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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 6, 2003

Cinnamon benefits some diabetics, kills harmful bacteria

By Amy Tousman

Q. Are there any health benefits to eating cinnamon?

A. Daily consumption of cinnamon offers several health benefits, the most promising being in the area of diabetes treatment.

Researchers at the U.S. Agricultural Research Service nutrition labs have observed a positive effect from cinnamon on insulin sensitivity. Insulin is needed to convert carbohydrate and sugar in foods into energy. Some folks have a condition where the body makes insulin, but the fat cells won't let the insulin in. This causes excess sugar to stay in the blood and often leads to diabetes.

Cinnamon makes the cells more likely to let insulin in. This is because of a substance in cinnamon called methylhydroxy chalcone polymer. This polymer also prevents damaging oxygen radicals from forming and lowers blood pressure in rats with Type 2 diabetes. Oxygen radicals often lead to heart disease.

The initial studies were done in rats and in test tubes. A human trial was published last month in the journal Diabetes Care. This study looked at the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar, blood fats and cholesterol in people with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of heart-related problems.

In this study, people with Type 2 diabetes were given varying amounts of cinnamon capsules daily. Additional groups were given placebo capsules. The cinnamon was consumed for 40 days.

Cinnamon intake of 1 gram or more daily reduced fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. No changes were noted in the placebo groups.

Researchers are recommending that Type 2 diabetics take up to 1 tsp of cinnamon daily.

Another benefit of cinnamon is in combating the potentially deadly E. coli 0157 bacteria. This bacteria is a source of food poisoning. Microbiologists at Kansas State University found that adding small amounts of cinnamon to samples of apple juice contaminated with E. coli bug killed most of the bacteria. Unpasteurized juice is a known source of E. coli infection. Just 1 teaspoon of cinnamon killed 99.5 percent of the bacteria after three days at room temperature.

Researchers feel there is potential for cinnamon to kill off other harmful bacteria such as salmonella. This still needs to be studied.

Cinnamon is readily available and inexpensive. It is a cost-effective way of offsetting future health problems related to diabetes. It can be sprinkled into coffee, tea, oatmeal, yogurt or eaten on toast.

Amy Tousman is a registered dietitian with the Health Education Center of Straub Clinic and Hospital.

Hawai'i experts in traditional medicine, naturopathic medicine and diet take turns writing the Prescriptions column. Send questions to: Prescriptions, Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; fax 535-8170; e-mail islandlife@honoluluadvertiser.com. This column is not intended to provide medical advice.