A common spice already enjoyed by many Americans appears to lower blood sugar and cholestrol. The spice is Cinnamon.In a paper published in December in Diabetes Care,researchers from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Reserach Center in Maryland,reported on a small, but encouraging study of 60 people with Type 2 diabetes in Pakistan.
It showed that as little as one gram a day of cinnamon-onefourth of a teaspoon twice a day-can lower blood sugar by an average of 18to 29 percent, LDL(or bad) cholestrol by 7 to 27 percent and total cholestrol by 12 to 26 percent. Although some scientists suspect that cinnamon may be toxic at very high doses,at the small doses used in this study, the spice appears to be safe, said Richard Anderson, the lead scientist in the Beltsvile lab and senior author of the paper.
To be sure, one small study on 60 people and a handful of other studies on the biochemistry of cinnamon in cells in lab dishes provide far to little data to recommend that Americans immediately start wolfing down large quanities of the spice. On the other hand, the USDA study was "impressive" said Melinda Maryniuk, a senior dietician at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Cinnamon "can't harm in small doses, it may help, and its not adding calories," she said. She warned, however that people with Type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes should monitor their blood sugar more frequently if they take cinnamon because it could intensify the effects of diabetes medications, including insulin.
An active, water-soluble ingredient in cinnamon, proanthocyanidian, part of a family of chemicals called polyphenols that are often found in plants, somehow worms its way inside cells. Once inside, it helps to activate,the part of the insulin receptor that sticks into the cell. (The other end of the receptor sticks out through the cell membrane into the bloodstream to catch molecules of insulin,which escort sugar to cells.) Then once the receptor is activated, wheter by insulin or proanthocyanidin, a cascade of chemical reactions occurs so that the cell can use energy from sugar.
But people shoud not rely on cinnamon to replace statin drugs, used by 20 million Americans to lower cholestrol."Cinnamon is alot less effective than statins says Dr. Frank Sacks, a physician at Bringham and Womens Hospital and professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health
On the other hand, Dr. Andrew Greenberg, director of the obesity metabolism laboratory at Tufts, has reviewed the existing literature on cinnamon and is impressed enough to be starting a collaboration with Anderson, whose preliminary findings he described as " very exciting and promising."