Diabetes is considered to be one of the most dangerous disease today. In US alone more than 25 mn of adults and children have diabetes. This is 8.3% of population. This disease is most prevelant in age group above 65 years where 27% of population has diabetes. What is more serious is 79 mn people have prediabetes. Diabetes is a long-term chronic condition that occurs when a person does not produce sufficient insulin to convert starch and sugars to energy or when a person cannon use the insulin which can cause excess buildup of glucose in the bloodstream. The 2 major types of diabetes are:
- Type-1 also called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes which does not have a cure and is usually diagnosed in childhood.
- Type-2 is the common type and occurs in adults. It occurs when sufficient insulin is not produced by the pancreas.
The actual cause of type-1 diabetes is unknown. Type-2 diabetes usually occurs in older, overweight adults. Symptoms of type-2 diabetes could be blurred vision, numb or burning feeling in the ankles, legs and feet, fatigue and poor wound healing. With the right treatment, blood glucose levels can be kept under control. Without treatment, it could cause blindness, nerve disease, heart or kidney disease and stroke.
Cinnamon for Diabetes
Cinnamon is the dried bark of an evergreen tree that grows in Asian countries especially Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. The dried bark or ground cinnamon is used to flavor different recipes. Cinnamon oil extracted from the bark or leaves also offers health benefits. Cinnamon is also made into herbal supplements. Cinnamon contains calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin K and dietary fiber. There are several studies which have been undertaken to test the benefits of cinnamon for diabetes.
In one study, 30 men and 30 women were selected and divided into 6 groups. Groups 1-3 were given 1, 3 or 6g daily of cinnamon. Groups 4-6 were given a placebo comparable to the same dosage as the cinnamon. This treatment was followed for 40 days. After this period all the groups were tested and it was found that all 3 cinnamon groups had lower levels of fasting serum glucose, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol. The placebo groups did not demonstrate any significant changes. The study thus concluded that the above doses of cinnamon could help in the treatment of type-2 diabetes. Controlling type-2 diabetes also reduces the risk of developing other diseases associated with diabetes.
Another study was conducted to see the effects of cinnamon on HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, glycated heaemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), triacglycerol and fasting plasma glucose in patients with type-2 diabetes. 79 patients with type-2 diabetes and on oral anti-diabetic medicines were selected. None of them were undergoing insulin therapy. The patients were divided into random groups and given a placebo or cinnamon extract thrice a day for 4 months. The cinnamon extract was of an aqueous form and was equivalent to 3g cinnamon powder a day. At the end of the period, all the significant parameters were studied again. It was found that cinnamon was able to reduce fasting plasma glucose levels in patients who had low glycemic control. The other parameters showed no variation before and after treatment. None of the patients on cinnamon had any side effects.
From various scientific studies, it has been found that cinnamon could benefit treatment of diabetes in the following ways:
- Increase blood sugar metabolism by as much as 20-fold causing improvement in blood sugar regulation.
- Bio-active compound in cinnamon mimics insulin and can therefore serve as an insulin substitute
- Cinnamon can slow down the rate at which stomach empties out food to the intestine. This increases blood sugar levels and improves effectiveness of insulin.
- The polyphenols in cinnamon offer antioxidant benefits that could benefit those who are diabetic and overweight
- Proanthocyanidin is a bioflavonoid found in cinnamon. This could modify insulin-signaling activities of our fat cells.
One cause of diabetes is obesity. Cinnamon has been found to help with weight control by lowering LDL cholesterol levels. As little as ½ tsp cinnamon taken a day can improve insulin resistance and this helps with weight loss and reduces the risk of heart disease too.
A 2012 review of all studies on cinnamon for diabetes, it was found that it could control glycemic levels. In a 2009 study, it was found that patients with type-2 diabetes were given 500mg cinnamon supplements twice a day. This treatment was given for 90 days. At the end of this period, it was found that the hemoglobin A1C levels – which show the average levels of blood sugar for 2-3 months – improved. The theory is that this benefit could be because cinnamon improves insulin action. More research is required.
According to some researchers, rice pudding containing cinnamon was eaten by volunteers after a meal. There was no significant reduction of blood sugar levels. Hence, it can be said that there are differing studies with some advocating cinnamon for diabetes and the others stating that it may not offer any benefits.
A clinical study found that 60 patients with type-2 diabetes were given Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) supplement doses of 1, 3 or 6g a day. This was found to lower triglyceride, glucose and LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels. Since there are many studies to support this claim, those with diabetes could use appropriate doses of cinnamon to control diabetes by regulating blood sugar. Studies have found that just ½ tsp cinnamon powder taken daily in any form could fight against diabetes.
When used in cooking, cinnamon does not cause any side effects. Anyone taking cinnamon supplements must be careful if they suffer from allergies. Cinnamon could cause skin irritation like sores or inflammation around the mouth, lips and tongue. High doses of cinnamon could stimulate the uterus. Hence, pregnant women are advised against using cinnamon. Cinnamon could react adversely with anticoagulants like aspirin or warfarin.
Cinnamon seems to be safe for diabetic patients. Those with liver disease must be careful when using cinnamon. When buying cinnamon supplements, make sure the product contains the ingredients required and has a quality seal. Those taking diabetic medications or certain herbal supplements must consult their doctor before using cinnamon for diabetes.