations?

  1. The American Diabetes Associations: “Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults with Diabetes (2013) states there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon for the treatment of diabetes. (7)
  2. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states there are conflicting results regarding the use of cinnamon and blood glucose levels. This academy goes on to mention, there is concern that consuming large amounts of cinnamon may result in liver damage. More research is needed. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics state that using cinnamon in amounts commonly found in foods is generally regarded as safe. (8)
  3. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) which is part of the National Institutes of Health in the United States of America has a fact sheet on cinnamon that can be accessed at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/cinnamon the traditional uses of cinnamon include controlling diabetes in some ancient societies. They state that an analysis of five clinical trials conclude that cinnamon does not appear to affect factors related to diabetes. They also mention that there are different types of cinnamon. People that are considering taking cinnamon need to be cautious. Some people may have allergic reactions but NCCAM states that it appears to be safe for most people taken orally of up to 6 grams per day for 6 weeks or less.  There is a concern that cassia cinnamon (which contains coumarin) can be dangerous as it can keep blood from clotting. (9)

Danger of Cinnamon

It has been found that the coumarin, which is found in less expensive and more common Cassia type of cinnamon, can cause liver damage in certain individuals who are more sensitive to it. (10) True cinnamon (cinnamon verum) does not contain very much coumarin. The amount of coumarin in Cassia cinnamon has been found to have up to 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon) powder. The sticks of Cassia cinnamon contain up to 18 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon sticks. (10) Images of what each type of cinnamon stick look like. It has been stated that many manufacturers that include cinnamon in a product will use the cheaper Cassia cinnamon. The European Food Safety Authority has set a limit of Cassia in a daily tolerable intake of about a teaspoon a day for individuals sensitive to coumarin. (11) 

Clara’s note: If you are considering using cinnamon to help control your blood glucose levels, talk to your physician before you start. Get permission to use it and a dose that would be safe for you. Besides the potential problem of liver damage (this is very serious) cinnamon may interact with some of your medications. See this partial list of medications that could interact with cinnamon and consult with your doctor and pharmacist. If your medical team approves, ask when you should take blood glucose measurements during the day to monitor your levels. 

As you can see prominent organizations suggest that using cinnamon in amounts commonly found in foods is generally regarded as safe. Click here to see sumptuous recipes that contain cinnamon featured at DiabetesCare.net.

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11