Friday, March 30, 2007

A Dash Of Cinnamon

Those woo advertisements on the radio just keep coming thick and fast. Now it's cinnamon extract as an alternative to diabetes drugs. Why it's spoken in a German accent is anyone's guess, but some of the claims are that:

Special cinnamon extracts supports the regulation of sugar metabolism by making body cells more sensitive again to insulin. [...] Clinically researched. To work.

There's a definite pause right at the end, so EoR assumes that those last two statements are separate sentences and, therefore, meaningless.

The manufacturer's page, while it maintains the veneer of science, is fairly wishy-washy. According to its advice:

The components of the cinnamon extract support the blood sugar-metabolism and can help to improve sugar regulation. However, GLUCOPTIN does not replace blood sugar-modifying medicines.

What's the point of taking it then? It's just another drug to add to all the other pills that seems to be totally superfluous. EoR was also confused by the claim that:

No genetically modified organisms are used during the manufacture of this product.

But it's made from "selected cinnamon bark". Maybe they mean it's not made from genetically engineered organisms? Which may be a minor point, but indicates a sloppy approach to science.

Five studies are mentioned:

  • Mang et al, Euro Jnl Clinical Invet, 2006 which found "The cinnamon extract seems to have a moderate effect in reducing fasting plasma glucose concentrations in diabetic patients with poor glycaemic control."

  • Qin et al, Hormone and Metabolic Research, 2004 which found "These results suggest that early CE administration to HFD-fed rats would prevent the development of insulin resistance at least in part by enhancing insulin signaling and possibly via the NO pathway in skeletal muscle."

  • Qin et al, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2003 which found "These results suggest that the cinnamon extract would improve insulin action via increasing glucose uptake in vivo, at least in part through enhancing the insulin-signaling pathway in skeletal muscle."

The two other studies are not listed on PubMed, but two further studies found:

These results suggest that cinnamon extract has a regulatory role in blood glucose level and lipids and it may also exert a blood glucose-suppressing effect by improving insulin sensitivity or slowing absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine.


Rats were given Cinnamomum cassia bark or extracts from Cinnamomum cassia and zeylanicum to evaluate blood glucose and plasma insulin levels in rats under various conditions. The cassia extract was superior to the zeylanicum extract.

While the studies so far are promising, it needs to be noted that these are studies in rats, various doses were used in the different studies (so no best dose has been established) and the species of cinnamon used may also be a factor. The Pharmaselect product uses Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, which was found in that last study to be less effective.

The Mayo Clinic is cautious:

This is a topic of debate. While some research suggests that cinnamon enhances the effectiveness of insulin, resulting in lower blood sugar levels, other research contradicts this conclusion. A 2006 study found that cinnamon extract has a moderate effect in reducing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. However, another study published in 2006 concluded that cinnamon supplements don't improve blood sugar control in postmenopausal women. More research would be needed to determine what role cinnamon may play in the treatment of diabetes.

A search of Diabetes Australia found no search results for cinnamon extract.

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