By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (August 17, 2006)—People with diabetes might be able to reduce their blood sugar by using a cinnamon extract, a new study has found.
The number of people being diagnosed with adult-onset (type 2) diabetes has grown to about 150 million people worldwide, with more than 17 million in the United States. People with diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their cells don’t respond to insulin, the hormone that signals when glucose (the form sugar takes in the blood) needs to be stored. Over time, the extra glucose in the blood damages tissues.
Eating a high-fiber, low-sugar diet and exercising are important ways to keep blood glucose levels normal. Oral medications are also often used to reduce blood glucose levels, and in some cases insulin injections are necessary. Nutritionally oriented healthcare providers frequently recommend minerals such as chromium and magnesium. Some herbs such as gymnema and fenugreek have been found to have blood glucose–lowering effects.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is an aromatic herb with sweet and warming qualities. Its history as a medicinal herb goes back centuries in India and other parts of Asia, but it is better known in the Western world as a culinary spice. Animal studies and preliminary studies in humans have suggested that cinnamon has blood glucose–lowering effects that could help people with type 2 diabetes.
In the latest study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 65 people with diabetes being treated only with diet or oral medications (not insulin) were given either a cinnamon extract (equivalent to 3 grams of cinnamon per day) or a placebo for four months.
Fasting blood glucose levels (measured after eight or more hours without eating or drinking) dropped 10% in those who used the cinnamon, but did not change in the placebo group. Blood glucose levels decreased the most in those who had the highest levels at the beginning of the study.
“More and more people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and many of them want to avoid oral medications and especially insulin injections,” said Linda Dacey, MD, who practices internal medicine. “Although the findings from this study are encouraging, for now it seems wise to wait until future research clarifies whether cinnamon works well enough to be used as a first-line treatment, along with diet and exercise, or whether it should be used in conjunction with oral medications.”
In the meantime, cinnamon is a safe and inexpensive addition to a program designed to help manage high blood sugar from diabetes.
(Eur J Clin Invest 2006;36:340–4)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.