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Blood sugar and spice

Cinnamon’s been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. Research from the past few decades suggests it may also be useful for controlling blood sugar. But is it?

Study under review: Effects of Cinnamon Consumption on Glycemic Indicators, Advanced Glycation End Products, and Antioxidant Status in Type 2 Diabetic Patients

Introduction

Type 2 diabetes is a worldwide problem, as Figure 1 shows. In 2014, the overall global prevalence of diabetes among adults was 8.5%. In North America, it was estimated to be 9.6%[1]. Proper nutrition, maintaining a healthy bodyweight, and exercising can help reduce the risk for developing diabetes, while similar lifestyle habits and pharmaceutical interventions can help manage or treat the disease in people who have it. But is there a role for supplements in diabetes treatment or prevention?

Cinnamon is primarily used in cooking, but in some traditions, the spice is used as medication for multiple ailments. In diabetes, cinnamon is thought to work by helping optimize glucose tolerance and lower insulin resistance, or by lowering systemic inflammation, which is also considered a risk factor[2] for metabolic disease and diabetes. In vitro and in vivo evidence suggests that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory[3], antimicrobial[4], and insulin-sensitizing properties[5], all of which could theoretically help prevent and manage diabetes.

However, much of the existing research has involved test tubes and animals. Existing research on the potential effects of cinnamon on glucose tolerance in humans is mixed[6][7]. One of the first human trials to test this effect found that cinnamon supplementation improved blood lipids[8] and glucose in people with diabetes. However, a 2007 study using similar methods was unable to replicate the original results; researchers found no effect[7] of cinnamon supplementation on outcomes.

In the study under review, researchers sought to add to the limited literature on the matter by examining the effects of cinnamon supplementation on adults with diabetes. By measuring biomarkers of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity as well as markers of antioxidant capacity and oxidative stress, the investigators attempted to measure any beneficial effects of cinnamon in both glucose management and systemic inflammation.

Due to a growing worldwide prevalence of diabetes, researchers are interested in applications of natural foods like cinnamon to control blood sugar and curb inflammation. Current research exists in cells and animals showing that cinnamon can help manage diabetes and has anti-inflammatory properties, but more research in humans is still needed. In the study under review, researchers tested the effects of cinnamon supplementation in adults with diabetes.

Who and what was studied?

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Other Articles in Issue #36 (October 2017)