(Cinnamomum cassia)

Before you rush off to your grocery cupboard to make sure you have that everyday spice that brightened up your pancakes and apple pie (before diabetes of course) let me first explain something. There are different types of cinnamon.

There is true cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and there is Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia).

These could be called 'cousins' as both are evergreen trees of the order Laurales.

However the 'cinnamon' that was used in the trials on Type 2 diabetics was the latter one, and so in reality this article should be headed Cassia, not cinnamon.

You may be surprised to know that almost all the spice sold in the US and Canada as cinnamon is actually Cassia (so you may well have just the right one in your cupboard after all).

If you live in Mexico and Europe however you may have true cinnamon, and this has not been shown to have the same health benefits. I believe, though I cannot find definitive proof, that in the UK if the product is labelled 'cinnamon' it has to have actual cinnamon, not cassia, inside. The bottle of cinnamon in my own cupboard gives me no idea of which it is, it just says it's Ground Cinnamon.

True cinnamon is a paler colour, more tan than reddish brown and is softer, crumbly with a more delicate flavour and more fragrant smell - it is also about 4 times more expensive!

Cassia is a darker red brown with a more intense flavour.

As both are sold in powder and quill (stick) form telling the difference could be interesting though it is easier with the sticks as true cinnamon sticks are paper thin and brittle whereas cassia are thicker and harder.

The quills are made from the upper branches and the shoots of the tree while the ground stuff is a mixture of broken quills and bits of bark plus bark from the older parts of the tree.

Considering the consequences of getting the wrong one i.e. it will not work, I hedge my bets and buy my cinnamon in capsule form from my health store. At least it tells me on the label that it is Cinnamomum cassia!

Please note -for the rest of this article, when I use the name cinnamon I am referring to Cinnamomum cassia.


Just to recap here - What you need is Cassia - NOT real Cinnamon


Now we have got all that out of the way let me discuss why you may want to consider taking cinnamon.

The main scientific source that claims benefits for Type 2 diabetics by taking cinnamon is a study done by Richard Anderson, at the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland and his associates, in particular Alam Khan.

This was carried out in Pakistan and involved 60 Type 2 diabetics of both sexes, between 50 and 60 years old. They were divided into 6 groups. The first three groups were fed cinnamon daily but in different amounts, the second three received only placebo capsules in the same differing amounts. The trial was done over 40 days.

The results showed that just 1 gram of cinnamon per day reduced serum glucose levels, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

For more info on this trial see-
Diabetes Care.

So how and why does it work?

In most cases Type 2 diabetics make enough insulin, it is just not able to do it's job of shepherding the glucose into the cells properly.

Cinnamon's claim to fame is that it makes the cells more receptive to the available insulin (decreases insulin resistance).

Cinnamon is what is known as an insulin mimetic - in other words a substance that affects the cells in the same way as insulin itself, activating the insulin receptors. So the two substances work together to get glucose taken up by the cells.

The active ingredient in cinnamon was at first thought to be MHCP but in 2004 Dr Anderson stated that that was incorrect and the real ingredient causing the changes was the water soluble polyphenol type-A polymer.

I mention this because there are still people out there selling MHCP Cinnamon products and these will NOT work.

The active ingredient is also not present in cinnamon oil.

What dose should you take?

A quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon a 2-3 times a day is recommended, or two 125mg capsules.

The powdered cinnamon can be sprinkled over food, such as porridge, cereal or yoghurt or mixed into tea.

Even soaking a cinnamon stick in your tea, or using it to stir the tea, is said to be beneficial.

Cinnamon also contains quantities of magnesium and diabetics are frequently short of this mineral.

Side effects.

So far none have shown up in the studies done but it has been muted that just possibly high doses of cinnamon will cause toxic build up of the fat-soluble components over time.

If that is an issue with you then you might consider the following product. Developed by Dr. Nancy Cheng and the original researcher into cinnamon, Dr. Anderson, this is a water extract of cinnamon that contains the good properties while leaving out most of the bad ones.

It is sold under the brand name Cinnulin PF.

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