14 April 2004
Cinnamon Helps Combat Diabetes
by Kate Melville
Cinnamon may have a medical application in preventing and combating diabetes. It appears to help by playing the role of an insulin substitute in type II diabetes, according to cellular and molecular studies at the University of California, Iowa State University and the Department of Agriculture.
"Cinnamon itself has insulin-like activity and also can potentiate the activity of insulin," said Don Graves of the University of California. "The latter could be quite important in treating those with type II diabetes. Cinnamon has a bio-active component that we believe has the potential to prevent or overcome diabetes."
The healthful effects of cinnamon on mice with diabetes are being studied in a joint project at the University of California and the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara.
The researchers have been studying the effects of cinnamon on obese mice, which have been fed water laced with cinnamon at Sansum's lab, according to Graves, who is running the project with Lois Jovanovic, Sansum's research director.
"More than 170 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, and for many, drugs or other forms of treatment are unavailable," said Graves. "It may be possible that many of these people could benefit from readily available natural products such as cinnamon."
Using nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy, the researchers obtained results which allowed them to describe the chemical structure of a molecule with "insulin-like" activity in cinnamon. Graves and others reported earlier that this compound, a proanthocyanidin, can affect insulin signaling in fat cells.
Richard Anderson of the Department of Agriculture, recently completed a human study with associates in Pakistan using cinnamon. Promising results were obtained by 30 test subjects with type II diabetes after only 40 days of taking cinnamon. They had a significant decrease in blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL, and cholesterol. The researchers hope that a human trial may begin in the US, using cinnamon and its water-soluble extract to treat type II diabetes.
Graves said that other major diseases could possibly be helped by cinnamon. For example one prospect is pancreatic cancer, a disease in which abnormal amounts of insulin are produced by the pancreas in response to the cancer tumor causing insulin resistance in the cells of the body. The resistance prevents glucose availability to the cells. Graves believes that cinnamon might help overcome this resistance. "It's speculative but exciting," he said.
Recent studies have shown that insulin resistance may also be involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, according to Graves. A study testing the effects of the "insulin-like" component of cinnamon on protein reactions associated with Alzheimer's disease is planned at the University of California's Neuroscience Research Institute (NRI).