Amy Reeder is a certified diabetes educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a certified diabetes educator since 2007.
Cinnamon is a tasty element of both sweet and savory foods. But is cinnamon also a medicine for the treatment of diabetes? Is it as easy as eating cinnamon and watching your blood glucose decrease? Most healthcare providers would answer “no” to those questions. So what does science say?
Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees native to China, India, and Southeast Asia. It has a long history in folklore of use as a medicine for everything from gastrointestinal disorders to bronchitis to diabetes.
Study results of cinnamon and diabetes
Studies have been done to examine the blood-glucose-lowering effects of cinnamon, but conflicting results have made it difficult to produce a solid recommendation for cinnamon supplementation. Some studies show cinnamon may be helpful as a supplement to regular diabetes treatment for people with type 2 diabetes, yet other studies do not show cinnamon as beneficial at all.
A meta-analysis (study used to compare the effectiveness of healthcare interventions) published in the Diabetes Care professional journal concluded that the use of cinnamon does not appear to improve A1c or fasting blood glucose in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
An often-quoted, more recent study published in 2009 found that cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved A1c in people with A1c levels greater than seven percent. Most healthcare professionals, however, agree that more information is needed before they can make cinnamon treatment recommendations. More studies involving human subjects are needed to be able to establish whether there is or isn’t a correlation between cinnamon and its blood-sugar-lowering properties in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
There is certainly no harm in eating cinnamon, and if it might help lower blood sugar, go ahead and add it to the foods you eat. Using cinnamon in amounts commonly found in foods is considered safe.
There are hundreds of types of cinnamon, but only four are used for commercial purposes today: Ceylon, Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje. Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje cinnamon are all classified as Cassia cinnamon because they have very similar properties. One of those properties is that they naturally contain a high content of coumarin, which can cause liver damage if ingested in high amounts. The cinnamon you see in the spice racks at your grocery store are usually a combination of the four types of cinnamon listed above and are safe to consume and use in recipes.
The National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine say that cinnamon appears to be safe for most people when taken by mouth in amounts up to six grams every day for six weeks or less. Be advised, however, that some people may experience an allergic reaction to cinnamon.
Cinnamon and diabetes treatment
Cinnamon should not be used in place of the medical care established by your doctor, especially if you have diabetes. And always tell your healthcare providers if you are taking cinnamon or any other dietary supplement as part of your diabetes treatment plan.
There’s no risk in eating cinnamon, and the spice has other health benefits besides possibly helping lower glucose levels. So sprinkle a little cinnamon on your oatmeal or mix a pinch in your spaghetti sauce and enjoy!