Cinnamon, The Wonder Spice

Last modified on July 29th, 2007

Part of the reason I wrote the last article on insulin resistance is so I could continue to talk about that subject without continually explaining what it is I was talking about.

Sometime around the year 2003, there was a pretty seminal study performed that had an undesirable, although extremely fascinating outcome. The researchers at the time were trying to guage the body’s insulin response to various foods. When they came to apple pie though, they were in for a surprise:

Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics, a new study has found. The effect, which can be produced even by soaking a cinnamon stick your tea, could also benefit millions of non-diabetics who have blood sugar problem but are unaware of it.

The discovery was initially made by accident, by Richard Anderson at the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

“We were looking at the effects of common foods on blood sugar,” he told New Scientist. One was the American favourite, apple pie, which is usually spiced with cinnamon. “We expected it to be bad. But it helped,” he says.

Cinnamon, for whatever reason, somehow reduces the body’s requirements for insulin, and improves most of the symptoms of type-II diabetes.

Photo by bitzi on Flickr

Right on the heels of that result came another paper that did a proper double-blind study with cinnamon. The full paper, at Beth’s request, is available here. I’m going to quote the abstract below though:

OBJECTIVE—The objective of this study was to determine whether cinnamon improves blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—A total of 60 people with type 2 diabetes, 30 men and 30 women aged 52.2 ± 6.32 years, were divided randomly into six groups. Groups 1, 2, and 3 consumed 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon daily, respectively, and groups 4, 5, and 6 were given placebo capsules corresponding to the number of capsules consumed for the three levels of cinnamon. The cinnamon was consumed for 40 days followed by a 20-day washout period.

RESULTS—After 40 days, all three levels of cinnamon reduced the mean fasting serum glucose (18–29%), triglyceride (23–30%), LDL cholesterol (7–27%), and total cholesterol (12–26%) levels; no significant changes were noted in the placebo groups. Changes in HDL cholesterol were not significant.

I want to point out that those numbers are extremely amazing. The current drugs on the market that reduce cholesterol levels are very hard on the liver, and have a hard time reducing cholesterol to the extent demonstrated in this study. In addition, a 18-29% reduction in fasting insulin levels is also difficult to do using the current arsenal of diabetic medications.

While this study was primarily interested in the results of cinnamon on type-II diabetics, the results are most likely applicable to those people with insulin resistance as well (since insulin resistance is often the precursor to full blown type-II diabetes). I imagine there are now a flood of studies in the works that will investigate whether or not cinnamon can have favourable results in a diet aimed at losing weight. We’ll see (however, based on those numbers, I suspect it would help).

If you want to add cinnamon to your diet to find out for yourself, the recommendation is to consume about 1/2 – 1 full teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day. You can throw some into your morning coffee, or stir it into a cup of milk if you want.

9 responses to “Cinnamon, The Wonder Spice”

  1. Beth says:

    Thanks for linking to the original paper, Duane! And very nice to see that it’s actually freely available (so many papers can only be accessed if you are student/staff/faculty at a university and thus part of their university library license). I’ll add that paper to my stack of papers to read!

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Having written a pile of papers myself, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d write another one unless I could make it publicly available to download after. I’ve never agreed with the IEEE or other organizations that make you sign away the rights to your paper after you submit it. Research, especially when it’s not funded by a corporation, should benefit everyone, and not just the organization that prints it on a few pieces of paper.

    In fact, I used to have all my papers on my website, even though I wasn’t supposed to..

  3. cephyn says:

    If you want the benefits of cinnamon – be sure it’s real cinnamon you’re using. Most “cinnamon” sold in your spice aisle is actually Cassia (, a close relative of cinnamon.

  4. Duane Storey says:

    Thanks — I didn’t know that!

  5. hesty says:

    Actually, according to the wikipedia article, the “Cinnamon” used in the cholesterol study is actually Cassia.

  6. cephyn says:

    Well hey, whaddya know — good news from hesty!

  7. Events says:

    I always suspected that cinnamon was beneficial, but I was never really sure. This has given me a reason to make sure I get my daily allowance.

  8. Beth says:

    Ya, there are some really strange conditions of copyright from publishers… I saw one author’s copyright agreement that said that the author could email out copies of your papers to people but only as individuals, you couldn’t email them out to a list of people. wtf?

    I agree with you – publicly funded research should be available to benefit all of society. I’ve asked for, and received, licenses to post all but one of my articles to my own “personal” website (which, of course, I can then link from my professional website) – isn’t it ridiculous that I have to ask for permission to distribute a paper I wrote based on publicly funded research?

  9. Lea Howard says:

    My mother was just diagnosed with diabetes and is currently taking cinnamon supplements. She is by no means overweight. Actually, she is very tall and thin. I however am shorter and thicker like my father. I have always had a hard time managing my weight. It seems like I workout all of the time to keep what I feel is not a desirable weight. It is almost like I am fighting against my body. I am 5 feet four inches and 132 pounds. I run 5 days a week, compete in 5k’s, triatholons, and am training for a marathon in November. I wonder if I am going to be diabetic like my mother and her mother. Do you think cinnamon would increase my metabolism and help me loose weight as well as fight against what seems to be predestined diabetes?

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