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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 and prevent progression to diabetes.
Cinnamon May Offer a Surprising Way to Reverse Prediabetes
Cinnamon sticks

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?

Now, an international research team has 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). We did not find a report showing that cinnamon could 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

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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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Citations
  • Hostalek U et al, "Therapeutic use of metformin in prediabetes and diabetes prevention." Drugs, July 2015. DOI: 10.1007/s40265-015-0416-8
  • Cai X et al, "Association between prediabetes and risk of all cause mortality and cardiovascular disease: updated meta-analysis." BMJ, online July 15, 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2297
  • Romeo GR et al, "Influence of cinnamon on glycemic control in subjects with prediabetes: A randomized controlled trial." Journal of the Endocrine Society, July 21, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvaa094
  • Medagama AB, "The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials." Nutrition Journal, Oct. 16, 2015. DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-0098-9
  • Crawford P et al, "Assessment of the effeCt of lIfestyle iNtervention plus water-soluble ciNnAMon extract On loweriNg blood glucose in pre-diabetics, a randomized, double-blind, multicenter, placebo controlled trial: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial." Trials, Jan. 5, 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s13063-015-1138-7
  • Pender DN et al, "Effect of water-soluble cinnamon extract on electrocardiographic parameters: An analysis of the CiNNaMON trial." Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Dec. 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.10.009
  • Hajimonfarednejad M et al, "Cinnamon: A systematic review of adverse events." Clinical Nutrition, April 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.03.013
  • Wang Y-H et al, "Cassia cinnamon as a source of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food and food supplements in the United States." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 8, 2013. DOI: 10.1021/jf4005862
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