Does cinnamon help diabetes? My knee-jerk reaction to this topic is “of course it is.”
It is natural, it is a spice, and its flavor is gorgeous. My reaction comes from decades of reading nutrition research. A huge body of research points to the fact that spices have amazing health benefits.
Most substances that carry the trifecta of being 1: a natural substance, 2: a spice, and 3: carrying intense flavor are also very healthy. I can be quick to endorse natural foods, so I decided to dig deeper.
What’s the proof?
Type 2 Diabetes is multi-faceted, often causing organ impairment over time and increases risk most other chronic diseases.
Diabetes would be great if it was just about blood sugar, but it isn’t.
High insulin levels, inflammation, altered fat metabolism are lingering behind the scenes as well, causing damage.
Cinnamon: Does It Get To The Root Cause of Diabetes?
Enter cinnamon. Could one spice help attack and change the direction of this disease?
Many products on the market gear towards cinnamon’s benefits.
People claim it helps them feel better, reduces blood glucose, and takes away their sugar cravings.
Cinnamon may help more than just blood glucose and other harmful markers like cholesterol; it has positive effects on other less-measured root causes of illness including:
- Digestive issues
- Insulin imbalance
Intriguing indeed. But does the science yet support its use enough to start supplementing?
It depends: Read on to learn more about cinnamon and what we know today.
The first important fact about cinnamon is that you need to choose the right type.
A common flaw that I see over and over in research study design is the failure to include type of cinnamon used and descriptions of patients’ diets.
Longer-term studies seem to show more benefit with cinnamon supplementation than shorter term studies.
Another important fact: No single food, spice, herb or drug will ever fix the problems caused by a fast-food and processed, junk-food lifestyle. Period.
Cinnamon is no stranger to health claims. It has been used as part of treating infections, stomach and lung ailments and more as far back as history can track(1).
The few rich people who could afford it in ancient times even used it for embalming in ancient Egypt because it is a great preservative.
It was highly prized, even more so than gold, and used as gifts for monarchs.
Cinnamon is native to India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh.
Not one, but multiple types of cinnamon commonly are sold today (2). The most common culinary variety available in the United States is cassia cinnamon.
In research studies, two types are used most often and include Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon) and cassia cinnamon.
Ceylon is the best variety to use in supplemental doses.
Ceylon cinnamon, preferred for its safety, is referred to as “true” cinnamon. It also is a bit more expensive.
If you are confused by a label, don’t worry. If it doesn’t say Ceylon, it may not be the type you want. It is probably cassia. Make sure to scroll to the bottom to find out about dangers of cassia cinnamon.
Keep in mind, many of the studies that I will present to you did not specify the type of cinnamon used. Some did use cassia, the more risky kind of cinnamon, and didn’t see harmful effects.
How Might Cinnamon Help Diabetes?
Other benefits of cinnamon:
- May slow down carbohydrate absorption by inhibiting pancreatic enzyme release. This, in turn, may reduce the blood sugar spike related to carbohydrates(5) (6).
- Appears to reduce blood glucose levels, even with as little as 1 gram per day (7).
- Regulates genes associated with insulin sensitivity and fat storage (8).
- May help fight candida, a type of fungal infection. Diabetes puts people at-risk of increase candida infections (9) (10).
- Acts as an insulin mimetic, or allows glucose into the cell similarly to insulin(11).
- May improve feelings of fullness from food (satiety) with additive benefits of vinegar (12).
Does Cinnamon Reduce Blood Glucose?
Cinnamon may improve glucose levels between 18-29% after supplementation (13).
It may even help those with poor glycemic control, but has a more modest effect of about 10% improvement in glucose (14).
Even in healthy, lean men, cinnamon reduced total plasma glucose after an oral glucose tolerance test, as well as improved insulin sensitivity (15).
One study did not find benefit from cinnamon on blood glucose for postmenopausal women with diabetes, but the study only supplemented for a very short duration (6 weeks). Cassia cinnamon was used in this case. (16).
A recent study also failed to show any benefit of cinnamon in diabetes patients over an 8 week period (although did approach statistical significance).
However, type of cinnamon wasn’t specified in the study and diet was not assessed, which are flaws (17).
A 16 week study proved more beneficial.
It found that cinnamon (type not specified) markers of diabetes and diabetes risk factors, including blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, waist size, BMI, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL cholesterol when compared to placebo.(18).
Does Cinnamon Reduce Inflammation?
It may also improve muscle soreness in athletes (21).
Does Cinnamon Improve Cardiovascular Risk Factors?
A large study called a meta-analysis concluded that cinnamon helps lower triglycerides and total cholesterol, and the benefit was related to the duration of taking cinnamon.
This study included at least two types of cinnamon, including cassia. (24)
Some research additionally finds cassia cinnamon helpful in reducing LDL-cholesterol in addition to triglycerides and total cholesterol (25)
Cinnamon Antimicrobial Effects
30 studies have found anti-microbial properties, including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic effects, related to Ceylon cinnamon (26)
These studies are conducted in test tubes and animals, not in humans at this point.
This may sound obvious, but if you are allergic to cinnamon, please avoid it.
This reference has a guide to safe levels of supplementation depending on the variety of cinnamon:
The more expensive variety of cinnamon known as Ceylon cinnamon is the safest variety due to its lowest coumarin content.
Coumarin is a natural substance, ut can be toxic at higher levels of intake.
Ceylon cinnamon has the lowest levels of coumarin with below 190 mg/kg (some samples were below detection levels) (27).
Cassia cinnamon contains between 700 mg/kg to upwards of 12,230 mg/kg; it is quite variable depending on the source.
Translation: Ceylon has hardly any coumarin, while cassia cinnamon has variable amounts that may not be safe for all people at higher doses.
The risk is still likely low of taking Cassia cinnamon as demonstrated by numerous clinical studies, but to be safe, choose Ceylon variety.
Most research trials have used supplemental dosing of 1-6 grams per day. Effectiveness appears to be good at the lower end of dosing levels.
Cinnamon In Cooking
The problem of cinnamon-rich recipes; they often are loaded with sugar! Look below for a few savory or no-added-sugar cinnamon options.
Chef Tip: Cinnamon can replace sugar because of its natural sweetness: use it to sweeten coffee instead of sugar or add it to teas.
Add it to recipes to cut back or replace the sugar content.
- Try this curry and cinnamon chicken recipe
- Mix cinnamon and almond or peanut butter: perfect on apples or carrots, celery etc.
- “Sweet” Fruit and Veggie Dip recipe
- Add 1- 2 tsp. of cinnamon to oatmeal instead of sugar
- Cinnamon-Lemon Chicken recipe
- Spicy Broccoli Soup recipe
My knee-jerk reaction was right. Using cinnamon as part of a healthy diet may indeed help many aspects of chronic disease that come along with diabetes.
Add Ceylon cinnamon to enhance flavor and health.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.