Cinnamon does many wonderful things. Chinese, Ayurvedic and Naturopathic medicine have all used cinnamon medicinally for years. In fact, cinnamon was deemed more precious than gold by the ancient Egyptians and considered to be a gift fit for a king by the Romans and Greeks.
Much research has focused on the health benefits of herbs and spices that apply specifically to a physiological function in the body. A good example is cinnamon, which is of great value in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels as well.
Because type 2 diabetes is a major public health concern, Dr. Anderson at the Human Nutrition Research Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture screened extracts of 49 commonly consumed plants. He wanted to see how well they could mimic the effects of insulin. They found that cinnamon was far more effective than any other plant in fulfilling insulin’s appointed role.1
Cinnamon’s MHCP Insulin Activity
As it turns out, cinnamon also contains something called methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP). This has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, as well as glucose metabolism in fat cells. And, get this,
The extract was 20x higher than other spices.2
Cinnamon does this by reducing the insulin resistance of fat cells, which makes their insulin receptors more responsive. It has the ability to actually stimulate glucose oxidation and these substances act as insulin-like molecules.3
What does this mean? Help for diabetics! In a study published in Diabetes Care the volunteers who received cinnamon were an average of 20% lower blood sugar levels than were those of volunteers in the placebo group. Some members of the cinnamon groups even achieved normal levels – and that didn’t even include reductions in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.4
Let’s make it even juicer. Several polyphenols that you have heard of that have been isolated from cinnamon including rutin, catechin, and quercetin.5 These wonderful aqueous extracts of cinnamon containing these polyphenols, when purified by high performance liquid chromatography, showed insulin-like activity.6
Cinnamon’s Blood Glucose Activity
What are those blood glucose benefits? Researchers measured the patients’ blood glucose and lipid levels at the beginning and end of a study. The results were dramatic: all cinnamon doses had a strong impact on blood glucose levels – and on blood lipid levels as well. (The placebo had no significant effect.) Glucose levels were reduced by 18–29% following 40 days of treatment.7
Anderson’s research group found MHCP was effective in increasing the uptake of glucose (blood sugar) by cells. It also stimulated the synthesis of glycogen, used at peak energy times like exercise. And MHCP turns out to be synergistic with insulin providing an effect greater than the sum of its parts – providing the same biological activity as insulin itself.8
There is even a new compound now named naphthalenemethyl ester, which also has blood glucose-lowering effects further confirming cinnamon’s antidiabetic effects.
Lastly, other research has shown that two months of cinnamon extract supplementation can cut fasting and post-meal glucose levels. You can reduce your body’s glucose responses while also increasing insulin sensitivity within as little as two weeks.9
An analysis, published in 2012, reviewed 10 trials (543 patients) and found that cinnamon significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raised HDL cholesterol levels.10
Cinnamon has also been shown to significantly reduce the blood levels of TNF-alpha in rats as well as other inflammation markers, such as interleukin-6. In one study, they found that cinnamon extract not only reduced TNF-alpha and interleukin-6, but also regulated the genetic expression of the inflammation and insulin signaling pathways (meaning cinnamon reduced inflammation and promoted healthy insulin levels). 11
In conclusion, cinnamon reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes without adding calories!
That’s a powerful endorsement for a common spice that is used the world over for its delightful flavor. Thanks to modern science, we have finally learned about some of the remarkable health benefits of this ancient substance, and its “secret ingredient” – MHCP. So spice up your life and your blood sugar will thank you for it.
How to Use Cinnamon
It is in our Dia-Mazing diabetes supplement, of course.
If using cinnamon medicinally by itself, be sure to choose a water-soluble extract. This is important because cinnamon bark oils can be toxic when taken at high doses for longer periods of time. (Cinnamon leaf oils and powders are shown to be safe, even when used often and regularly.
It is also good to swallow cinnamon in liquid or solid form. Chewing it can allow saliva to render cinnamon ineffective.
- 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.
- Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Insulin-like biological activity of culinary and medicinal plant aqueous extracts in vitro. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2000;48(3):849–852.
- Anderson RA, Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM. Isolation and characterization of chalcone polymers from cinnamon with insulin like biological activities. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006;84(3):1432–1436.
- Kahn A. Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
- Li H-B, Wong C-C, Cheng K-W, Chen F. Antioxidant properties in vitro and total phenolic contents in methanol extracts from medicinal plants. LWT-Food Science and Technology. 2008;41(3):385–390.
- Cao H, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Cinnamon extract and polyphenols affect the expression of tristetraprolin, insulin receptor, and glucose transporter 4 in mouse 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2007;459(2):214–222.
- Khan A, Safdar M, Khan MMA, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
- Jarvill-Taylor KJ, Anderson RA, Graves DJ. A hydroxychalcone derived from cinnamon functions as a mimetic for insulin in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Aug;20(4):327-36.
- Solomon TP, et al. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 Jan 22.
- Hong JW, et al. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Nov 28;12:237.
- Askari F, et al. Nutr Res. 2014 Feb;34(2):143-8.