Diabetes is a disease characterized by abnormally high levels of blood sugar. If it is poorly controlled, it can lead to complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and damage to the nervous system. Treatment for diabetes often includes medications and insulin injections, but many people also choose to choose foods that can help lower blood sugar. An example of this type of food is cinnamon, a spice commonly used that is added to sweet and savory dishes worldwide. It provides many health benefits, including the ability to lower blood sugar and help control diabetes. This article discusses everything you need about cinnamon and its effects to control blood sugar and diabetes.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice derived from the bark of several Cinnamomum tree species. Although cinnamon rolls can be used as a dressing in breakfast cereals, really their main use has been applied for thousands of years in traditional medicine and to preserve food. Cinnamon is obtained by removing the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees. Then, the removed bark is subjected to a drying process, which causes the cinnamon sticks to be snuggled and produced, which can be processed into cinnamon powder. Different varieties of cinnamon are sold in the US, and are usually classified into two types:
- Ceylon:Also called “true cinnamon,” it is the most expensive type.
- Cassia:It is less expensive and is found in most food products that contain cinnamon.
Although both types are sold as cinnamon, there are important differences, which will be discussed later in this article.
Summary: Cinnamon is obtained from the dry bark of Cinnamomum trees, and is usually classified into two varieties.
It Contains Antioxidants That Provide Many Health Benefits:
A quick look at the effects of cinnamon in terms of nutrition could not convince you that such a spice is a superfood. While it does not contain a large amount of vitamins or minerals, it contains large amounts of antioxidants, which generate many health benefits. In fact, a group of scientists compared the antioxidant content of 26 different herbs and spices and concluded that cinnamon had the second highest amount of antioxidants among them (after cloves). Antioxidants are important because they help the body reduce oxidative stress, a type of cell damage caused by free radicals. One study showed that consuming 500 mg of cinnamon extract daily for 12 weeks decreased a marker of oxidative stress by 14% in adults with prediabetes. This is significant, since oxidative stress has been implicated in the development of almost all chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
Summary: Cinnamon does not contain many vitamins or minerals, but is loaded with antioxidants that decrease oxidative stress. This can be a powerful protection against diabetes.
May Mimic Insulin and Increase Insulin Sensitivity:
In people with diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, or the cells do not respond to insulin correctly, leading to high blood sugar levels.
“Cinnamon can help lower blood sugar and fight diabetes by mimicking the effects of insulin, and also promotes the transport of glucose to cells”.
It can also help lower blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity, making insulin more efficient by transporting glucose to cells. A study in seven men showed that cinnamon increased insulin sensitivity immediately after consumption, the effect lasted at least 12 hours. In another study, eight men also showed increases in insulin sensitivity after two weeks of using cinnamon supplements.
Summary: Cinnamon can lower blood sugar by mimicking inulin, promoting the ability of insulin to transport blood sugar to cells.
Reduces Fasting Blood Sugar and May Decrease Hemoglobin A1c:
Several controlled studies have shown that cinnamon is an excellent option to reduce fasting blood sugar. A review of 543 people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming cinnamon was associated with an average decrease of more than 24 mg / dL (1.33 mmol / L). Although the results of these studies are quite clear, studies investigating the effects of cinnamon on hemoglobin A1c, which is a measure of the long-term control of blood sugar, have produced conflicting results. Some studies report significant decreases in hemoglobin A1c, while others report no effect. The contradictory results may be partially generated by different amounts of cinnamon administered or lack of prior control of blood sugar of the participants.
Summary: Cinnamon shows some promise in reducing blood sugar. However, its effects on hemoglobin A1c are less clear.
Decrease Blood Sugar Levels After Meals:
Depending on the amount of food and carbohydrates you eat, blood sugar levels can increase considerably after eating. These fluctuations in blood sugar can increase levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, which usually do a lot of damage to the body’s cells and put it at risk of chronic diseases. Cinnamon can help keep these blood sugar spikes under control after meals. Some researchers say this happens because cinnamon slows the rate at which food passes from the stomach to the intestines. One study found that after eating rice pudding without cinnamon, 1.2 teaspoons (6 grams) of cinnamon was supplied in a serving of rice pudding, decreased the rate of gastric emptying and lowered high blood sugar levels. Other studies suggest that blood sugar may decrease after meals by blocking digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates in the small intestine.
Summary: Cinnamon can lower blood sugar after meals, possibly by reducing the speed of gastric emptying and by blocking digestive enzymes.
May Decrease the Risk of Common Diabetes Complications:
This spice does more than lower fasting blood sugar and decrease blood sugar spikes after meals. It can also reduce the risk of common diabetes complications. People with diabetes have twice the risk of heart disease as people without diabetes. Cinnamon can help reduce this risk by improving the risk factors linked to heart disease. A review of controlled studies in people with type 2 diabetes found that consuming cinnamon was associated with an average decrease in LBD (low density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol by 9.4 mg / dL (0.24 mmol / L) and a decrease in triglycerides of 29.6 mg / dl Mmol / L). An average increase of 1.7 mg / dL (0.044 mmol / L) of LAD (high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol was also reported. In addition, another study found that the use of supplements with two grams of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduced both systolic or high blood pressure (when the heart contracts) and diastolic or low (when the heart relaxes to fill with blood). Interestingly, diabetes has also been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, moreover, many people now refer to Alzheimer’s disease as “type 3 diabetes.” Some studies suggest that cinnamon extract may decrease the ability of two proteins – Œ≤-amyloid (beta-amyloid) and tau – to form plaques and tangles, which are generally linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However, this research has only been completed in test tubes and animals. More studies in humans are needed to confirm these findings.
Summary: Cinnamon can help reduce the risk of diabetes-related diseases, such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ceylon vs. Cassia: Which is Better?
Cinnamon is usually grouped into two types: Ceylon and Cassia. Cassia cinnamon can be derived from some different species of Cinnamomum trees. Generally, it is economical and is found in most food products and in most spice stores. Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is specifically derived from the Cinnamomum Verum tree or cinnamon tree, known as cinnamon. It is usually more expensive and less common than Cassia cinnamon, and studies have shown that Ceylon cinnamon contains more antioxidants. Because it contains more antioxidants, it is possible that Ceylon cinnamon may provide more health benefits. However, although several studies in animals and in test tubes have highlighted the benefits of Ceylon cinnamon, most studies that demonstrate health benefits in humans have used the Cassia variety.
Summary: Both varieties of cinnamon probably lower blood sugar levels and fight diabetes, but studies in humans are still needed to confirm that the Ceylon type provides more benefits than the Cassia type.
Some People Must Be Cautious with Cassia Cinnamon:
Cassia cinnamon is not only lower in antioxidants compared to the Ceylon type, but also has a high content of a potentially dangerous substance called coumarin, an organic substance found in many plants. Several studies in mice have shown that coumarin can be toxic to the liver, leading to concern that it can also cause liver damage in humans. Consequently, the European Food Safety Authority has set the tolerable daily intake of coumarin at 0.1 mg per kilogram of body weight (0.045 mg / pound). Using the average coumarin levels for Cassia cinnamon, this would amount to approximately one half teaspoon (2.5 grams) of Cassia cinnamon per day for an individual of 165 pounds (75 kg). As you can see, Cassia cinnamon is particularly high in coumarin, and you can easily consume more than the upper limit by taking Cassia cinnamon supplements or even eating large amounts of it in food. However, Ceylon cinnamon contains a much smaller amount of coumarin, and it would be difficult to consume more than the recommended amount of coumarin with this type of cinnamon. In addition, people with diabetes who take medication or insulin should be careful when adding cinnamon to their daily diet. Integrating cinnamon when following a treatment for diabetes can generate the risk of having very low blood sugar levels, which is known as hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is a life-threatening disease, and it is recommended to speak with a doctor about the incorporation of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. Finally, children, pregnant women and others with extensive medical histories should talk to their doctors to see if the benefits of cinnamon outweigh the risks.
Summary: Cassia cinnamon is high in coumarin, which can cause liver damage. In addition, people with diabetes should consider the risk of hypoglycemia when they consume large amounts of cinnamon.
How much Cinnamon Should Be Taken?
The benefits of cinnamon to lower blood sugar have been well studied. However, despite this, no consensus has been reached on how much cinnamon should be consumed to obtain the benefits, avoiding potential risks. Studies have typically used recommendations of 1 to 6 grams per day, either as a supplement or as a powder added to food. One study reported that blood sugar levels decreased the same amount in people who took between 1, 3 and 6 grams daily. Since people with smaller doses had the same benefits as with larger doses, it may not be necessary to take large doses. In addition, a number of studies have shown that the coumarin content of Cassia cinnamon can vary. Therefore, it would be wise not to exceed 0.5 to 1 gram of cinnamon per day to avoid exceeding the tolerable daily intake of coumarin. For a greater degree of caution it is advisable to opt for Ceylon cinnamon. You can consume up to 1.2 teaspoons (6 grams) a day, and in this way it is safe in regards to the coumarin content.
Summary: It is advisable to limit the consumption of Cassia cinnamon from 0.5 to 1 gram per day. Ceylon cinnamon can be consumed in higher amounts, although it may not be necessary.
Many studies have shown that cinnamon has the ability to lower blood sugar and helps control the common complications of diabetes, among other health benefits. If you want to take cinnamon supplements or add it to meals to help lower blood sugar, it would be wise to use Ceylon cinnamon instead of Cassia cinnamon. It may be more expensive, but Ceylon cinnamon contains more antioxidants and lower amounts of coumarin, which can cause liver damage. It is better not to exceed 0.5 to 1 gram of Cassia daily, but it is safe to take up to 1.2 teaspoons (6 grams) of Ceylon cinnamon daily.