A new meta-analysis of 10 studies in patients with type 2 diabetes, published by Prof Robert W. Allen on 9 September in the Annals of Family Medicine, showed that taking cinnamon supplements improves fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels.


Despite an increasing body of literature focused on the use of natural supplements in the treatment of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) does not recommend their use because clinical evidence showing efficacy is insufficient and they lack standardized formulations, explain Prof. Allen and colleagues in their paper.


Cinnamon is one of the natural products that are of interest for diabetes because some animal studies and small clinical trials have suggested that it may lower blood glucose, an effect attributed to its active component cinnamaldehyde.  But a 2008 meta-analysis by this same research group did not find a statistical benefit of cinnamon on glucose lowering.  See our earlier blog on this research.


However several randomized trials have been published since then, so the group conducted a new review to investigate a potential role for cinnamon in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.  They identified 10 randomized controlled trials published to February 2012, which evaluated cinnamon vs a control, in a total of 543 patients with type 2 diabetes. 


The meta-analysis found that after 4 to 18 weeks, the patients experienced a mean drop in plasma glucose that was less than the improvement reported with metformin therapy but slightly more than the improvement reported with sitagliptin.  The patients also had reductions in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.


"I wouldn't recommend cinnamon instead of medication," said senior author Olivia Phung, PharmD, from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California.  However, "small doses of a cinnamon supplement could be used along with traditional diabetes medication", she conceded.  


Better still, we say, have some freshly grated cinnamon on your cereal or fruit every day.