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Spicing Up Insulin Sensitivity / November 21, 2003 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Chemists Richard Anderson and Marilyn Polansky use high-performance liquid chromatography to identify compounds from cinnamon that improve the action of insulin. Click the image for additional information about it.
Chemists Richard Anderson and Marilyn Polansky use high-performance liquid chromatography to identify compounds from cinnamon that improve the action of insulin.  Click the image for additional information about it.

Spicing Up Insulin Sensitivity

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
November 21, 2003

Less than a half-teaspoon a day of cinnamon reduced the blood sugar levels of 60 volunteers in Pakistan with Type 2 diabetes who participated in a study by the Agricultural Research Service and cooperators in Pakistan. The findings were published online today in the December issue of Diabetes Care.

The study was conducted by ARS chemist Richard A. Anderson at the ARS Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and colleagues from Agricultural University, Peshawar, Pakistan. The study is preliminary and based on results with a small group of volunteers. At this time, there are no data on safety or potential toxic buildup from consistently ingesting table cinnamon.

In Type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body cannot correctly use it. Insulin is a hormone that regulates sugar metabolism. The result is that unhealthy levels of sugar circulate in the blood, instead of providing energy to muscles.

In the study, the researchers divided the volunteers--who were not taking insulin--randomly into six groups. The first group ate one gram of cinnamon per day, while the second group ate three grams of cinnamon per day, and Group 3 ate six grams of cinnamon per day. Groups 4, 5 and 6 were given placebo capsules corresponding in size and number to the capsules consumed by volunteers in the three cinnamon-eating groups.

The researchers saw an improvement of roughly 20 percent in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in volunteers eating as little as one gram (less than 1/2 teaspoon) of cinnamon per day for 40 days. No advantage was seen in taking more than that amount. Significantly, the volunteers' blood sugar levels started climbing when the cinnamon was stopped.

These results with a small group of volunteers--encouraging though preliminary-- indicate the need for further analysis of cinnamon and its chemical components and for long-term feeding studies.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

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Last Modified: 11/21/2003