Updated: 2018, Dec 25

Top 3 Benefits of Cinnamon You Never Knew

Spices May Help You Prevent & Fight Against 3 Common Health Conditions

If you are like most people you are probably tired of being told what you cannot eat or more foods that you should be reducing in your diet – as a former prediabetic patient, I understand how this feels. Or maybe you are trying to do all the “right things” but need an extra positive push with something that can help you better control your diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and/or weight loss goals.

As it turns out, Cassia cinnamon can help do more than just make your food, tea, and coffee more flavorful and taste better: it may also help in preventing and improving management in conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Until now, research demonstrates that Cassia cinnamon can help impart such benefits by way of improving:

  • fasting blood sugar1-5
  • postprandial (after meal) blood sugar levels4,6-8
  • glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c)1-2,5,9-10
  • total cholesterol3,5,11
  • LDL cholesterol5,11
  • triglyceride levels 2-3,5,11
  • HDL cholesterol 5
  • systolic blood pressure 5,9 (the upper number)
  • diastolic blood pressure 9 (the bottom number)
  • insulin sensitivity 4,8
  • postprandial glucose tolerance 6
  • postprandial insulin response 8,12

Cassia Cinnamon’s Additional Added Benefits

In helping to lower your blood sugar and decreasing the need for insulin, Cassia cinnamon for some people may also help with modest weight loss over time. The reason for this is because when a carbohydrate-rich meal is eaten, especially one that has a high amount of refined carbohydrates or sugar, it causes blood sugar to increase quickly, and to compensate, a hormone called “insulin” is released and needed.

Low glycemic impact carbohydrates take a longer time to digest and do not cause as fast of a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. This is important because among insulin’s many roles are fat creation and storage, and additional weight makes it more difficult to manage diabetes and cardiovascular disease, or places one at increased risk for these conditions. But apart from the weight gain aspect, consistently elevated blood sugar levels also carry real health implications.

Consistently elevated blood sugar can cause a reaction in the body called “Advanced Glycated End Products.” This is when glucose, from high levels in blood, interact with body proteins mainly in the blood vessels of our body and ultimately compromise their function and can eventually damage various organs and impair the overall cardiovascular system. Additionally, because our organs are made up of these blood vessels, over time, with consistently high or uncontrolled blood sugar levels it can damage these blood vessels and can result in promotion of cardiovascular disease or onset of microvascular complications such as retinopathy in diabetic patients.

Retinopathy can transition from mild symptoms such as impaired vision to blindness, so it is important to correct elevated blood sugar levels from early. Even though Cassia cinnamon can help lessen the spikes that occur as a result of eating carbohydrates and starchy foods, this does not in any way imply that Cassia cinnamon is a let loose excuse to eat sugar and refined carbohydrates more often – the primary means to prevention and improved management of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is through what we eat.

But because we are human and live in real life there will be days we will want to enjoy ourselves, and if most of your diet is healthy and sound, it is okay if 20% of the time you want to enjoy a treat now and again: health is an 80:20 rule! Certain dietary additions like Cassia cinnamon can give us that added advantage and still allow us to enjoy life and “live a little.”

Cassia Cinnamons Benefits

Who is At Highest Risk? Who Can Benefit The Most?

Racial and ethnic groups that are particularly susceptible to type 2 diabetes are those of Asian descent13 (especially Japanese14 Chinese15-16, Filipino16, and Asian Indian13,16 ) Native Hawaiian,14 Black,14,16 Native American Indian,16 and those of Latino/Hispanic descent.13-14,16 Therefore, if you or your family identify in any one or more of these racial or cultural groups this makes it even more important to consider dietary components that can serve as additional help to prevent type 2 diabetes or that can better manage pre- or type 2 diabetes.

Research shows that even those who are healthy can benefit from regular intake of Cassia cinnamon. In cultures were a high glycemic impact diet/high glycemic impact foods are consumed (e.g. white rice, white refined pasta/bread or white potato, especially white baked potato, and juice), Cassia cinnamon might be especially helpful to help offset the resulting postprandial surges in blood sugar and insulin.

Although the majority of research positions Cassia cinnamon as a promising and effective dietary addition that can help with the prevention and improved management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, some research has reached different conclusions. Contrary to the main body of research, a meta-analysis paper of five clinical studies conducted by Baker17 note that Cassia cinnamon’s ability to exert overall beneficial effects in regards to fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, and blood lipids concluded that it was ineffective.

However, this meta-analysis grouped the response of Cassia cinnamon among both type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients in total analysis and final recommendations. Being that the mechanisms and origin of the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different (type 1 diabetes is not the result of diet and lifestyle factors) — to pool findings of how type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients responded to Cassia cinnamon to reach this conclusion, therefore would not be appropriate and would not reveal accurate findings to account for these two conditions. To effectively evaluate the effects in these patient groups, they need to be evaluated separately to account for these differences.

Getting The Most Benefit From Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia Cinnamon Help

Strategically place intake of Cassia cinnamon before meals that you will have the most carbohydrates, or meals that will have a higher glycemic impact (will raise your blood sugar levels).

Even though research shows benefits with varying doses between 120mg to 6g, discover which amount works best for you. You can also help maximize the effects by spreading the amount of Cassia cinnamon you have throughout the day. So if you are wanting to take a total of 2g per day and eat about four meals (including snack), consider having 500mg at each of the meals eaten. However, suppose you are going to have a meal that will have double the carbohydrates than your other meals, then shift more of your Cassia cinnamon intake to accommodate that meal.

The practical and convenient aspect of Cassia cinnamon is that it works with your daily routine, so you do not need to worry about having the exact amount at each meal every day. Additionally, emerging evidence indicates that each person will respond to a given food item differently than someone else, and thus intake, especially of Cassia cinnamon in this case, needs to be personalized and customized to each individual, especially in the context of type 2 diabetes.18 A person can even respond to the same food differently via blood glucose, insulin, etc., depending on what other items are being consumed with it, thus making the focus on personalizing the foods you eat based on how you respond to it that much more important for prevention and management of diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.19

If you decide to add Cassia cinnamon into your diet test and log your blood sugar once a day two hours after you eat for three months. After three months make sure to have your doctor look at your glycated hemoglobin (also known as HbA1c) so you can see if Cassia cinnamon is being helpful for your health goals or if the amount needs to be adjusted. I recommend starting at a lower amount and gradually moving towards a higher amount if applicable or as necessary.

It also would be advantageous to start at a lower amount to prevent the possibility of your body adapting early to the higher amount and then not being able to enjoy its benefits long-term. Of note, studies demonstrate that among those that can stand to benefit the greatest glycemic and cardiovascular benefits are persons with uncontrolled/poorly controlled type 2 diabetes where subjects consumed between 1g to 3g of Cassia cinnamon per day.3,9-10

Important Information and Things to Consider

Although goal recommendations for glycemic measures can vary depending on the country you are from, general recommendations set forth by the American Diabetes Association recommend patients with diabetes to aim for a HbA1c below 7%, and for patients to work towards a goal fasting blood sugar under 130 mg/dL.20 Although you may be motivated to use a lot of Cassia cinnamon, more is not better in this case – it is very important to not exceed 6g of Cassia cinnamon per day.

Mainly this is because intake of more than 6g has not been evaluated/tested in human clinical trials yet, but up to 6g in research has demonstrated to be a safe amount with no reported adverse side effects in human subjects21 and not known to have negative interactions with medication. Not exceeding 6g per day is especially important in those who have liver problems or their liver is functioning below normal status as Cassia cinnamon in excess (over 6g) can be toxic to the liver.

So what does 6g look like? Since one teaspoon is about 3g, feel free to have up to 2 teaspoons a day, or if you do not regularly eat the powdered version of Cassia cinnamon, it is available in capsule form too. Cassia cinnamon can be used like any other cinnamon – so feel free to enjoy it over yogurt, sprinkled in your favorite tea or coffee, or to season dishes and meats.

If you decide to buy Cassia cinnamon in the supplement or capsule form make sure that you are getting pure Cassia cinnamon and that it is not filled with other ingredients like vitamins, minerals, or fillers that will reduce the amount of Cassia cinnamon being taken at every dose. A way it can be worded/sold by the supplement industry is by saying that the Cassia cinnamon is part of a “proprietary blend/formula” – you do not want this either for this same reason: it will usually dilute the amount of actual Cassia cinnamon you will have in each capsule.

With a Cassia cinnamon supplement that you are considering, turn the supplement box on the back to read the ingredients. It is acceptable if they list what was used to make the capsule coating, but otherwise look for limited ingredients and look for the cinnamon listed as “Cassia cinnamon” or “Cinnamomum cassia” — both terms mean the same thing.

Cinnamon Herbs

So In Summary Cassia Cinnamon

Has shown in research to be a promising spice that can be added to your diet to help prevent or improve management of current diabetes or cardiovascular conditions

Is suited for healthy individuals wanting to prevent diabetes, or for pre- and type 2 diabetic patients that wish to better manage these conditions

For some may have the added benefit of weight loss or to prevent weight gain since it helps to reduce blood sugar levels and postprandial (after meal) insulin response to food

Research indicates it may be most effective if 1) spread among multiple meals throughout the day 2) concentrated around meals that will have the highest amount of carbohydrates 3) or with meals that have the highest glycemic impact on your blood sugar

Intake should not exceed 6g, but up to 6g is safe

Demonstrates in various studies to have glycemic and cardiovascular benefit from 120mg to 6g, so it is important to discover which amount is optimal for you. Because we are all different, we will react to food differently – even the same person can react to the same food in a different way (via blood glucose, insulin, etc.) depending on other foods that are being eaten with it.

Therefore, it is important to find your personal “best” amount, and the only way to know that is through checking and logging your blood sugar two hours after you eat a meal with Cassia cinnamon every day over three months, and then after three months, checking your HbA1c to see if the amount used was effective and if it needs to be adjusted.

Should be started at a small amount and gradually increased to the amount that is appropriate based on evaluating how different amounts work for you as described in the previous point

Has no reported adverse side effects and is not known to negatively interact with medications

Image Credits
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In-Post Images: Shutterstock
References
[1] Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N. Cinnamon in glycaemic control: systematic review and meta analysis. Clin Nutr. 2012; 31(5): 609-615.
[2] Lu T, Sheng H, Wu J, Cheng Y, Zhu J, Chen Y. Cinnamon extract improves fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin level in Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr Res. 2012; 32(6): 408-412.
[3] Mang B, Wolters M, Schmitt B, Kelb K, Lichtinghagen R, Stichtenoth DO, Hahn A. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA1c, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur J Clin Invest. 2006; 36(5): 340-344.
[4] Solomon TPJ, Blannin AK. Effects of short-term cinnamon ingestion on in vivo glucose tolerance. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2007; 9(6): 895-901.
[5] Sharma P, Sharma S, Agrawal RP, Agrawal V, Singhal S. A randomised double blind placebo control trial of cinnamon supplementation on glycemic control and lipid profile in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Aust J Herb Med. 2012; 24(1): 4-9.
[6] Gutierrez JL, Bowden RG, Willoughby DS. Cassia cinnamon supplementation reduces peak blood glucose responses but does not improve insulin resistance and sensitivity in young, sedentary, obese women. J Diet Suppl. 2016; 13(4): 461-471.
[7] Kirkham S, Akilen R, Sharma S, Tsiami A. The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009; 11(12): 1100-1113.
[8] Solomon TP, Blannin AK. Changes in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity following 2 weeks of daily cinnamon ingestion in healthy humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009; 105(6): 969-976.
[9] Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N. Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Diabet Med. 2010; 27(10): 1159-1167.
[10] Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. JABFM. 2009; 22(5): 507-512.
[11] Khan A, Safdar M, Khan MMA, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003; 26(12): 3215-3218.
[12] Hlebowicz J, Hlebowicz A, Lindstedt S, Björgell O, Höglund P, Holst JJ, Darwiche G, Almér LO. Effects of 1 and 3 g cinnamon on gastric emptying, satiety, and postprandial blood glucose, insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide, glucagon-like peptide 1, and ghrelin concentrations in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89(3): 815-821.
[13] Abate N, Chandalia M. The impact of ethnicity on type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Complications. 2003; 17(1): 39-58.
[14] Maskarinec G, Grandinetti A, Matsuura G, et al. Diabetes prevalence and body mass index differ by ethnicity: The Multiethnic Cohort. Ethn Dis. 2009; 19(1): 49-55.
[15] Li Y, He Y, Qi L, et al. Exposure to the Chinese Famine in early life and the risk of hyperglycemia and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Diabetes. 2010; 59(10): 2400-2406.
[16] Baker WL, Gutierrez-Williams G, White CM, Kluger J, Coleman CI. Effect of cinnamon on glucose control and lipid parameters. Diabetes Care. 2008; 31(1): 41-43.
[17] Evert AB, Boucher JL, Cypress M, et al. Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(11): 3821-3842.
[18] Zeevi D, Korem T, Zmora N, et al. Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses. Cell. 2015; 163(5): 1079-1094.
[19] American Diabetes Association. Glycemic targets. Diabetes Care. 2015; 38(Suppl. 1): S33-S40.
[20] Anderson RA. Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. Proc Nutr Soc. 2008; 67(1): 48-53.
Author

Penny S. Brooks, MS, RD, LDN

Penny is a licensed and Registered Dietitian and Master of Science (MS) Candidate in Dietetics and Nutrition with a specialization in n

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