Q. I’d like some advice on blood sugar. At present I am not a diabetic. My blood glucose is 125 and my hemoglobin A1C is 5.7, which puts me in the high normal range.
I do not take any medication, but I’ve heard that cinnamon might help control blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity. When I mentioned this to friends they were skeptical and said that only prescription drugs would help. Do you think taking cinnamon might be beneficial for me?
A. Doctors have recently become interested in helping people with “pre-diabetes” reverse their risk factors. According to most criteria, you would qualify as prediabetic. Some doctors would actually diagnose you as diabetic and prescribe medication.
A study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes found that one gram of cinnamon daily (about a quarter of teaspoon) lowered blood sugar, triglycerides and total cholesterol (Diabetes Care, Dec. 2003). Cinnamon helps insulin work more efficiently, and it has only 3 calories in a gram.
Dr. Richard Anderson of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland suggests that prediabetics may be able to delay or prevent development of the disease with regular, small doses of cinnamon. Although cinnamon might be toxic in high doses, a gram of cinnamon a day in tea, coffee or other food could be just what the doctor should order.
The use of cinnamon by people with type 2 diabetes has become controversial. Some studies have not demonstrated improvement. Others have shown “improvements in cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and postprandial glucose levels with cinnamon.” (Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, Nov. 16, 2011).
We like to put cinnamon in with our coffee grounds so that we can get a water-extracted component of cinnamon. This reduces a contaminant, coumarin, that could be toxic.
If you would like to learn more about cinnamon and other foods that are especially good for controlling blood sugar, we suggest that you look over our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies from National Geographic. You will learn about the secret properties of Nopal cactus, bitter melon, mustard, nuts, and vinegar. There are also recipes and a low-glycemic diet that can be especially helpful for those with borderline diabetes.