As the incidence of obesity rises in the United States, so does the incidence of diabetes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is expected to triple by 2050. Lifestyle changes, which include dietary modifications, exercise and weight loss, are the mainstays of therapy for diabetes. Many people who are at risk for diabetes or who already have the disease turn to dietary supplements to help control their blood sugars.
Insulin Resistance Drives Type 2 Diabetes
Whenever you consume a meal, the carbohydrates in your food are converted to glucose, which is absorbed from your intestine and transferred into your bloodstream. Your pancreas senses the rise in your blood glucose level and secretes insulin, which is a hormone that pushes glucose into your cells so it can be metabolized immediately for energy or stored for future use. If you have type 2 diabetes, your cells are less responsive to the effects of insulin, a condition called insulin resistance. In order to bring your glucose down to normal levels, your pancreas has to produce more insulin to overcome this cellular resistance.
Improving Insulin Sensitivity
Many medications that are used to treat diabetes are designed to improve your cells’ response to insulin and to enhance your pancreas’ ability to produce this important hormone. Although research is lacking, many dietary supplements are reputed to work through the same mechanism. For example, because chromium magnifies insulin’s ability to drive insulin into your cells, chromium supplements are promoted as a means to improve insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon is another popular dietary supplement used by diabetics, but it is unclear if cinnamon helps to improve insulin sensitivity or if it works through another mechanism.
Cinnamon for Blood Sugar…and More
Cinnamon has been used as a medicinal agent for generations in some cultures, but studies to evaluate its use in diabetes have produced conflicting results. A 2006 study in “The Journal of Nutrition” showed that cinnamon did not improve insulin sensitivity or oral glucose tolerance in older women. However, a 2007 “Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism” review demonstrated that cinnamon helps to prevent hyperglycemia and that it could probably blunt the rise in your blood glucose following a meal. Another review in the October, 2010, “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition” discusses cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, cholesterol-lowering, antimicrobial and immune-balancing effects, and suggests that cinnamon could be useful as an insulin-like agent.
Diabetes Demands Discipline
Diabetes is a serious illness, and its successful treatment requires a multifaceted approach which includes dietary modifications, weight control, exercise and, usually, medications. Whether cinnamon can be useful in the management of diabetes has not yet been demonstrated. If you have diabetes, you should discuss the use of cinnamon or any other supplement with your physician.