Cinnamon, blood sugar, and diabetes
Although research is at a preliminary stage, cinnamon may help counter some effects of diabetes. While other studies question these effects, cinnamon is unlikely to cause blood pressure spikes or disrupt blood sugar.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has confirmed that cinnamon does not effectively treat any health problem.
However, even if the suggested benefits of cinnamon require further confirmation, it is a safe, flavorsome way to replace sugar in the diet.
In this article, we look at cinnamon's potential role in the diets of those with diabetes.
Can cinnamon help manage diabetes?
Alongside standard diabetes treatments, cinnamon might help people manage their blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon is a spice that is available in extracts, teas, and capsules. It is not effective as an isolated treatment for any condition.
A 2012 review of ten randomized controlled trials found that not enough evidence is available to support the use of cinnamon as a method for controlling blood sugar.
The findings of a 2013 study of 70 participants suggested that taking 1 gram (g) of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offers no improvements in blood sugar levels.
However, a 2016 study of 25 people in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology came to the conclusion that cinnamon may provide benefits for those with poorly controlled diabetes. Participants consumed 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. The result was a 17 percent reduction in fasting blood sugar levels.
A 2016 analysis, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, aimed to collect existing research on the role of cinnamon in blood sugar reductions.
The authors reviewed 11 studies involving cinnamon and the treatment of diabetes, all of which produced a drop in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured longer-term glucose, or HbA1C levels, also saw modest reductions.
However, only four of the studies achieved blood sugar reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) treatment goals. This suggests that cinnamon may be useful for managing blood sugar in some people but is not a reliable alternative to traditional diabetes treatments.
A 2011 analysis in the Journal of Medicinal Food also points to the cinnamon's potential for lowering blood sugars. Researchers compared the results of eight previous studies and found an average blood sugar level reduction of 3–5 percent.
There is no research to suggest that cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar. It is a safe choice for people with diabetes who want a less risky alternative to sugar, salt, and other potentially harmful flavoring agents.
A 2016 study in Blood Pressure compared the effects of cinnamon to cardamom, ginger, and saffron. Cinnamon and the other herbs did not affect blood pressure, body measurements, or body mass index (BMI).
Tips for using cinnamon
The studies so far on the glucose-altering effects of cinnamon have used small quantities of the spice — usually a teaspoon or less.
Just as different medications produce varying results and side effects in different people, cinnamon will not reduce blood sugar in every individual that tries it. Some people may even experience side effects.
Tips for consuming cinnamon safely and effectively include:
- Keep a food log.
- Stick to a diabetes care plan. Cinnamon is not a substitute for blood sugar monitoring, a healthful diet, or diabetes medications.
- Speak to a doctor before trying any new treatments for diabetes, including cinnamon and other herbal remedies. These might interact with existing medications or have unexpected effects on blood sugar.
- Use cinnamon as a flavoring agent for healthful foods, such as oatmeal and muesli. People should avoid eating cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, or other sugary foods that are rich in cinnamon or cinnamon flavoring.
Who should avoid cinnamon?
People with diabetes should avoid cinnamon buns and cinnamon-flavored sweet treats.
Cinnamon is safe for most people with diabetes.
However, people who have liver disease or believe they have a risk of developing liver disease may need to avoid cinnamon, particularly in large amounts.
Cinnamon comes in two forms: Ceylon and cassia. Cassia is common in the United States and contains small amounts of a substance called coumarin.
Some people are sensitive to this chemical and, if they take it in large doses, might develop liver disease. People who already have liver disease are especially at risk if they consume cinnamon.
Most research on the role of coumarin in liver failure looks at significantly larger quantities of cinnamon than a doctor would recommend for people with diabetes. This highlights the importance of starting out a course of cinnamon with very small doses.
People should also consider using a Ceylon cinnamon supplement rather than the more readily available cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon is safe to take alongside most other drugs and herbal remedies.
People taking another remedy should always consult their doctor first. Even natural remedies, such as cinnamon, can trigger negative interactions.
People with diabetes who take a drug that can harm the liver should consult their doctor before using cinnamon due to its potential adverse effects. They should also consider Ceylon instead of cassia cinnamon. The liver plays an essential role in glucose control, and liver damage can make the effects of diabetes worse.
To reduce the risk of negative interactions and other side effects, people with diabetes should keep a log of any new or unusual symptoms and report any side effects to a doctor as soon as they develop.
This helps people with diabetes make safe decisions about taking medications and avoid potentially serious interactions.
While cinnamon can have reducing effects on blood glucose levels, it is not effective as an isolated treatment for diabetes but might support glucose control in some people.
It is a safe and delicious replacement for sugar in the diet. Stores also sell cinnamon in the form of supplements and teas.
However, cinnamon may cause side effects in some people, especially those taking diabetes medication that affects the liver or who already have liver disease.
Seek medical advice before starting a course of cinnamon supplements.
Is turmeric better for people with diabetes than cinnamon?
Turmeric and cinnamon work differently in the body. Turmeric, mostly at doses of 500–1000 mg per day, might help reduce pain levels and inflammation. Cinnamon, on the other hand, has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels.
Since doctors consider diabetes to be an inflammatory condition, a person could benefit from consuming both cinnamon and turmeric.Natalie Butler, RD, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.