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Cinnamon Helps Cells Use Blood Sugar

Cinnamon Helps Cells Use Blood Sugar

Cinnamon, one of the World's Healthiest Foods, may help people with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. Both test tube and animal studies have shown that compounds in cinnamon not only stimulate insulin receptors, but also inhibit an enzyme that inactivates them, thus significantly increasing cells' ability to use glucose.

Studies to confirm cinnamon's beneficial actions in humans are currently underway, and while the results of these human clinical trials are needed before cinnamon can be recommended as a medicinal spice for blood sugar regulation, lead researcher Dr. Richard A. suggests type 2 diabetes patients try adding 1/4 - 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to their food. "The worst that will happen is it won't do any good, and the best is that it will help dramatically." In either case, the result will be delicious.

Practical Tips

Here are a few of the World's Healthiest Foods quick serving ideas to help you reap the blood sugar normalizing benefits of cinnamon:

  • Simmer cinnamon sticks with soymilk and honey for a deliciously warming beverage.
  • Add ground cinnamon to black beans to be used in burritos or nachos for a uniquely delicious flavor.
  • Add ground cinnamon when preparing curries.

Research Summary

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the US, according to the American Diabetes Association. Approximately 16 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and 95% of them have type 2 diabetes, in which the cells' ability to respond to insulin is suppressed. As a result, blood sugar levels remain high, while energy drops. Over the long term, excessive blood sugar damages veins and arteries, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease, kidney failure and blindness.

For individuals with type 2 diabetes, cinnamon may, literally, be the spice of life. In vitro (test tube) enzyme studies done on rat cells in 1998 showed that bioactive compound(s) in cinnamon both stimulate insulin receptors and inhibit tyrosine phosphatase (PTP-1B), an enzyme that inactivates insulin receptors. In 2000, further in vivo (live) rat studies confirmed that compounds in cinnamon directly stimulate cellular insulin receptors, increasing almost 20-fold the cells' ability to absorb and metabolize glucose. Clinical trials using a cinnamon extract on humans are currently underway.

According to Dr. Anderson, lead scientist at the Beltsville, Maryland-based Human Nutrition Research Center, a branch of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), where this research has been conducted, a compound in cinnamon called methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP) makes fat cells more responsive to insulin by activating an enzyme that causes insulin to bind to cells and inhibiting the enzyme that blocks insulin binding.


Imparl-Radosevich J, Deas S, Polansky MM, Baedke DA, Ingebritsen TS, Anderson RA, Graves DJ. Regulation of PTP-1 and insulin receptor kinase by fractions from cinnamon: implications for cinnamon regulation of insulin signalling. Horm Res 1998 Sep;50(3):177-82.

Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, Anderson RA.Insulin-like biological activity of culinary and medicinal plant aqueous extracts in vitro. J Agric Food Chem 2000 Mar;48(3):849-52

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