Cinnamon May Prove Useful for Diabetes

Spice's Ingredients Might Help Control Blood Sugar; No Food 'Prescription' Yet By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
on Tuesday, April 04, 2006
April 4, 2006 -- Cinnamon has jumped from the kitchen to the science lab as scientists study the common spice's potential effects on diabetes.

Cinnamon appears to fight inflammation and help insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. That news comes from researchers including Richard Anderson, PhD, CNS, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md.

Anderson and colleagues presented two papers on cinnamon at the Experimental Biology 2006 meeting, held in San Francisco. In both studies, researchers did lab tests in an effort to find cinnamon's active ingredient that might affect diabetes. They didn't test cinnamon on people or animals in either study.

Cinnamon in the Lab

One of Anderson's studies focused on cinnamon's insulin-like effects. In lab tests, Anderson's team found that cinnamon contains antioxidants called polyphenols that boost levels of three key proteins.

Those proteins are important in insulin signaling, glucose (blood sugar) transport, and inflammatory response, the researchers write. That study was partially funded by PhytoMedical Technologies, a company involved in pharmaceutical research on plant-based products, including cinnamon.

The second study probed cinnamon's chemistry. The researchers found and extracted a natural compound in cinnamon that they think may have insulin-like properties. The compound is a proanthocyanidin, which is a type of polyphenol.

Previous Work

Previously, Anderson tested cinnamon on people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes patients took varying daily doses of cinnamon for 40 days. The doses were larger than levels typically used in food.

The patients' insulin sensitivity improved during the study. No differences were seen among the three doses of cinnamon.

Twenty days after the patients stopped taking cinnamon, those effects were fading but were still significant, meaning that they didn't seem to be due to chance, according to the study. Those findings were presented at the fourth International Congress Dietary Antioxidants and Trace Elements, held in Monastir, Tunisia, in April 2005.

SOURCES: Experimental Biology 2006, San Francisco, April 1-5, 2006. Agriculture Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Research Project: Chromium and Polyphenols from Cinnamon in the Prevention and Alleviation of Glucose Intolerance." News release, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.