Q. I am curious about the health value of cinnamon. A year ago, I ran across a Web site suggesting cinnamon to reduce bad LDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. I do not have this disease, but I wanted to improve my LDL with this spice.
I’ve been working to improve my cholesterol levels with exercise and healthy diet. For about 10 years, my typical LDL was 135 while my HDL was 35. My siblings have similar numbers.
This year’s numbers were 114 and 43. My total cholesterol dropped from 192 to 170 and my triglycerides went from 98 to 65. The only change that I did in the last year was to have 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon on my breakfast every morning. I am pleasantly surprised. I like cinnamon and plan to continue taking it regularly. Most members of my family are politely skeptical. Have you seen any research?
A. A randomized placebo-controlled trial was published in Diabetes Care (Dec. 2003). As you report, it involved type 2 diabetics. The scientists found that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Since that study there has been other research to suggest that cinnamon (as well as bitter melon, Gymnema sylvestre, fenugreek, coffee, etc) may play a role in diabetes prevention and blood sugar control (International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Nov. 2011). Another study (Journal of Diabetes, Science and Technology) reported that components in cinnamon can help reduce insulin resistance, a fore-runner to something called metabolic syndrome and ultimately to diabetes.
It is still early days in cinnamon research and physicians are understandably cautious when it comes to recommending a common household spice to treat serious conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol. We have heard from others, however, that a small dose of cinnamon may sometimes help control triglycerides and blood sugar. Higher doses, however, could be hazardous due to liver-damaging coumarin found in cinnamon.
We have compiled research about the healing power of cinnamon and other spices as well as common foods from the kitchen in our book The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.