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Cinnamon May Offer a Surprising Way to Reverse Prediabetes

A small placebo-controlled trial found that some people taking cinnamon capsules were able to reverse prediabetes.

Prediabetes is an often-undiagnosed condition that frequently leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. In the past, scientists have found that intensive lifestyle changes or medications such as metformin can reverse prediabetes to forestall frank diabetes (Drugs, July 2015).

Can a Spice Help Reverse Prediabetes?

One reader has been using Ceylon cinnamon in an effort to reverse prediabetes. Here’s her story.

Q. After reading an article you wrote about cinnamon, I started adding one half teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon to the dry coffee grounds in my 4-cup brew pot daily. That’s my daily ration of half-caf coffee.

Before that, my A1C had risen to nearly 6. Consequently, I was prediabetic but I do not want to take metformin. I will have my A1C checked again in several months and hopefully it will be lower.

Thank you for offering alternatives to medications. In my opinion, they often come with too many side effects for my comfort.

A. Controlling blood glucose is crucial for good health. Thus, there’s good reason to expect your daily dose of cinnamon will help you reverse prediabetes (Clinical Nutrition, April 2019).

This effect was first reported from a clinical trial conducted almost 20 years ago (Diabetes Care, Dec. 2003).  Ceylon cinnamon is a wise choice, since it does not affect the liver as cassia cinnamon, the most common form of this spice, can (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Dec. 28, 2017).

You can learn more about cinnamon and other natural approaches for blood sugar control in our book, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. Keep monitoring your blood glucose and HbA1C.

Research on Cinnamon to Reverse Prediabetes:

To explore this question, an international research team conducted a study in the US and in South Korea. They showed that cinnamon might keep prediabetes from becoming diabetes (Journal of the Endocrine Society, July 21, 2020). The randomized controlled trial included 54 volunteers with prediabetes. That is, their fasting blood glucose measurements fell between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL. Such levels are higher than is healthy, but not quite over the diabetes threshold.

What the Volunteers Did:

Three times a day, the participants took either placebo capsules or capsules with 500 mg of cinnamon. (The investigators used 300 mg of a cinnamon extract and 200 mg of Cinnamomum burmannii powder from Solgar.) After three months, people taking cinnamon had lower blood sugar levels. People on placebo had no changes in their blood sugar levels.

In addition, people in the cinnamon treatment group had slightly lower HbA1c levels at the end of the study. HbA1c is a measure of blood sugar over time. People taking cinnamon had average HbA1c of 5.98 at the start of the study, which dropped to 5.85 by the end. Placebo users had no change in HbA1c. Ultimately, cinnamon users also had lower levels of glycated albumin (GA), another long-term measure of blood glucose. Fortunately, none of the volunteers reported any serious reactions.

Why You Want to Reverse Prediabetes:

Prediabetes has become far more common in recent decades. Currently, more than a third of both American and Chinese people fit this definition. A recent meta-analysis of 129 studies indicates that people with prediabetes are more prone to cardiovascular complications and more likely to die prematurely (BMJ, online July 15, 2020).

These studies covered approximately ten million participants in Europe, North America and Asia. Identifying and treating the metabolic disruption, particularly before people develop type 2 diabetes, could have a big impact. After all, if people are able to reverse prediabetes, they may avoid some of the subsequent heart attacks and strokes that take such a toll.

The researchers conclude:

“Screening and appropriate management of prediabetes might contribute to primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

Other Research on Cinnamon:

These promising results are not the first to suggest cinnamon might help people control their blood glucose.

One review (Nutrition Journal, Oct. 16, 2015) found:

“Cinnamon has the potential to be a useful add-on therapy in the discipline of integrative medicine in managing type 2 diabetes.”

A well-designed year-long study examined the effects of cinnamon extract together with intensive exercise and diet counseling (Trials, Jan. 5, 2016). In the course of this study, the scientists confirmed that cinnamon did not change electrocardiograms (Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Dec. 2018). Unfortunately, neither of these reports demonstrated that cinnamon would reverse prediabetes.

Side Effects of Cinnamon to Reverse Prediabetes:

A review of published results show that cinnamon can sometimes cause stomach upset or allergic reactions (Clinical Nutrition, April 2019). Otherwise, it appears to be fairly safe. The reviewers caution their readers, however, that long-term high-dose use may have unanticipated effects.

We worry that people taking cassia cinnamon regularly might be exposed to excess amounts of coumarin (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 8, 2013). Large amounts of this naturally occurring compound can harm the liver. As a result, Ceylon cinnamon is a better choice. It contains negligible amounts of coumarin.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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