Cinnamon's Secret Health Benefit
The popular spice may help regulate blood-glucose levels.
Eating the spiced pudding also appeared to slow the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine (a part of digestion called “gastric emptying”). Though researchers don’t know exactly how cinnamon slows digestion, the fact that it does may, in part, explain the lower blood sugar. “When food enters the intestine more slowly, carbohydrates are broken down slower, which leads to a lower [post-meal] blood-glucose concentration,” says the study’s investigator, Joanna Hlebowicz, M.D.
Other studies suggest that the spice also may improve blood-glucose levels by increasing a person’s insulin sensitivity, the ability of cells to respond to insulin’s signal to move glucose out of the blood. One 2003 trial of 60 people with type 2 diabetes reported that consuming as little as 1 gram (about 1⁄2 teaspoon) of cinnamon daily for six weeks reduced blood-glucose levels significantly. It also improved the subjects’ blood cholesterol and triglycerides—perhaps because insulin plays a key role in regulating fats in the body. But other work disputes these findings. A 2006 study showed that insulin sensitivity in diabetic women taking cinnamon supplements did not improve. Why the discrepancy? It could be because the study examined only a specific population: postmenopausal women, many of whom were taking a variety of glucose-lowering medications (which wasn’t the case in the other studies), say the authors.