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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Cinnamon, Glucose Tolerance and Diabetes

This research is performed by the
Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory (NRFL)
of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC).

Our studies have demonstrated that extracts of cinnamon increase insulin activity several-fold. These measurements are in vitro or test tube measurements of the ability of insulin to increase the breakdown of glucose. Insulin is the hormone that controls the utilization of the blood sugar, glucose. Improved insulin function leads to improved blood sugar concentrations.

We have published several scientific articles on cinnamon that may be of interest. There is a report in Hormone Research, vol. 50, pages 177-182, 1998, and a second report in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 20, pages 327-336, 2001, which illustrate the mechanism of action of the cinnamon. A manuscript containing the structures of the active components is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 52, pages 65-70, 2004 (Abstract). Our human study involving people with type 2 diabetes demonstrating mean improvements in blood glucose ranging from 18 to 29%; triglycerides, 23 to 30%; LDL-cholesterol, 7 to 27% and total cholesterol, 12 to 26%, is published in Diabetes Care, vol. 26, pages 3215-3218, 2003.

We have also shown that the active components of cinnamon are found in the water-soluble portion of cinnamon and are not present in cinnamon oil, which is largely fat-soluble. In addition to ground cinnamon consumed directly, one can also make a cinnamon tea and let the solids settle to the bottom or use cinnamon sticks, which make for a nice clear tea. Cinnamon can also be added to orange juice, oatmeal, coffee before brewing, salads, meats etc. The active components are not destroyed by heat.

Our recent human studies indicate that consuming roughly one half of a teaspoon of cinnamon per day or less leads to dramatic improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. Intake of cinnamon, at these levels, is very safe and there should not be any side effects. There are also companies selling water soluble components from cinnamon that contain the active ingredients with minimal amounts of the components that could be toxic at elevated levels.

Read more about this in the April 2004 issue of the Agricultural Research Magazine.

Richard A. Anderson, Ph.D., CNS
Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory

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Last Modified: 7/22/2010