Cinnamon and Health

cinnamonJust mention cinnamon, and I can smell and almost taste my mother’s apple strudel. She made it from scratch, gently pulling the pastry on a table until the dough was paper thin. The filling was made with fresh apples, and of course a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. Who would have ever thought that the cinnamon had medicinal value? But judging by a recent study carried out at a Pakistani University, the brown powder which originates from the inner bark of a type of evergreen grown in Asia, can help control blood glucose levels while it reduced triglycerides and cholesterol. Who could ask for anything more?

Type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions in North America and is being diagnosed at younger ages than ever, mostly due to increasing obesity. In this type of diabetes cells become less sensitive to insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas which normally is the signal for cells to allow glucose to be absorbed from the blood stream to be used for energy. If this process is impaired, extra glucose floating around in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease as well as kidney and eye problems. Over the years a number of plant materials have been claimed to reduce blood glucose levels, but there has been no real scientific evidence for this. Fenugreek, bitter melon, Korean ginseng, onions, flaxseed and cinnamon have been repeatedly mentioned in medical lore. Now researchers decided to put cinnamon to the test. They enlisted 60 people with type 2 diabetes, average age of 52 and divided them into groups that would consume one gram, three grams or six grams of powdered cinnamon in capsules. A control group was given capsules with an inert substance. The experiment lasted for 40 days.

After 40 days blood glucose was significantly lower in the cinnamon group, in some cases by as much as 30%. Interestingly, the people who consumed only one gram did as well as those on the higher doses. Total cholesterol, LDL, the notorious “bad cholesterol,” and triglycerides were also significantly reduced. The researchers noted that blood glucose levels stayed low even 20 days after the cinnamon ingestion was stopped suggesting that it need not be consumed every day for a blood glucose lowering effect to be observed. There seems to be no downside to eating a gram of cinnamon a day. It contributes virtually no calories and even tastes good. And of course it is not only diabetics who can avail themselves of the cinnamon advantage. Anyone with high cholesterol can give a gram of cinnamon a day a shot. It isn’t hard to incorporate this much into the diet. You can sprinkle some into your coffee, mix some into your cereal or even make a tea by boiling a stick of cinnamon in water. But I would suggest that apple strudel, no matter how good it tastes, is not the way to go. The butter in it, if it is properly made, outweighs any benefit the cinnamon may have. Ah..it does make my mouth water though…

 

Joe Schwarcz

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