Evidence of Cinnamon’s Benefits for Diabetes

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In the past, we’ve written about the possible health benefits of cinnamon for people with diabetes, and comments from our readers have indicated that many find this spice to be a useful addition to their diabetes management regimen. Now a new meta-analysis (a review of data from several clinical trials) has found further evidence supporting the benefits of cinnamon for people with diabetes.

Various studies have investigated the benefits of cinnamon for those who have diabetes, but these trials have generally been small and have shown conflicting results. Some research, however, has indicated that the spice increases insulin sensitivity and promotes insulin release.

To evaluate the use of cinnamon on blood glucose and blood fat levels, researchers looked at 10 randomized, controlled trials that included a total of 543 participants. Eight of the trials, with a total of 499 participants, reported HbA1c levels (a measure of glucose control over the previous 2–3 months). Nine of the studies, with a total of 464 participants, included information on fasting glucose levels. At least eight of the studies included data on levels of total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and triglycerides (a type of blood fat).

Participants in the research were randomized to receive either placebo (inactive treatment) or cinnamon extract or raw cinnamon powder in doses ranging from 120 milligrams a day to 6 grams a day. All of the studies required that the cinnamon be taken with food. The participants were followed for periods of 4 to 18 weeks.

The meta-analysis showed that cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose levels by an average of 24.59 mg/dl, a greater reduction than that seen with the use of certain oral diabetes medicines. Supplementation with the spice did not have significant effects on HbA1c levels, but according to researcher Olivia J. Phung, “The studies…were small and had relatively short follow-up, from 4 to 18 weeks, which could be the reason cinnamon had no effect on hemoglobin A1C.”

Those using cinnamon also had a statistically significant reduction in lipid levels compared to people not using cinnamon, experiencing an average reduction of 15.60 mg/dl in total cholesterol, 9.42 mg/dl in LDL cholesterol, and 29.59 mg/dl in triglycerides, as well as an average increase of 1.66 mg/dl in HDL cholesterol.

In an e-mail to Medscape Medical News, Nicole White, PharmD, who was not involved in the research, suggested that “Larger, long-term studies would definitely be beneficial…Until that time, cassia cinnamon in daily doses of 1 to 6 g[rams] appears to be a reasonable option for glucose lowering in conjunction with (and not precluding) the use of evidence-based therapies when clinically appropriate.”

“Cinnamon has promise in potentially being helpful when added to diabetes medication, but patients should talk to their doctor or pharmacist to see if it will go with their treatment regimen,” noted Phung in an interview with MedPage Today.

The long-term safety of cinnamon use remains to be determined and studies in animals have found that high-dose, long-term use of the spice is associated with liver damage due to the high coumarin content.

For more information, read the article “Spice Has Short Term Benefits in Diabetes” or see the study in the Annals of Family Medicine. To learn more about cinnamon and diabetes control, click here. And for recipes featuring cinnamon, click here.

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