You may never have thought much about controlling your blood sugar unless your doctor said you should. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it. In fact, about 10 percent of Americans have diabetes. Roughly 95 percent of those individuals have type 2 diabetes, in which the body still makes insulin but fails to respond well to it. Many people are seeking ways to get their blood sugar under control. Could cinnamon help you manage your blood sugar?
Might Cinnamon Help You With Blood Sugar Control?
Q. I have seen reports about taking organic Ceylon cinnamon for blood sugar. My A1C was 6.7 and my doctor wanted to put me on medication for diabetes.
I have AFIB and take Xarelto and verapamil already, so I said no. I also take a tart cherry pill for gout, and my doctor said that was OK.
What is your opinion about cinnamon? It seems risky to me, yet I don’t want to go on medication.
A. For years, researchers have been considering whether cinnamon might help with blood sugar control. Relying on cinnamon without tracking your blood glucose or your HbA1c could be risky. You wouldn’t know whether or not you were maintaining healthy levels.
Science on Cinnamon and Blood Sugar:
A recent meta-analysis of 16 placebo-controlled studies found that cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes (Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Oct. 2019). It did not have a significant effect on HbA1c or lipid profiles. This is not the final word, however. Brazilian clinicians are planning a randomized placebo-controlled study of cinnamon for people with type 2 diabetes (Medicine, Jan. 2020).
As you know, HbA1c is the way doctors measure glycosylated hemoglobin. They use it to get a longitudinal picture of blood sugar over several weeks’ time. Healthy people usually have a level of HbA1c below 5.7 percent.
If you decide to try Ceylon cinnamon, do discuss this with your physician. You will need to monitor your blood glucose and HbA1c regularly to determine if the cinnamon is working properly. So far as we can tell, it should not interact with your other medicines.
Which Cinnamon Will Help You Most?
Other readers, possibly even you, have become confused about the different types of cinnamon available. Which one should you choose? Here’s how one person put the question.
Q. I ordered organic Ceylon cinnamon online. As I understand it, that type doesn’t contain nearly as much coumarin as the cassia type. Can you address the different types of cinnamon, and which is best?
A. Although research has shown that cinnamon can help keep blood sugar under control, especially for those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, there are several species of cinnamon. The most common one on the spice rack is Cinnamomum cassia, also known as cassia or Chinese cinnamon. This species often has significant levels of coumarin in its bark. Although it is a natural compound and not a contaminant, at high doses it can be toxic to the liver (Food Chemistry, July 15, 2008). The related species, C. loureiroi and C. burmannii, also contain coumarin. One reader sent a testimonial several years ago that was rather alarming. Flavoring your food with cinnamon wouldn’t normally pose a problem, but taking cinnamon every day to help manage blood sugar could result in a higher dose.
Choosing Ceylon Cinnamon:
On the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon, called C. verum or C. zeylanicum, has very little if any coumarin. Ceylon cinnamon is most effective overall in controlling blood sugar (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, Dec. 2019).
ConsumerLab.com recently tested cinnamon products. The Whole Foods house brand 365 Ground Cinnamon, McCormick Ground Cinnamon and FGO Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder all did well. The top-performing supplement was Swanson Cinnulin PF Cinnamon Extract. You can learn a good bit more about a range of products by subscribing for the complete report.
What Dose Is Effective?
Q. I’ve just bought a pound of Ceylon cinnamon, since that is supposed to have the least coumarin and be best for lowering blood sugar. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything on dosage — just that “too high doses are risky.” Do you have specific recommendations? I am a woman of 67 who needs to lose about 30 pounds.
A. A pound of Ceylon cinnamon should last you many months. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 35 clinical trials found that doses of 1.5 grams or more of cinnamon lowered total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and serum glucose and insulin (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, March 19, 2021).
We were curious how to measure 1.5 grams of powdered cinnamon, so we got out our sensitive kitchen scales. Our ‘experiment’ showed that ¼ teaspoon weighed just over 2.5 grams (2.6 in one try, 2.8 in another, discrepancy no doubt due to kitchen measurement technique). As a result, we conclude that ¼ teaspoon cinnamon daily would be enough to help you lower your blood sugar, along with a sensible low-carb diet.
Please have your healthcare provider monitor your progress.You are correct that Ceylon cinnamon has the least coumarin, a compound found in some cinnamon bark that can be toxic to the liver (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, Dec. 2019). Overall, Ceylon cinnamon has the best activity profile for controlling blood sugar.
To learn more about the health benefits of spices like cinnamon, you may wish to consult our book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life. Besides cinnamon, you’ll be able to read about using turmeric and other spices to help you keep your blood sugar under control. In addition, our eGuide to Preventing & Treating Diabetes offers information about natural approaches to controlling blood sugar.