Blood Sugar and Spice: Cinnamon for Diabetes

Cinnamon is a hot topic in many discussions regarding diabetes. There have been studies that show how cinnamon can lower blood sugars, HbA1c (an average of blood sugar over the previous 2-3 months), cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), and can help reduce inflammation. While the results on taking cinnamon for diabetes diets are still mixed, there are some promising results.

Cinnamon is a spice made from tree bark. There are two main varieties: Ceylon cinnamon, “true cinnamon,” and Cassia cinnamon which is often found in spice jars and supplements. Cassia is lower in cost so if the label doesn’t specify which type it is most likely the Cassia variety. Both types of cinnamon have shown blood sugar and lipid lowering properties.

One study found that 1,000 mg of cinnamon capsules (or about ½ tsp cinnamon spice) every morning for nine weeks in addition to a diabetic diet decreased fasting blood sugar by 19.5% compared to 0.7% in those who only made diet changes in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Results were seen within one week of starting cinnamon intake until plateauing at week nine.

In another study, 30 people with type 2 diabetes were split into three groups taking 1 gram, 3 grams or 6 grams of cinnamon daily. Thirty additional people took a placebo. After 40 days, everyone taking cinnamon had lower glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

These studies sound promising and have encouraged many diabetics to start adding cinnamon to their diabetic care. However, there has also been numerous studies which have found no benefit at all.

Currently the American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend relying on cinnamon as a way to reduce blood glucose levels as results from studies have been conflicting and there is not enough strong evidence at this time. Supplements also are not regulated by the FDA, so safety is of concern by some.

The best way to add cinnamon to your diet is to sprinkle it on your foods, cook with it, or enjoy a glass of cinnamon tea. The recommended amount for benefits is ½-1 teaspoon per day. Food in its whole form is always best!

Cinnamon gives food natural sweetness and provides nice flavor without the addition of added sugar, fat, or salt. Cinnamon is very versatile, commonly found in sweet but also savory foods. Some easy and delicious ways to add cinnamon to your diet include:

Top hot cereals, such as oatmeal or porridge

Add to beverages, such as smoothies and coffee drinks

Stir into yogurt, unsweetened applesauce, or stewed fruits

Add to marinades

Sprinkle on sweet potatoes, carrots, or baked squash

Mix into baked goods, such as muffins, pancakes, and breads

If you decide to add a cinnamon supplement to your diabetic or general health plan, keep these guidelines in mind:

1. Always check with your health-care provider before taking any type of supplement. Cinnamon, at high doses, for example, would not be recommended for those on blood thinning medication or those with liver disease.

2. Check your blood sugars regularly to see what the effect is on your own blood glucose. Effects can be very individualized.

3. Do not stop taking your diabetic medication unless directed to do so by your physician.

Hopefully research will continue to shed light on if and how cinnamon is best used as part of a diabetic treatment plan. For now, don’t hesitate to add the spice to your foods. While making changes it is important to continue to follow your diabetes meal plan, get regular exercise, and take your medications as decided upon by your healthcare team.

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