Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found.
The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problem but are unaware of it.
The discovery was initially made by accident, by Richard Anderson at the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.
“We were looking at the effects of common foods on blood sugar,” he told New Scientist. One was the American favourite, apple pie, which is usually spiced with cinnamon. “We expected it to be bad. But it helped,” he says.
Sugars and starches in food are broken down into glucose, which then circulates in the blood. The hormone insulin makes cells take in the glucose, to be used for energy or made into fat.
But people with Type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin. Those with Type 2 diabetes produce it, but have lost sensitivity to it. Even apparently healthy people, especially if they are overweight, sedentary or over 25, lose sensitivity to insulin. Having too much glucose in the blood can cause serious long-term damage to eyes, kidneys, nerves and other organs…
…The cinnamon has additional benefits. In the volunteers, it lowered blood levels of fats and “bad” cholesterol, which are also partly controlled by insulin. And in test tube experiments it neutralised free radicals, damaging chemicals which are elevated in diabetics.
“I don’t recommend eating more cinnamon buns, or even more apple pie – there’s too much fat and sugar,” says Anderson. “The key is to add cinnamon to what you would eat normally.”
(New Scientist, Nov 2003)