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Subheshaja: A Sweet Spice for Diabetes: Ceylon Cinnamon

“Aunty, my mother sent some cinnamon for you as a gift. My uncle brought it when he came home from Sri Lanka last week,” said Preethi, handing over a packet of the aromatic spice to Dr. Radha.

“Oh, that’s so nice of her, and it’s a timely gift, too, because I was just thinking of ordering it online.”

“Why, Aunty, I’m sure our grocery store has cinnamon, why would you order it online?”

“Ah! That’s an important point,

Cinnamon Cassia
Ceylon Cinnamon

Preethi. You see what common grocery stores and supermarkets sell as cinnamon is the variety known as Cassia cinnamon, but the authentic spice is the Ceylon cinnamon variety!”

“What difference does it make which variety we use?”

“In case of cinnamon, it can make quite a huge difference, Preethi. The Cassia cinnamon is rich in a compound called coumarin and research shows that it can be harmful if consumed in high doses. It can cause damage to the liver and increase the risk of cancer.” (1)

“And the Ceylon cinnamon doesn’t contain coumarin?”

“It does, but in far lesser quantities. Cassia cinnamon has been found to contain upto 1% coumarin while the Ceylon variety has only around 0.004%. (2) One teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon has around 7-18 milligrams of coumarin while the tolerable daily intake of coumarin for an average 60-kg weight person is about 5 mg.”

“Ok, got that! But then, why don’t all shops sell the Ceylon variety if it’s the healthier one?”

“The price, Preethi! Ceylon variety is far costlier than the Cassia variety, so most people prefer the latter! In fact, many people don’t even know about the Ceylon type because they’ve never seen it!”

“Okay! What do you use cinnamon for, Aunty? I thought it’s only used as a spice!”

“I’ve been using it for my diabetes, ever since I read about human trials that showed cinnamon can cut down fasting blood sugar levels by 10 – 29 %, (3)although the spice does have several other benefits too.”

“How does cinnamon help with diabetes?”

“In different ways. Firstly, cinnamon can react with digestive enzymes to slow the process of breaking down carbohydrates you consume. So, the blood glucose levels don’t rise very fast after you’ve consumed a meal. Secondly, scientists found that cinnamon contains a compound that mimics the action of insulin. (4) Do you know what insulin is, Preethi?”

“Yes, Aunty, I remember studying about it as a hormone that’s produced by the pancreas, and it helps to control our body’s level of glucose.”

“That’s right! Insulin helps to transport the glucose which is present in the blood into the cells, so that they can use it for energy to drive all their processes. In a person with diabetes, the pancreas either don’t make enough of insulin, or in some people, the insulin is there, but for some or the other reason, the cells are resistant to its action.”

“Is that what is called insulin resistance, Aunty?”

“Indeed! Now cinnamon has been found to also reduce insulin resistance. (5) And when insulin sensitivity of the cells improves, naturally the blood sugar levels stay down because now, the cells can use the glucose in the bloodstream.”

“Wow! That’s really cool! How much cinnamon does a person need to take to benefit from this anti-diabetic effect, Aunty?”

“Well, most studies have found that between 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon per day is effective. This works out to between half teaspoon to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Of course, it would be good if a diabetic person began with the least quantity and slowly found out the quantity that works best for him or her.”

“Ok, but does this mean that person can stop taking the medicines they may be taking for diabetes?”

“Now that’s a tricky question, Preethi! People who start consuming cinnamon for its anti-diabetic effects must be very careful. If it starts lowering their blood glucose levels, and they are also on anti-diabetic drugs, they could suffer a sudden drop in blood glucose, a condition called as hypoglycemia. So, it’s important to be very careful when experimenting with cinnamon.”

“Firstly, as I emphasized at the very beginning, people must use only Ceylon cinnamon and NOT the Cassia variety. Secondly, they must start with small quantities, and keep monitoring their blood glucose level at regular intervals. If they find that it has started to drop, its best they consult the doctor who prescribed the anti-diabetic drug and discuss their situation to see if the dose of that drug can be reduced!”

“What about the other benefits you said cinnamon has, Aunty?”

“There are many of them! So, let’s talk about those some other day, Preethi!”

References

1. Abraham K, Wöhrlin F, Lindtner O, Heinemeyer G, Lampen A. Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010;54(2):228-239. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20024932/ 

2. Blahová J, Svobodová Z.  Assessment of Coumarin Levels in Ground Cinnamon Available in the Czech Retail Market. The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2012, Article ID 263851, Available online at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2012/263851/ 

3. Kirkham S, Akilen R, Sharma S, Tsiami A. The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009;11(12):1100-1113. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19930003/ 

4. Leech J. 10 Evidence Based Health Benefits of Insulin. Healthline. 2018. Available online at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon#section6 

5. Qin, B., Panickar, K. S., & Anderson, R. A. (2010). Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Journal of diabetes science and technology, 4(3), 685–693. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901047/ 

Disclaimer: The article is not a medical prescription. It is only for information. The opinion expressed are of the author.

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79 Replies to “Subheshaja: A Sweet Spice for Diabetes: Ceylon Cinnamon

  1. I do believe all the ideas you have introduced to your post.
    They’re really convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for starters.
    May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

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