Cinnamon for Diabetes; perhaps not the best treatment.

Cinnamon for Diabetes; perhaps not the best treatment.

Cinnamon has been talked about for years as having positive effects on diabetes. Many patients have questions about using cinnamon instead of their diabetes medications.

CinnamonDiabetesThere have been many studies done looking at using cinnamon to lower blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1C (A1C).  The studies have mostly enrolled small groups of 60-100 people and lasted from only 40 days to 16 weeks. This is different than some of the very long studies that look at drugs for diabetes.  For example, metformin, the drug of choice for type 2 diabetes was studied in one large trial of over 4000 patients for more than 10 years.  This study evaluated blood sugar and A1C as well as the complications of diabetes.  Cinnamon is thought to act on the cells in the body to improve insulin sensitivity, but the specific active ingredient in cinnamon hasn’t been identified.  Without a specific active ingredient it is hard to know what is being evaluated, and as a natural product has no standard potency. 

Because of the low numbers of patients studied who took cinnamon, in 2013 the Cochrane Library independent organization pooled 10 cinnamon trials with 577 people.  When the data from all the different trials were combined, it was found that there was no major difference in blood sugar or A1C with cinnamon.  In addition, none of the trials looked at whether there is any effect preventing the complications of diabetes.  What this means is if you enjoy cinnamon for its aroma or spicy sweetness, go ahead and enjoy it, but don’t count on it to control your diabetes.  Looking for a natural and safe option is smart.  Choose therapies that have been proven over and over to work.  Lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight.  Eat a nutritionally balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats.  Avoid fatty and high sugar foods.  Engage in daily exercise.  Discuss your treatment plan with your healthcare provider.  Most diabetes medications are safe and well tolerated.

If you do decide to try cinnamon it should be in addition to your current diabetes medication and not instead.  Cinnamon in the amount typically found in food appears to be safe.  However large amounts may affect your liver and cause drug interactions.  If you choose to include cinnamon as part of your daily routine, the doses studied were 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon daily.  To put that in perspective, 5 grams is about one teaspoonful.  Cassia cinnamon is the type that has been studied the most and found commonly in supermarkets, but Ceylon cinnamon is preferred, as it has less potential to harm the liver.  An alternative is cinnamon capsules, which are available in both pharmacies and health food stores.  Many of the capsules contain cassia cinnamon, so look carefully for the ceylon version.  Although cinnamon is classified as a food, when it is used to lower blood sugar it acts as a drug, so talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before you decide to use it. 

This Article is Brought to You By:
Our DDP Guest Writer’s Staff,

Catherine A. Taglieri, PharmD
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy-Boston
MCPHS University, Boston, MA
Jennifer Goldman-Levine, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP
Professor of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy-Boston
MCPHS University, Boston, MA
Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical, Salem, MA

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