Author: Caroline MacDougall
It was discovered by accident. The US Department of Agriculture was conducting experiments on foods to see how fast they raise blood sugar. Oddly enough, America’s favorite apple pie had just the opposite effect. It helped reduce blood sugar!
If you are insulin resistant, have type 2 diabetes or just want to stabilize your blood sugar to help lose weight, here is a delicious way to lower your blood sugar and reduce both your cholesterol and blood pressure while you naturally stimulate your metabolism.
Apple pie, high in both cane and fruit sugars, should have raised blood sugar, not lowered it. When researchers at the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland discovered this phenomenon, they delved into finding what caused it. Richard Anderson, the scientist in charge of the study, found that cinnamon in the apple pie was responsible for making fat cells more receptive to insulin. One of his postdoctoral students, Alam Khan, decided to conduct a test in Pakistan to see what effect cinnamon would have on diabetics.
60 participants with type 2 diabetes were given between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder a day, for 40 days, in capsules after meals. Within a short period of time, their blood sugar levels dropped an average of 20% lower than the control group of diabetics who were only taking a placebo. Cinnamon helped some of the diabetics even reduce their blood sugar to normal levels during the course of the study. The effects of the cinnamon were not permanent however. When the diabetics stopped taking the cinnamon, their blood sugar levels rose again.
MHCP: the water-soluble polyphenol that lowers blood sugar
The active principle in cinnamon that makes fat cells more receptive to insulin is a water soluble, polyphenol compound called MHCP. MHCP activates an enzyme that causes insulin to bind to cells and inhibits the enzyme that blocks this process. MHCP mimics insulin by activating its cellular receptors and it works synergistically with insulin in the cells.
Cinnamon oil, commonly used as a flavoring, won’t help though. You have to eat ground cinnamon just like you buy in the spice rack at your grocery store to get the beneficial effects of MHCP. If you don’t want to eat cinnamon at every meal, you can take cinnamon in capsules like the diabetics did in the study. But if you love the flavor of cinnamon, you can add it to your meals and even your tea. One of the researchers found that a cinnamon stick in his tea cup lowered his blood sugar even though he wasn’t diabetic.
Spices increase the body’s metabolic rate
There are plenty more health benefits cinnamon can bring you too. Pungent spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom increase the body’s metabolic rate. The heat you experience when you eat a spicy meal, or drink spice teas like chai, is generated by the stimulating effect of spices that raise your metabolism by burning up calories. Spices are natural stimulants that will wake up your system without adrenal stimulating drugs such as caffeine that elevate stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Cinnamon enhances digestive health
Cinnamon enhances digestion and can relieve gas and bloating. Cinnamon oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties like many essential oils from spices and other medicinal plants. After all, plants developed their essential oils to defend themselves from insects and diseases. Ground cinnamon has shown effectiveness against the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which is associated with the development of intestinal ulcers. Cinnamon was found in the diabetics study to significantly lower blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Eat and drink cinnamon daily
Cooking with cinnamon makes taking your daily dose a real pleasure. Cinnamon is included in all kinds of Indian curries and you’ll find lots of tropical recipes that depend on cinnamon where spices in general were thought to preserve food from spoilage. Cinnamon is used to spice up both meat and fish recipes and you can find Middle Eastern savory lamb and chicken recipes using cinnamon. Cinnamon flavors exotic rice dishes combined with nuts and raisins. My favorite breakfast use of cinnamon is in oatmeal where the oat bran plus cinnamon makes a real heart healthy meal. Kids love cinnamon on toast, but skip the sugar if you’re trying to lower blood sugar. Watch out for desserts and baked goods high in fat and sugar because even though they may be flavored with cinnamon, it is likely that the benefits of the cinnamon will be outweighed by the calories of the refined carbohydrates and fats.
I couldn’t end this article without including one of my favorite drinks, spicy chai, made with rooibos for a caffeine-free version or caffeine-free, roasted ramon nuts for a coffee-like chai. I like brewing my own chai rather than buying the concentrates that are way too sweet. Check out my spice and chai teas and Teeccino Maya Chai. All of them are full of cinnamon and make a delicious accompaniment to meals!