Cinnamon is well-known as an aromatic spice that people enjoy adding to oatmeal and baked goods. Less well-known is the fact that it can also be used therapeutically to improve several common health conditions including high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Cinnamon is derived from the bark of several species of Cinnamomum trees. The type of cinnamon sold as a condiment is cassia cinnamon. It is less expensive but also has lower antioxidant molecules that stop cellular damage in the body. Ceylon cinnamon (Latin name Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum) is more expensive and harder to find, but contains more antioxidants and, therefore, has increased health benefits.

High blood sugar is an all too common condition associated with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Eating as little as one gram of ground cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon) per day can lower blood sugar by up to 29%.1 One study found that the insulin-lowering effect of cinnamon began immediately after eating and lasted for 12 hours.2 Cinnamon can also work in conjunction with anti-diabetic medications such as glipizide to lower hemoglobin A1c, a measure of excess glucose attached to red blood cells.3

Cinnamon is a rich source of polyphenols, chemicals which provide the health benefits of plant foods. Polyphenols can lower a key cholesterol-making enzyme and bind to circulating cholesterol so it is easier to excrete from the body. A review of 13 studies found that cinnamon supplementation not only lowered total cholesterol, but also lowered triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood that increases the risk of stroke. The positive effects did not seem to be related to the dose of cinnamon consumed, meaning that a larger amount such as 6 grams did not have a greater effect than a smaller amount.4

The micronutrients in cinnamon can also lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, improving vessel function and repair, and reducing inflammation. A study of women aged 26 – 45 with hypertension found that average blood pressure dropped from 145/93 to 130/85, a significant decrease. The results were achieved using 1 gram of cinnamon, and the reduction lasted a full week after administration.5

While there are many benefits to taking cinnamon, be careful when consuming capsules containing cassia cinnamon. It contains coumarin, a compound shown to cause liver toxicity in laboratory animals. Ceylon cinnamon contains much less coumarin, making this form the preferred choice. The amount of coumarin ingested in food is unlikely to be problematic, and supplements are only a concern for people with pre-existing liver damage.

Dr. Needle is a naturopathic doctor at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

References: 1) Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009 Dec;11(12):1100-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01094.x.; (3) The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Kirkham S1, Akilen R, Sharma S, Tsiami A.; 2) Diabetes Obes Metab. 2007 Nov;9(6):895-901.Effects of short-term cinnamon ingestion on in vivo glucose tolerance. Solomon TP1, Blannin AK.; 3) Nutr Res. 2012 Jun;32(6):408-12. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.05.003. Epub 2012 Jun 14. Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Lu T1, Sheng H, Wu J, Cheng Y, Zhu J, Chen Y.; 4) 4. J Clin Lipidol. 2017 Nov – Dec;11(6):1393-1406. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2017.08.004. Epub 2017 Aug 12. The effects of cinnamon supplementation on blood lipid concentrations: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maierean SM1, Serban MC2, Sahebkar A3, Ursoniu S4, Serban A5, Penson P6, Banach M7; Lipid and Blood Pressure Meta-analysis Collaboration (LBPMC) Group; 5) Does Cinnamon Lower Blood Pressure? By Jon Yaneff, CNP – December 18, 2017

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