Cinnamon Extract Spices Up Sugar
By Judy McBride
July 24, 2000
Cinnamon adds zest to more than just
food. The spice contains substances that, in test tube studies, wake up body
cells to the hormone insulin. Because insulin regulates glucose metabolism and
thus controls the level of glucose in the blood, the substances may have the
potential to delay or prevent adult-onset, or type 2, diabetes.
Only time and more research will tell. But the
Agricultural Research Service has filed
a patent application on the active substances. The most active--methylhydroxy
chalcone polymer (MHCP)---increased glucose metabolism roughly 20-fold in the
test tube assay of fat cells.
Nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population--15.7 million people--have diabetes,
and one-third of them dont even know it. The large majority of diabetes
cases are type 2, the kind that emerges when body cells fail to recognize and
respond to insulin as well as they once did.
A search for a natural way to keep blood sugar levels normal began more than
a decade ago, when ARS chemist Richard A. Anderson and coworkers at the
Beltsville (Md.) Human Nutrition
Research Center assayed plants and spices used in folk medicine. They found
that a few spices, especially cinnamon, made fat cells much more responsive to
With help from Walter F. Schmidt in ARS Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
Laboratory at Beltsville, the researchers identified the compounds in cinnamon
responsible for its activity. None of the approximately 50 other plant extracts
they evaluated have come close to MHCPs level of activity. MHCP and other
active compounds are water soluble and so are not found in the spice oils sold
as food additives.
An article on the subject appears in the July issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief research agency.
Scientific contact: Richard A. Anderson,
and Functions Laboratory, ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center,
Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8091, fax (301) 504-9062,