Cinnamon is a sweet and pungent spice that is derived from the bark of the cinnamon trees.
- Its use spans across thousands of years in ancient Indian, Chinese, and South American civilizations. It has multiple medicinal properties, and one of them being anti-diabetic.
- Cinnamon is sold in many forms, including cinnamon sticks, powder, tea, oil, and tablet supplements (cinnamon extract).
- Overall, approximately 250 species have been identified among the cinnamon genus, with trees being scattered all over the world.
However, two main varieties:
- Ceylon/’True’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum )
- Chinese Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum), are the most widely available varieties having blood sugar-lowering effects.
However, Cassia has been better studied in humans.
- Cassia cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, also called Cinnamomum aromaticum.
- It originates in Southern China and is also known as Chinese cinnamon.
- 95% of its oil is cinnamaldehyde, which gives Cassia a very strong, spicy flavor.
- Ceylon cinnamon is a high-quality, highly prized spice. Between 50–63% of its oil is cinnamaldehyde, which explains its mild flavor.
Evidence for use
Various studies have been done till now on the use of cinnamon in diabetes. A few are described in brief below:
A study published in Diabetes Care in 2003 studied the effect of cinnamon cassia in 60 patients with doses of 1, 3 and 6 g versus placebo for 40 days suggested a reduction in the mean fasting serum glucose (18–29%), triglyceride (23–30%), LDL cholesterol (7–27%), and total cholesterol (12–26%) levels compared to placebo. (1). All doses benefitted equally.
Vance Chonbic et al., (2005) studied the effect of cinnamon on blood glucose of 25 people with type II diabetes during menopause and showed that there was no significant difference in terms of FBS, glycosylated hemoglobin, glucose tolerance test, insulin concentration and serum lipids concentration on using 1.5 g cinnamon for 6 weeks. (2)
Steave Belvin et al. (2007) reported that using cinnamon 1 g daily for 3 months had no significant effect on glucose, lipid, and HbAlc levels in type II diabetics. (3)
Another study in 2013 in Iran on 70 patients (35 on cinnamon v/s 35 on placebo) suggested that there was no significant difference in FBS and glycosylated hemoglobin levels between the two groups end of 60 days. (4)
No research has compared the health benefits of Ceylon and cassia cinnamon. Most studies have been done with the cassia variety.
A meta-analysis on Ceylon Cinnamon concluded that in in-vitro and few in-vivo promotes better glycaemic control and healthy lipid parameters, reduces insulin resistance, potentiates the action of insulin, and improves common complications associated with diabetes. (5)
In general, no major side effects in the usual doses. Cassia contains a lot of coumarins, which can be toxic in large quantities. It is much safer to choose Ceylon if you eat a lot of cinnamon.
Using cinnamon in type II diabetes patients cannot be recommended currently, and more studies are needed in the future.
- Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003;26:3215–8
- Vanschoonbeek K, Thomassen BJ, Senden JM, Wodzig W, van Loon LJ. Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients. Am Soc Nutr. 2006;136:977–80.
- Blevins SM, Leyva MJ, Brown J, Wright J, Scofield RH, Aston CE. Effect of cinnamon on glucose and lipid levels in non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2007;30:2236–7
- Hasanzade F, Toliat M, Emami SA, Emamimoghaadam Z. The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose of Type II Diabetes Patients. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013;3(3):171-174. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.114900
- Ranasinghe P, Jayawardana R, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, de Vas Gunawardana N, Katulanda P. Efficacy and safety of 'true' cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2012;29(12):1480-1492. doi:10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03718.x)