What comes to your mind when you think of cinnamon? Well, logically speaking, nothing should. Unless otherwise you are obsessed with its link with diabetes (like me) and want to know more. Coming to the point, there are numerous studies that support cinnamon’s efficacy in treating diabetes. But there is another side to it. And in this post, we look at both the sides. Keep your questions ready about the use of cinnamon for diabetes prevention. Because the answers are coming!
Cinnamon And Diabetes – The Link
We already know what cinnamon is, don’t we? It is a sweet and pungent spice derived from wild cinnamon trees. Grown in tropical areas in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and South America, cinnamon has been in use for thousands of years.
What has been debatable for quite some time is its efficacy in treating diabetes. Is cinnamon good for diabetes treatment? Does it have any side effects? How should one use it?
Oh yes, that’s where we are heading – to find the answers.
Diabetes and Cinnamon – What Research Says
There is a bunch of studies. One clinical study published in the 2003 edition of Diabetes Care journal supported the ability of cinnamon to improve the blood glucose and cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetes patients (1).
Cinnamon for diabetes type 2 – Another study published in 2000 in Agricultural Research Magazine stated that consuming just 1 gram of cinnamon a day can increase insulin sensitivity and even help reverse type 2 diabetes (2).
Though more research is required in this area, a few other studies have indicated the usefulness of cinnamon as a diabetes treatment supplement. A review of several related studies conducted back in 2012 states that cinnamon has a beneficial effect on glycemic control – which means cinnamon, when taken in the prescribed quantities, can accelerate diabetes treatment over time (3).
There could be several other studies with similar findings. But knowing all of those would be futile if one doesn’t understand the working of glucose in the bloodstream.
Glucose is that simple sugar circulating in the blood. It is responsible for cell health and energy, and hence needs a way to get into the cells from the bloodstream. When insulin, a hormone that also circulates in the blood, attaches itself to the outer structures of the cells (called insulin receptors), the flow of glucose into the cells is smooth.
Well, that’s the good news. The bad news is when the cells resist this insulin effect. As a result, glucose doesn’t enter the cells and gets built up in the blood instead. This is exactly what happens in diabetes patients.
How cinnamon could be of help here is of major importance. The spice contains certain chemicals that stimulate the insulin receptors, thereby allowing glucose to enter the cells and lowering the blood glucose levels (4).
This characteristic of cinnamon has been proved by various studies as well. For instance, a 2010 study jointly conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center states that cinnamon enhances insulin sensitivity and glucose transport (5). Certain compounds found in cinnamon, called proanthocyanidins, were found to help alleviate diabetic complications (6).
Well, that’s one side of the story. But like I said, there is another side to this whole debate. And that is …
Further (And Conflicting) Research
Hence the ongoing debate, you see.
Yes, we have studies that support cinnamon’s usefulness in controlling diabetes. And there is an equal number of studies that dismiss its use too.
A few studies have shown how cinnamon can lower insulin resistance and curb excessive blood sugar. In one such study, the participants consumed 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon every day for 40 days. By the end of the trial period, researchers observed an 18% drop in the cholesterol levels and a 24% drop in the blood sugar levels. But, in a few other studies, this wasn’t the case – cinnamon simply made no difference (7).
[ Read: Best Fruits For Diabetics ]
In one such Iranian study conducted in 2013, taking 1 gram of cinnamon every day for 30 to 60 days had no effect in lowering the blood glucose levels. According to the study, certain other factors like race, BMI, lifestyle, type of drugs, and duration of cinnamon consumption influence diabetes treatment (8).
Another Californian study attributed the conflict in this research to the heterogeneity of studies performed and stated that further large-scale research was required (9).
All said and done, the benefits or ill effects of cinnamon are determined by its type – precisely what we are going to see next.
Types Of Cinnamon For Diabetes
This is something you must take note of – the different types of cinnamon. Though cinnamon may be beneficial for diabetics, what can change the game is the type of cinnamon one consumes. Cinnamon, especially when consumed by diabetics, has always been accompanied by warnings – given its coumarin content. Coumarin, a compound found in cinnamon, was found to cause liver toxicity in certain cases (10).
Following are the different types of cinnamon generally used for diabetes:
Cassia cinnamon (or Chinese cinnamon)
It is more pungent, less sweet, delicate, and slightly bitter. The quality of this type of cinnamon can greatly vary depending on the conditions of the soil where it is cultivated. It is usually used in most Chinese medications for treating phlegm, cough, and other illnesses. Cassia cinnamon has a coumarin content of 0.31 grams/kg.
The leaves of the tree are shiny on the top but dull on the underside. The leaves are spicy when crushed, and the outer bark of the tree, when peeled off, emanates a very strong cinnamon smell. Ceylon cinnamon has a coumarin content of 0.017 grams/kg. This is the lowest amongst the different types of cinnamon.
There are two other types of cinnamon, namely Indonesian cinnamon (2.15 grams/kg of coumarin content) and Saigon cinnamon (6.97 grams/kg of coumarin content). These have very high levels of coumarin, and hence must not be used for diabetes treatment.
As we have seen, Ceylon cinnamon has the lowest content of coumarin. Like we had discussed, coumarin comes with a host of undesirables. A UK study had found coumarin to cause liver and kidney complications in rodents (11).
A debate often ensues with respect to the considerable difference in safety, whether ceylon or cassia cinnamon for diabetes – though Ceylon cinnamon has lower coumarin content, can the two types of cinnamon be used interchangeably?
Ceylon cinnamon has been found to contain 250 times less cinnamon than cassia (the most popular cinnamon type), which, in fact, is too less to pose any health risks (12). This is not the case with cassia cinnamon (13).
So, how much cinnamon per day for diabetes and which is the best cinnamon for diabetes? Though both cassia and Ceylon cinnamon are on the FDA’s list of spices safe for human consumption, there is no quantity specified. But according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany, excessive consumption of cassia cinnamon per day (which is more than 2 grams) could result in side effects (14).
The Wall Street Journal puts it this way – You do need to use Ceylon cinnamon because it will lower your risk of liver damage. From a safety point of view, that is better.
Okay. So we have discussed about the types and best type of cinnamon for diabetes. What use would all that be if one doesn’t know how to use cinnamon? Don’t worry – we have it covered!
How To Use Cinnamon For Diabetes
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is of three types – type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Irrespective of the type of diabetes one has, the consumption and cinnamon dosage for diabetes only vary with the severity.
Here, we tell you how to take cinnamon for diabetes. These are a few different ways of consuming cinnamon.
1. You can incorporate cinnamon into your diet.
- You can replace sugar with cinnamon. Given its intense flavor, cinnamon can be an excellent replacement for small amounts of sugar in sauces, meat, stove-top recipes, and even vegetable dishes. Replacing sugar with cinnamon in your diet has dual benefits – it reduces the amount of sugar you consume and improves your blood glucose levels as well.
- It is safe to consume cinnamon in normal amounts as found in foods, which can be about ½ to 1 teaspoon.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And adding cinnamon to it only makes it better. For instance, you can sprinkle some cinnamon on a buttered whole grain toast. Or even stir a small amount in your oatmeal.
- Who doesn’t love meat sauces! Cinnamon pairs extremely well with pork, poultry, beef, and even Asian-themed dishes. Adding cinnamon to salad dressings can do wonders.
- When it comes to vegetable dishes, there is one mistake most of us make. We don’t mind the sugar. Of course! We are eating something healthy, so why bother about the sugar, right? Wrong. You can replace brown or regular sugar with cinnamon in candied vegetables or sweet stir fries. The spice lends a sweet flavor without spiking your glucose levels.
- Baking. The easiest way, probably. If you are a fan of homemade breads, cookies, pies, etc., you can add cinnamon to anything you love. You can simply mix (and mix thoroughly) cinnamon with dry flour.
- Cinnamon drink for diabetes – You can use cinnamon in drinks too. Whether it is coffee or a smoothie, a milkshake or any other blended drink – cinnamon goes well with all.
- Cinnamon tea for diabetes – You can also consume cinnamon tea. Simply add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to about 30 ml of boiling water. Allow it to steep for about 10 minutes. You can add milk if you like.
- You can also use cinnamon powder for diabetes control. You can either boil cinnamon sticks in water or sprinkle some cinnamon powder with water and sip it in between meals.
- Cinnamon essential oil is another good way to help you cope with the condition. Simply use a diffuser at your home and smell the aroma. The essential oil may curb sugar cravings or overeating (15).
2. Cinnamon Supplements For Diabetes.
If the idea of adding cinnamon to your meals doesn’t sound so welcome, we have an alternative. A cinnamon supplement. The natural food store right at the end of your lane will sell cinnamon supplements at affordable prices.
But consult with your doctor first. Yes, a low-dose cinnamon supplement can be virtually harmless. But hey, it’s a supplement, right? It’s not something you have regularly been consuming, but something you have chosen to take to deal with a health situation. So, talk to your medical advisor – (s)he can guide you better and even warn you of potential interactions, if any. Sometimes, cinnamon supplements can interact with your diabetes medications, which can lead to undesirable outcomes. The best way to avoid this? Talk to your doc. Simple.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is no adequate research about the interactions between herbs and conventional diabetes medications (16). Hence, I am stressing again, always consult a doctor before taking any such supplements. Though using cinnamon pills for diabetes is as debatable as using the spice itself, you can still consider it based on your doctor’s suggestion.
How Much Cinnamon For Diabetes?
Coming to the daily dose of cinnamon for diabetes, you can start small. Start with 1 gram of cinnamon daily. Record your glucose levels and consult your doctor regularly. You can gradually increase the amount as per your doctor’s suggestion.
NOTE: Ensure you only use Ceylon cinnamon for diabetes control. As we have seen, it contains the lowest amount of coumarin and is much safer than its counterparts.
Cinnamon For Gestational Diabetes
If you are using cinnamon for gestational diabetes (diabetes as a result of pregnancy), consult with your doctor (17). There is no adequate research in this regard, and acting on it without proper knowledge can lead to undesirable effects.
Cinnamon Recipes For Diabetics
There is a lot of information on cinnamon and its link with diabetes, and we have seen a considerable amount of it. We also have seen the various ways you can intake cinnamon for aiding your treatment.
Following are a few recipes that can help you include cinnamon in your regimen in a wonderfully delectable way. These are easy and quick to prepare, and you can have them anywhere.
1. Cinnamon And Yogurt
You Will Need
- Plain and fat-free yogurt, 1 cup
- Cinnamon powder, 1 teaspoon
- Stevia powder, ½ teaspoon
- Mix all the ingredients properly.
- Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, post which you can enjoy the dish.
2. Cinnamon And Ginger Healing Tea
You Will Need
- A thumb-sized fresh ginger piece
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons
- Ceylon cinnamon, 1 stick
- Raw organic honey, 1 teaspoon
- Filtered water, 1 ½ cups
- Heat the water over medium heat in a small saucepan.
- Slice the ginger.
- As the water starts boiling, add ginger to the saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add the cinnamon.
- Steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain the liquid into a tall cup.
- Add the lemon juice and honey and stir.
And now another important part – what you need to keep in mind while taking cinnamon for diabetes.
Cinnamon For Diabetes – Side Effects And Potential Health Risks
As we have discussed, the presence of coumarin is what makes diabetes treatment with cinnamon debatable. Though Ceylon cinnamon contains the least amount of coumarin, it still is advisable to take a doctor’s suggestion before using it.
According to an article published by the University of Washington, large doses of cinnamon for extended periods can cause body toxicity. It can also increase the heart rate, which can be a threat to individuals with heart conditions (18). Cinnamon can also interact with certain blood thinning medications.
Numerous other studies, including the one conducted by the Western Diabetes Institute and University of Connecticut, have reported detrimental effects like increased risk of bleeding and affected liver functioning in animals (19).
If you want to take cinnamon for diabetes, Ceylon cinnamon is what you need to consume. No questions about it. But what one must keep in mind is that cinnamon is never a replacement for conventional diabetes treatment or medical care (20). You can take it to supplement your treatment, but that’s it.
And more importantly, take your doctor into confidence. Take his/her advice and follow it scrupulously. (S) He knows what is best for you.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How long does it take cinnamon to lower blood sugar levels?
There is no definitive time frame. Numerous tests have been conducted that had mixed results. Certain studies had the participants taking 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon for 40 days and found favorable results. While others, under similar conditions, got no results.
Can we take raw honey and cinnamon for diabetes?
Yes. Incorporating raw honey and cinnamon into your diet can be beneficial for diabetes. According to one study, consumption of honey might lower blood glucose levels, which in turn might improve diabetic conditions.
The only way to get an answer to this is by asking your doctor. (S)He is aware of your condition first-hand, and hence can recommend the right dosage of cinnamon for diabetes and let you know the time frame.
We hope this post on the benefits of cinnamon for diabetes cure has answered your questions. Do let us know what you think whether cinnamon is good for diabetes or not. You can leave a comment in the box below.
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