Does cinnamon help for diabetes?

I had a patient this week tell me she had heard that cinnamon would help treat diabetes. Could that be true?Cinnamon (Cassia cinnamon) is a common spice that is getting more attention for treating type 2 diabetes.

The studies done to date are far from consistent. Of five clinical trials, two show some reduction of fasting blood glucose levels. But three show no effect on hemaglobin A1C (HbA1C, the test that measures the average blood sugar for the previous three months). And, a meta-analysis of these cassia cinnamon studies suggests that taking cassia cinnamon does NOT significantly reduce fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, or lipid levels in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes (16010).

However, a new clinical trial shows that patients taking a specific cinnamon product (Cinnamon 500 mg, Puritan’s Pride) 1 gram (1000 mg) daily for 90 days significantly reduced A1C by about 0.83%. That’s a very small reduction, but it IS a reduction.

It would be nice to see this study done on a larger scale, and over a longer term, but, in the meantime, I’m telling my patients that the jury is still out on cinnamon for diabetes. It might help some patients, but it’s no substitute for conventional treatment.

But, I also tell my patients that if they want to try it, it’s likely not to be harmful.

Also, it’s helpful to know that there are several types of cinnamon. Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon cinnamon) is the type used most commonly in the Western world. Cinnamomum aromaticum (Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon) is also commonly used. In many cases, the cinnamon spice purchased in food stores contains a combination of these different types of cinnamon. So far, only Cassia cinnamon has been shown to have any effect on blood glucose in humans.

The experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rate cinnamon as “LIKELY SAFE” to take orally, but as far as effectiveness in type 2 diabetes, they says, “INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE.”

Here are more details on the data:

The first clinical research showed that taking Cassia cinnamon 1, 3, or 6 grams daily for 40 days lowered fasting serum glucose by 18% to 29%, triglycerides by 23% to 30%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 7% to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12% to 26% in patients with type 2 diabetes.

However, subsequent trials found no significant effect on blood glucose, A1C, total cholesterol, or triglycerides when Cassia cinnamon was used in doses of 1-3 grams daily up to 4 months. (trial 1, trial 2)

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2 Responses to Does cinnamon help for diabetes?

  1. John Scott says:

    I have tried Cinnamon capsules for a few months now. I see no benefit such as reduced peak glucose levels or reduced A1C levels.
    I have type 2 Diabetes and take 1000mg Metformin. So far the most benefit I get is to reduce carbs and to eat smaller meals. Exercise seems to do far more to help insulin sensitivity for me then any pill I could take.

  2. Dr. Walt says:

    No real surprise John. And, here’s the latest from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database about cinnamon for diabetes:

    INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE

    Diabetes. There is contradictory evidence about the effectiveness of cassia cinnamon for treating type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

    Initial clinical research showed that taking cassia cinnamon 1, 3, or 6 grams daily for 40 days lowered fasting serum glucose by 18% to 29%, triglycerides by 23% to 30%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 7% to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12% to 26% in patients with type 2 diabetes.

    Another clinical trial shows that patients taking a specific cinnamon product (Cinnamon 500 mg, Puritan’s Pride) 1 gram daily for 90 days significantly reduces hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by about 0.83%.

    However, three other clinical studies found no significant effect on blood glucose, HbA1c, cholesterol, or triglycerides when cassia cinnamon was used in doses of 1-3 grams daily up to 4 months.

    A meta-analysis of cassia cinnamon studies suggests that overall taking cassia cinnamon does not significantly reduce fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, or lipid levels in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

    Therefore, I agree with the Natural Database that “More evidence is needed to rate cassia cinnamon for this use” and do not routinely recommend it to my diabetic patients.

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