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What Are Pros and Cons of Cinnamon for Blood Sugar?

Cinnamon can help control blood sugar, but some brands have been contaminated with lead! Learn about the pros and cons of cinnamon.

Millions of American adults have prediabetes. The CDC defines this as having fasting blood sugar over 100 but less than 126 mg/dL, the cut-off for a diagnosis of diabetes. Learning that you have prediabetes can be alarming, but it offers an opportunity to make changes that will reverse the condition and prevent full-blown diabetes. Regular physical activity and a high-nutrient, low-energy diet are central to this effort. Spices and condiments may also contribute to blood sugar control, so you may want to learn about the pros and cons of cinnamon. Many readers like to use it to lower their blood sugar.

A Study of Cinnamon for Blood Sugar:

A new study has tested the effect of daily cinnamon spice supplementation on blood glucose levels (American Journal of Public Health, March, 2024). The 18 overweight volunteers were diagnosed with prediabetes. In this double-blind randomized clinical trial, participants got 4 grams of Indonesian cinnamon or placebo for a month. After a two-week washout period, they then received the other intervention.

The authors report that cinnamon lowered blood sugar relative to placebo and was well tolerated. They describe the 4-gram dose as equivalent in size to a typical sugar packet.

In summary, they write:

“Cinnamon, a widely available and low-cost supplement, may contribute to better glucose control when added to the diet in people who have obesity-related prediabetes.”

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cinnamon?

Q. My blood sugar was 101. I did some reading on the internet and found out that I might be able to reduce it by taking cinnamon.
Every morning, I put less than a teaspoon in my coffee. After a month my blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides all went into the normal range. My blood sugar is now 81.

Pros of Cinnamon:

A. Cinnamon can help lower blood sugar, according to a recent meta-analysis (Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, online Aug. 16, 2019). Scientists studying rats demonstrated that a water-based extract of cinnamon paired with high-intensity exercise can reverse metabolic syndrome (Nutrition, Sep. 2019). In addition, this spice has intriguing anti-cancer activity (European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Sep. 15, 2019).

Cons of Cinnamon:

There could be negative effects from regular cinnamon consumption, however. Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, which can damage the liver. The amounts of this compound are variable, and Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylonicum) does not have any coumarin.

Avoiding Coumarin:

Coumarin is not water-soluble, however. Consequently, if you put ground cinnamon in your disposable coffee filter rather than directly in your coffee, you get the benefits from cinnamon without the danger of coumarin. Don’t try this in a reusable filter; ground cinnamon can create a gummy mess.

Lead in Cinnamon:

A terrible scandal in fall of 2023 involved unacceptably high levels of lead in cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches designed for children. The FDA investigated and three brands were eventually recalled, but not until too many children had suffered from lead poisoning. The agency determined that the cinnamon in the pouches was the source of the lead.

Now, the FDA is warning consumers of elevated lead levels in six brands of ground cinnamon. Lead levels in these spices are not as high as in the contaminated applesauce, but people could still experience harm if they used the spices over an extended time. If you have any of the following brands of cinnamon in your spice rack or drawer, you should discard it: El Chilar, La Fiesta, Marcum, MK, Swad and Supreme Tradition. Discount or low-price stores are the principal merchants for these brands. Here is a link to the FDA’s list of contaminated lots.

If you haven’t bought any of these brands, but you wonder if the brand of cinnamon in your own spice rack is contaminated, you could check ConsumerLab.com. This company tests many spices and almost always looks for lead and arsenic contamination. Its cinnamon analyses also include coumarin levels. There is a subscription fee for the information.

Possible Interactions:

A recent case report warns of the dangers of cinnamon interacting with oral anticoagulants (European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine, online July 19, 2019). An 80-year-old man who had been taking dabigatran (Pradaxa) for atrial fibrillation started taking a solution of cinnamon and ginger. Three days later he was vomiting blood and his stool was black with blood. The doctors were unable to control his intestinal bleeding and he died. There may be other factors that contributed to this tragedy. However, to be prudent, people taking anticoagulant medicines should not use cinnamon as medicine.

You can learn more about using cinnamon and other natural flavoring compounds in our book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs and Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.

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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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  • Zelicha H et al, "Effect of cinnamon spice on continuously monitored glycemic response in adults with prediabetes: a 4-week randomized controlled crossover trial." American Journal of Public Health, March, 2024. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2024.01.008
  • Deyno S et al, "Efficacy and safety of cinnamon in type 2 diabetes mellitus and pre-diabetes patients: A meta-analysis and meta-regression." Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, online Aug. 16, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.diabres.2019.107815
  • Fayaz E et al, "Cinnamon extract combined with high-intensity endurance training alleviates metabolic syndrome via non-canonical WNT signaling." Nutrition, Sep. 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2019.03.009
  • Sadeghi S et al, "Anti-cancer effects of cinnamon: Insights into its apoptosis effects." European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Sep. 15, 2019. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2019.05.067
  • Maadarani O et al, "Adding herbal products to direct-acting oral anticoagulants can be fatal." European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine, online July 19, 2019. doi: 10.12890/2019_001190
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