The Cinnamon Controversy

January 18, 2008

Cinnamon has been getting a lot of press lately. Most of it started in June 2007, when

reporters and newscasters were urging people to sprinkle some cinnamon on their rice pudding (or anything else they liked) because it would lower their blood sugar levels.

The hype was the result of a study from Malmo University Hospital in Sweden which showed that consuming about 1 teaspoon’s worth of cinnamon helps the body increase insulin function and delay stomach emptying, which leads to lower post-meal sugar levels. This is especially good news for people with Type 2 diabetes. When Type 2 diabetes patients have high post-meal sugar levels, their chances of acquiring diabetes-related complications such as heart disease also increases.

The findings of the study were published The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Since then, many people both within and outside of the medical community have been touting cinnamon’s ability to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and to ultimately reduce one’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

However, a new study published in the January 2008 journal Diabetes Care, refutes these claims. Principal investigator, Dr. Craig l. Coleman of Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, told Reuters Health, “the preponderance of evidence currently available does not suggest that cinnamon has the ability to decrease a person’s risk of heart disease by helping them control their diabetes or lower their cholesterol.”

Unlike many earlier and smaller studies, the Hartford Hospital research team performed a large study with 282 Type 1 and

Type 2 diabetes participants who were randomly assigned to receive cinnamon or a placebo. Researchers also followed up with participants for 16 weeks. According to Reuters, “The use of cinnamon did not significantly alter hemoglobin A1C — a marker of blood sugar control.”

Does that mean that you shouldn’t eat cinnamon? Of course not. Cinnamon is a simple and delicious way to add spice to breakfast cereals, desserts, hot drinks, and even savory dishes such as tagines and soups.

In addition to making your food taste better, will cinnamon cure your ailments? No one knows for sure. It has been used medicinally since ancient times and many contemporary naturopaths consider cinnamon an easy way to alleviate everything from menstrual cramps and flatulence to achy joints and gum disease.

Most pharmacies and vitamin stores even sell cinnamon supplements for those who don’t like the taste of the spice. (Remember that such supplements have not been tested by the FDA, and that it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before adding any to your diet.)

Even if it doesn’t lower your blood sugar or alleviate your arthritis pain, cinnamon will help you enjoy your meals a little bit more. And that’s definitely good for you.