Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cinnamon, Blood Sugar, & Triglyceride Levels

I just finished reading Michael Krondl's The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice (click on the link to order a copy from Amazon), and I enjoyed it very much.  It's a history of the international spice trade, but written by a foodie.  In the epilog, he mentions a study by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service that cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels.

Sure enough: there is a surprising number of studies that have demonstrated that cinnamon reduces not only blood glucose levels, but also triglyceride levels as well.

From Diabetes Care:

OBJECTIVE—The objective of this study was to determine whether cinnamon improves blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—A total of 60 people with type 2 diabetes, 30 men and 30 women aged 52.2 ± 6.32 years, were divided randomly into six groups. Groups 1, 2, and 3 consumed 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon daily, respectively, and groups 4, 5, and 6 were given placebo capsules corresponding to the number of capsules consumed for the three levels of cinnamon. The cinnamon was consumed for 40 days followed by a 20-day washout period.
RESULTS—After 40 days, all three levels of cinnamon reduced the mean fasting serum glucose (18–29%), triglyceride (23–30%), LDL cholesterol (7–27%), and total cholesterol (12–26%) levels; no significant changes were noted in the placebo groups. Changes in HDL cholesterol were not significant.
CONCLUSIONS—The results of this study demonstrate that intake of 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon per day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and suggest that the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
From the Journal of Ethnopharmacology:
The anti-diabetic effect of Cinnamomi cassiae extract (Cinnamon bark: Lauraceae) in a type II diabetic animal model (C57BIKsj db/db) was studied. Cinnamon extract was administered at different dosages (50, 100, 150 and 200 mg/kg) for 6 weeks. It was found that blood glucose concentration is significantly decreased in a dose-dependent manner (P < 0.001) with the most in the 200 mg/kg group compared with the control. In addition, serum insulin levels and HDL–cholesterol levels were significantly higher (P < 0.01) and the concentration of triglyceride, total cholesterol and intestinal α-glycosidase activity were significantly lower after 6 weeks of the administration. These results suggest that cinnamon extract has a regulatory role in blood glucose level and lipids and it may also exert a blood glucose-suppressing effect by improving insulin sensitivity or slowing absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine.
From Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition:
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of supplementation with a water-soluble cinnamon extract (Cinnulin PF®) on body composition and features of the metabolic syndrome. Methods: Twenty-two subjects with prediabetes and the metabolic syndrome (mean ± SD: age, BMI, systolic blood pressure [SBP], fasting blood glucose [FBG]: 46.0 ± 9.7 y; 33.2 ± 9.3 kg/m2; 133 ± 17 mm Hg; 114.3 ± 11.6 mg/dL) were randomly assigned to supplement their diet with either Cinnulin PF® (500 mg/d) or a placebo for 12-weeks. Main outcome measures were changes in FBG, SBP, and body composition measured after 12-weeks of supplementation. The primary statistical analyses consisted of two factor (group x time), repeated-measures ANOVA for between group differences over time. In all analyses, an intent-to-treat approach was used and significance was accepted at P<0.05. Results: Subjects in the Cinnulin PF® group had significant decreases in FBG (-8.4%: 116.3 ± 12.8 mg/dL [pre] to 106.5 ± 20.1 mg/dL [post], p<0.01), SBP (-3.8%: 133 ± 14 mm Hg [pre] to 128 ± 18 mm Hg [post], p<0.001), and increases in lean mass (+1.1%: 53.7 ± 11.8 kg [pre] to 54.3 ± 11.8 kg [post], p<0.002) compared with the placebo group. Additionally, within-group analyses uncovered small, but statistically significant decreases in body fat (-0.7%: 37.9 ± 9.2 % [pre] to 37.2 ± 8.9 % [post], p<0.02) in the Cinnulin PF® group. No significant changes in clinical blood chemistries were observed between groups over time. Conclusions: These data support the efficacy of Cinnulin PF® supplementation on reducing FBG and SBP, and improving body composition in men and women with the metabolic syndrome and suggest that this naturally-occurring spice can reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 3(2): 45 – 53, 2006.
And there are many others.  It seems like anyone struggling with blood pressure or cholesterol problems would benefit from increasing their cinnamon intake.  Okay, I admit that my preferred method of consuming cinnamon is in cinnamon rolls, which would certainly defeat any benefit derived from the cinnamon, but it does make me wonder if there might be some worthwhile ways to add cinnamon to my diet in less sugar intensive forms.

Perhaps the saddest part of this is that cinnamon is, so to speak, already generic.  There is no big money to be made selling cinnamon as a drug, and I am quite sure that if cinnamon importers started advertising the health benefits of it, the FDA would shut them down in a heartbeat, as they did to General Mills for promoting Cheerios for the mild cardiovascular benefits that an oat-based cereal provides.  Of course, you can buy cinnamon (and cinnamon extracts) from Amazon.


  1. 500 mg of Cinnulin. I wonder how much actual cinnamon powder that is.

  2. Be aware that most of what is sold as Cinnamon is actually Cassia.