and colleagues have isolated and characterized several polyphenolic
polymer compounds from cinnamon bark that could one day become natural
ingredients in products aimed at lowering blood sugar levels.
The newly identified chemical structures were recently
named in a patent application and described in the Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry. ARS chemist Richard A. Anderson co-authored
the study with colleagues at the Beltsville (Maryland) Human Nutrition
Research Center and two universities.
Impaired sugar and fat metabolism is present in millions
of people and may lead to type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
In test tube assays using fat cells, the polyphenolic polymers were
found to increase sugar metabolism a whopping 20-fold.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas to regulate
sugar metabolism. In people with type-2 diabetes, either the pancreas
doesn't make enough insulin or the body is unable to use it correctly.
Both conditions lead to unhealthy blood levels of sugar that would otherwise
provide energy to muscles.
During a decade of efforts to find natural compounds that
could help maintain normal blood sugar levels, the scientists tested
several components of cinnamon. The newly characterized chemical structures
are closely related to a previously reported chemical derivative of
cinnamon, MHCPmethylhydroxychalcone polymer. The researchers also
tested scores of other plant extracts, but none displayed insulin-enhancing
activity near that of cinnamon.
"These new compounds increase insulin sensitivity
by activating key enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors, while inhibiting
the enzymes that deactivate them," says Anderson, who is with the
Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory.
"Polyphenols are known for their antioxidant, anticancer,
and anti-inflammatory functions, but they have not been commonly known
to improve insulin function," he says. "The polyphenolic polymers
in cinnamon bark have antioxidant effects, which may provide synergistic
benefits to persons with various forms of diabetes."
Another recently published human research study from the
team showed considerable improvements in glucose and fat metabolism
in volunteers who followed a diet that included modest amounts of table
cinnamon for 40 days.
Table cinnamon is made from cinnamon bark and contains
both water-soluble and fat-soluble compounds. Fat-soluble compounds
may accumulate in the body if ingested over a long period. At this time,
there is no data on potential effects of long-term ingestion of table
cinnamon. But the newly defined chemical structures noted above are
isolated from water extracts of cinnamon and appear to be nontoxic in
any quantity, according to Anderson.By Rosalie Marion Bliss,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS National
Program (#107) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.
A. Anderson is with the USDA-ARS Nutrient
Requirements and Functions Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Bldg.
B307C, Room 224, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301) 504-8091, fax
"Insulin Imitators: Polyphenols Found in Cinnamon Mimic Job
of Hormone" was published in the April
2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.