What is the Cause of Diabetes? In type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels occur when glucose is prevented, to a significant degree, from entering cells of the body, notably liver, muscle, and fat cells. This is caused by a “short circuit” in the insulin signaling pathway, a cascade of highly specific chemical reactions that allow insulin to fulfill its role as the facilitator of glucose transport through the cell walls. Insulin is produced by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels; once it enters the blood, it signals the body’s cells to take up the excess glucose until normal levels are restored. When insulin molecules bind to the insulin receptors on cell walls, tiny molecular “gates” open up and allow glucose molecules to pass through. If this system is impaired, the gates don’t respond adequately to the insulin signal, thus preventing the glucose from entering the cell. This condition, which is a common consequence of obesity, is called insulin resistance, and it’s both a harbinger and a symptom of diabetes. With insulin resistance, glucose levels in the blood remain high, a very dangerous condition in the long run. The pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin, but this works only for so long. Eventually, the pancreas becomes overburdened and starts making less insulin. That’s when things go from bad to worse. One of the most exciting recent discoveries in health is cinnamon and its effects on blood sugar (glucose) levels. The positive effect of cinnamon on blood sugar were discovered by accident at the USDA testing center in Maryland where scientists were testing the effects of various foods on blood sugar (glucose) levels. They were surprised when good ol’ apple pie actually helped lower glucose levels. Although cinnamon bark and cinnamon flowers are used medicinally, Chinese cinnamon, or Cinnamomum aromaticum, is the form used for diabetes. Specifically, hydroxychalcone may work on insulin receptors to increase insulin sensitivity and help promote glucose uptake into cells and tissues and promote glycogen (the storage form of glucose) synthesis. Several Studies Confirm the Positive Effects of Cinnamon In a December 2003 Diabetes Care study, cinnamon was found to improve glucose and lipids in people with diabetes. Sixty patients with type 2 who were taking a sulfonylurea (glyburide) were given one of three doses of cinnamon (1, 3 or 6 grams per day) or a placebo for 40 days. Fasting blood glucose declined by 18 to 29 percent after 40 days in all three cinnamon treated groups. Specifically, 1 gram per day decreased glucose from 209 to 157 mg/dl, 3 grams per day decreased glucose from 205 to 169 mg/dl and 6 grams per day decreased glucose from 234 to 166 mg/dl. Patients then went without any cinnamon for 20 additional days, but their fasting glucose was still lower than at baseline for the previously cinnamon-treated groups, indicating that cinnamon had a sustained benefit. Furthermore, total cholesterol decreased by 12 to 26 percent, triglycerides decreased by 23 to 30 percent, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol also declined from 7 to 27 percent. Another study was done by the University of Hannover in Hannover, Germany and published in a recent issue of the European Journal of Clinical Investigation. This was the first study evaluating the effect of a water-soluble cinnamon extract on glycemic control and the lipid profile of Western patients with type 2 diabetes. The results further add to a growing body of clinical evidence demonstrating supplementation with a water-soluble cinnamon extract may play an important role in managing blood sugar levels and improving insulin function. Cinnamon is not Advised Benefitting from this discovery may not be as simple as increasing cinnamon intake in your diet. Cinnamon contains volatile oils and when taken consistently in high doses may be toxic. This is why high quality supplements are recommended. In conclusion, cinnamon reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Because cinnamon would not contribute to caloric intake, those who have type 2 diabetes or those who have elevated glucose, triglyceride, LDL-cholesterol, or total cholesterol levels may benefit from the regular inclusion of cinnamon in their daily diet. In addition, cinnamon may be beneficial for the remainder of the population to prevent and control elevated glucose and blood lipid levels.