“Diabetes” or in simple words is the disease which makes your blood sweeter. It seems good to say it but it’s harmful. This spike in sugar level in your blood is also called “hyperglycemia”.
It is a condition which may be caused due to a lot of reasons such as if you eat more than you need to or if you exercise less than you planned to. It may be also caused if you are under severe stress or if you are suffering from any illness.
Diabetes may be of two types. Type 1: in which the body doesn’t have/ produce enough insulin to lower the blood glucose. Type 2: where the body has enough insulin but it cannot respond to it. The former is seen less in numbers as in only 5% of the population whereas the latter is very common.
Diabetic patients or pre-diabetics usually urinate a lot, drink a lot of water (due to increased thirst), show a marked decrease in body weight, get tired easily and of course have an increased level of glucose in their blood and in their urine.
The disease, when prolonged, may also present with symptoms like slow healing of cuts and sores, vaginal and skin infections, decreased vision, erectile dysfunction, nerve damage, bowel problems, etc.
Now, to find out that your blood glucose levels are higher than the normal or not, get your blood test done. Fasting blood glucose levels (after at least 8 hours of fasting) should be below 130 mg/dl. Post prandial blood glucose levels (2 hours after taking a meal) should not be above 180 mg/dl. In a non-diabetic, PP glucose levels are rarely more than 140 mg/dl. Random blood glucose levels lie in the range of 70-125 mg/dl normally. If the results are consistently higher than the normal range, then you are a diabetic unfortunately.
The high blood glucose levels interfere with the production of insulin as it degrades the ability of the cells of pancreas to produce enough insulin. Pancreas try to compensate by producing more and more insulin in blood gradually damaging itself permanently. This leads to a serious complication called pancreatitis.
Other complications include heart diseases, stroke, kidney diseases, eye illnesses (such as glaucoma and cataracts) and neuropathy or nerve damage.
Diabetes if not treated, may also cause a life-threatening condition called the diabetic coma or called the ketoacidosis.
Here, the body doesn’t have enough insulin; it cannot use the glucose properly, so it depends upon fats for its energy thus breaking down the fats, the end product being the ketones. Ketones accumulate in the blood. The body tries to get rid of the ketones. Some amounts are excreted in the urine but not all of it can be excreted, so it accumulates in the blood causing diabetic ketoacidosis.
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Cinnamon for Diabetes
Cinnamon is the bark of an evergreen tropical tree. It is used as an aromatic spice in several countries. Apart from the aroma and taste it provides to the food, it has various advantages over the health. It may be in the form of quill or ground powder. It is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic and anti-tumor properties.
From lowering your high blood sugar to curing your melanoma, cinnamon has not failed in proving its worth in natural medicine. It is of various types including the Chinese (cassia) cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon and the Verum species. Out of which the Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be the true cinnamon. It is used in a wide range by Sri Lankan people as a part of their daily food.
Verum species is popular elsewhere and Cassia is used in Chinese medicine. Cassia cinnamon is the cinnamon which you may get in every grocery store nearby.
Various studies have already been conducted to investigate the anti-diabetic property of cinnamon. Most of them have quoted the spice beneficial. Though, still research is going on.
Study 1 (1)
Tehran University of Medical sciences in Iran (Dept. of Nutrition) conducted a double blind clinical trial which involved 44 type 2 diabetic patients who either received 3 grams of cinnamon supplement or 3 grams of placebo each day for about 8 weeks. Their personal health information such as their weight, height, BMR and blood pressure was measured after the intervention. Required information such as the fasting blood sugar, insulin, HbA1c (carbohydrate in hemoglobin of blood) and cholesterol was also observed at baseline and the endpoint.
Out of the 44 patients, only 37 completed the study. There was no difference in the baseline features, diet uptake or physical activity in between the two groups.
But the cinnamon group showed significant reduction in blood glucose levels as compared to the baseline and there was no change in the placebo control group.
What it means : Thus the researchers concluded that cinnamon is moderately effective in glycemic control by increasing the insulin sensitivity and decreasing the insulin resistance.
Study 2 (2)
According to one review, researchers collected data from 10 randomized controlled trials conducted on type 2 diabetic patients (543 in total). It was a comparative study between the patients who took cinnamon pills with a dose ranging from 120 milligrams to 6 grams a day for about 4-18 weeks and those who didn’t receive cinnamon.
The pills were advised to be taken before, during or after the meals.
After evaluating all the results, it was found that the patients receiving cinnamon were benefited and not the control group. There was reduction in blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Researchers found that it was the component of cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde responsible for this action.
Study 3 (3)
Another study published in 2009 says that there was significant improvement in HbA1c levels in patients with poorly controlled diabetes when they received 500 mg capsules of cinnamon twice a day daily for about 90 days.
Study 4 (4)
Cinnamon is known to decrease blood glucose levels significantly after a carbohydrate rich diet according to one study published in the Nov. 2012 issue of the journal “Academy of Nutrition and Diabetes”. The study was conducted by the researchers of Ball State University, Muncie.
It involved volunteers with normal weight as well as obese-weight to investigate their post-prandial blood sugar levels. 3 groups were made. Some received a carb rich diet of about 50 g (instant farina cereal). Some received a simple plain one and on the other bright side some received it with 6 g of cinnamon. Blood glucose levels were measured at 0, 15,30,45,60 and 120 minutes. 30 subjects aged between18 to 30 completed the study.
Blood glucose levels so measured were significantly lower in the group which received the cereal with 6 g of cinnamon.
What it means: Thus, the researchers concluded that cinnamon is effective in lowering blood glucose levels after meals by increasing insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon is known to increase the satiety of a person i.e., stops the person from eating more than he should.
Study 5 (5)
US department of agriculture conducted an animal study to investigate the effect of cinnamon extract on the genes that are responsible for the production and utilization of glucose in fat cells. This study was published in the Nov. 2010 issue of the journal “Phytomedicine”. Cinnamon extract (water soluble) was prepared from the ground cinnamon and was added to cultured mouse adipocytes (fat cells).
Cinnamon was observed to lower the blood glucose levels by interfering with the genes that are responsible for the control of glucose absorption and insulin signaling components.
Several studies also state that cinnamon is known to interfere with the absorption of glucose directly. Mentioned in the December 2012 issue of the journal “diabetes medicine”, according to the researchers the cinnamon might inhibit an enzyme that is responsible for the digestion of starch (glucose) thereby decreasing the blood glucose levels.
What can be concluded from the studies?
Based on all the studies and research articles, cinnamon is known to help lower the blood sugar levels in the following 5 ways:
- It improves the blood glucose regulation by simply increasing the glucose metabolism of our body by 20 folds.
- Cinnamon acts as insulin mimetic which helps lower the blood glucose.
- Cinnamon slows down the bowel movements thus there is late emptying of the stomach which leads to decreased blood glucose following the meals.
- Cinnamon acts as an antioxidant as well because of the presence of polyphenols (acc. to a study published in 2009) which helps in improving fasting glucose in overweight people.
- Another component of cinnamon called the “Proanthocyanidin” is known to interfere with the insulin signaling activity in fat cells.
Diabetic patients must always consult their physician first before they start their treatment with cinnamon.
Higher doses may be toxic and lower doses may not treat the condition so the dose range for the consumption of cinnamon according to various studies is between ½-1 tsp. added to your diet or snack or any drink you like.
Precautions and warnings
Before and after administering the diabetic patient with cinnamon in his/her diet, watch for signs of hypoglycemia and stick to less amount in usual. It is always better to consult your physician first before you are planning to include cinnamon in your diet as the anti-diabetic drugs you are prescribed with may need some alterations in their doses.
Cinnamon is recommended to be avoided in cases of pregnancy, breastfeeding and in patients with liver disease. Coumarin present in cinnamon especially cassia cinnamon may aggravate the liver disorder.
Research studies have shown that cinnamon can help people with high blood glucose levels in various ways. It is a great way also because it is natural with little side effects.
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