If you’ve been looking for natural ways to lower your blood sugar, you may have come across cinnamon. Does cinnamon really lower blood sugar, or is it just another gimmick? I dove into the science for you, so that you can make a smart decision on using cinnamon as a tool for blood sugar management.
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you’ve probably heard the claims that cinnamon can lower your blood sugar. In this article you’ll learn the health benefits of cinnamon, how it can lower your blood sugar, the different types of cinnamon as well as if and how much you should use to help manage your blood sugar.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
A number of studies have linked cinnamon to lowering blood sugar and even heart health. While not all of the claims you may have heard are true, there are several proven health benefits of cinnamon.
Cinnamon and Blood Sugar
Cinnamon has been found to lower blood sugar by imitating insulin in the body. Insulin is the hormone that lowers blood sugar by transporting it from the blood into the cells to be used for energy. By acting as a transporter, cinnamon can also move sugar from the blood into cells.
Not only does cinnamon help to move sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, but it also increases the sensitivity of your cells to insulin. Many times, type 2 diabetes results when the cells become insulin resistant. When your cells are resistant to insulin, the sugar can’t get in which causes it to build up in the blood. This leads to high blood sugar levels.
These two benefits of cinnamon, transporting sugar into the cells and helping the cells become more insulin sensitive, can help lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes.
Not only can cinnamon reduce your fasting blood sugar, as some studies have found, it can also decrease your blood sugar after a meal.
Several studies have found that cinnamon has the potential to lower post-meal blood sugar levels, although why this happens isn’t quite clear. One theory is that cinnamon delays the rate of gastric emptying. The longer it takes for food to work its way through your digestive tract, the slower sugar is released from your food into the bloodstream.
Another theory is that cinnamon may block specific enzymes that break down carbohydrates. Less carbohydrate being broken down leads to less sugar reaching the bloodstream.
Cinnamon and Heart Health
While cinnamon is a bit of a celebrity in the diabetes world, it’s also an important spice for heart health. This is great news since people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those without diabetes.
In people with type 2 diabetes, cinnamon was found to lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides while also increasing HDL cholesterol levels. In addition to healthier cholesterol levels, there’s some evidence that cinnamon can also help to lower blood pressure.
What type of cinnamon should you use?
It’s important to understand that not all cinnamon is the same, or provides the same benefits. All cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum tree, which includes several different species.
The two forms of cinnamon are Cassia and Ceylon. Cassia is more common, less expensive, and most often found in food products. Ceylon, also known as “true cinnamon”, is more expensive and is also more effective when it comes to health benefits.
Cassia cinnamon can come from a variety of Cinnamomum trees and even a combination of the species. While this isn’t the most effective form of cinnamon, it’s often the one used in human studies, so we know it does provide some health benefits.
Some potential downsides of Cassia cinnamon include a lower antioxidant level than its sister Ceylon and the potential for liver damage at high doses. Cassia includes a compound called coumarin, which is found in many other plants as well. Animal studies have found high doses of coumarin to be toxic to the liver, which could also be true in humans.
Ceylon cinnamon only comes from the Cinnamomum verum tree. Since its origin is so selective, the cost is often higher than its sister form, Cassia. Ceylon is higher in antioxidant content and may provide a greater health benefit.
Coumarin, the potentially dangerous compound in Cassia cinnamon, isn’t present in Ceylon cinnamon. This means that higher doses of Ceylon can be used without the risk of liver toxicity.
Try adding Ceylon cinnamon to your next batch of my favorite banana carrot muffins!
How Much Cinnamon Should You Use?
Cinnamon can offer a variety of health benefits when it comes to managing blood sugars and diabetes, but how much should you take?
Most studies use between 1 to 6 grams per day as a supplement or in a powdered form added to food. For perspective, 5 grams is equal to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
One study compared taking 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon and the impact that each amount had on blood sugar levels. They found that blood sugar levels decreased by the same amount with all three doses, indicating that the lower dose may be just as effective as a higher one.
Enjoy your daily dose of cinnamon with The Easiest Sugar-Free Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake.
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Potential Danger of Cinnamon for Diabetes
Since cinnamon can be an effective way to lower blood sugar, you need to be cautious of lowering your blood sugar too much. If you take medications to reduce glucose levels, you could increase your risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can be life-threatening. This is why you should always speak to your physician before adding cinnamon to your meal plan to make sure it is right for you.
The bottom line: Should you take cinnamon to lower your blood sugar?
The research shows adding cinnamon to your diet may improve blood glucose levels and heart health. However, there is a potential for dangerous side effects from low blood sugar as well as the high levels of coumarin found in Cassia cinnamon.
If you want to try adding cinnamon to your diet to help with blood sugar management, make sure to discuss this with your doctor and dietitian first. They can help you to determine the lowest, most effective dose for you and to avoid the negative side effects of medication interactions. When choosing the type of cinnamon to take, consider Ceylon cinnamon to increase your antioxidant intake and reduce your intake of coumarin.