According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2003, cinnamon may be quite effective at reducing blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, reducing the need for diabetes medication.
The study, conducted by Pakistani and American researchers, involved 30 diabetic men and 30 diabetic women who were divided into six groups. The first three groups consumed 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon per day in the form of a cinnamon supplement while the final three groups received placebos.
The cinnamon and placebo tablets were consumed for 40 days and the fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels of the patients were recorded on days 0, 20, 40, and 60 of the study.
After 40 days, the researchers found a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the cinnamon groups. Fasting blood glucose levels were reduced by 25% for the 1 g per day group, 18% in the 3 g per day group, and 29% in the 6 g per day group. After 60 days (20 days after cinnamon supplementation had finished), fasting blood glucose levels were still significantly lower than they were prior to the cinnamon supplementation.
Cinnamon also lowered LDL cholesterol by 7-27%, total cholesterol by 12-26% and triglyceride levels by as much as 30%.
It is believed that a compound in cinnamon, known as methylhydroxy-chalcone polymer (MHCP), is responsible for the ability of cinnamon to lower blood sugar levels. MHCP appears to increase the metabolism of glucose by fat cells. One study found that MHCP added to fat cells in a test tube resulted in as much as a 20 fold increase in glucose uptake.
MHCP is water soluble and is therefore not present in cinnamon oil, a product often sold as a gourmet food. The water soluble components of cinnamon tend to be less toxic in high doses than the fat soluble portion because excess amounts of the water soluble compounds can be easily eliminated through urine.
Care should be taken not to consume excessive amounts of cinnamon because one variety, known as cassia, contains significant amounts of the chemical coumarin which can cause liver and kidney toxicity in high doses. Generally, levels around 1 teaspoon (3-4 grams) of cinnamon a day are unlikely to cause problems, however cinnamon supplementation should be stopped if any indications of toxicity occur such as tiredness, nuasea, jaundice, weight-loss, or pain in the upper-right abdomen. Those with a history of liver or kidney problems should seek doctors advice before beginning a supplementation regime.
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