Can cinnamon help blood sugar levels?
So many spices have hidden secret super powers – or so we’re lead to believe. Bupa dietitian Rosalyn D’Angelo looks at the potential power of cinnamon, and if there’s any truth to the rumour that it can lower blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon is one of those flavours that takes me straight back to my childhood. My mum used to make rice pudding topped with cinnamon, and every time I taste it now, I’m transported back. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of trees and it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Cinnamon has been studied for its role in diabetes - specifically for its blood sugar lowering effects. For those who don’t know, a hormone called ‘insulin’ that is produced by the pancreas has the job of removing glucose out of the blood and drawing it in to the muscles for energy. It seems that cinnamon could have similar properties to insulin - hence the potential blood sugar lowering effects.
The studies have been small and show conflicting results. But a review of the studies completed in 2013 showed that overall, eating cinnamon is associated with a decrease in levels of ‘fasting blood sugar’ – in other words, blood sugar levels after not having eaten for a period of time. Eating cinnamon was also linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and it was associated with an increase in HDL ’good’ cholesterol levels.
This seems pretty promising, but the problem is that we still don’t know how much cinnamon we need and how often we need to consume it in order to achieve the positive effects - therefore, we can’t make recommendations yet.
So what’s the take home message? Watch this space.
Can you cancel out the effects of a chocolate bar by having a teaspoon of cinnamon afterwards? Nope.
But is adding cinnamon in to your diet going to have any health benefits? It can’t hurt!
If you’re keen to start working it into your diet, try adding it to savoury meat and vegetable dishes, or sprinkle it on baked fruit, custard or warm milk for extra flavour – while holding off on adding sugar.