Thursday, September 30, 2010

The First Clinical Tests of Cinnamon for Diabetes

Around the year 2000, scientists at the Department of Human Nutrition, NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan and the US Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland, decided to see if the burgeoning research into the "insulin-like properties" of cinnamon could be used to help actual diabetics in Pakistan.

You've probably heard something about the results. We'll mention more about that in a minute. But first we'd like to consider one aspect of the study that is usually forgotten. The scientists were seeking to help real diabetics with real herbs that could get, not herbs they couldn't.

That gray, dusky, dull, bitter kind of cinnamon known botanically as Cinnamomum cassia is the kind of cinnamon you can buy in Pakistan, usually for mixing into your curry. It's cheap. It's universally available. It's not exactly a favorite food, but everyone knows what to expect from it.

In a country where even metformin was out of reach for most type 2 diabetics, using cinnamon powder held promise as an amazing boon. But it's important to remember this was the only treatment the participants in the trial had.

The often-recited results of the Peshawar study were:

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.

Wow! Something that costs about a penny a day lowers blood sugars, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, without lowering HDL. Didn't this make cinnamon some kind of herbal wonder drug?

Again, it helps to read the actual study.

First of all, more was not better. The best results were from the lowest dosage, just 1,000 mg a day. If you have been reading our other blogs, you'll notice that this also a dosage assured not to cause side effects from thinning the blood.

Secondly, the benefits of cinnamon took 20 days to build up and lasted at least 20 days after participants in the clinical trial stopped taking it. It obviously wasn't working as
"plant insulin." Somehow, someway cinnamon was working on insulin resistance.

Selected Reference:

Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.

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