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Can cinnamon reduce cholesterol and blood sugars?

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Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees. It has long been considered a medicinal plant. There are several varieties, harvested from southern China to Southeast Asia.

John Critchley, executive chef at Bourbon Steak Restaurant in Washington, D.C., uses cinnamon in many savory dishes, including a spice and herb rub for lamb loin. – Allison Aubrey/NPR

For years, there have been hints that adding cinnamon to your diet can help control blood sugar. And a recent spate of studies adds to the evidence that the effect is real.

“Yes, it does work,” says Paul Davis, a research nutritionist with the University of California, Davis. He authored a recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that concluded that cinnamon lowers fasting blood glucose.

“According to our results, it’s a modest effect of about 3 to 5 percent,” Davis says. This is about the level of reduction found in the older generation of diabetes drugs, he says.

That makes the findings of interest not just to the 25 million Americans who already have diabetes, but also to the 80 million other people — nearly 1 in 4 of us — who have elevated fasting blood-glucose levels. Doctors refer to this as pre-diabetes, meaning blood sugar that doesn’t meet the cutoff for a diagnosis of diabetes but that does indicate a high risk of developing the disease.

There’s also a recent meta-analysis concluding that cinnamon can help lower lipid levels, including LDL cholesterol (the unhealthy type) and triglycerides.

What’s not well understood is exactly how much cinnamon is optimal, and whether the effect is transient. It’s hard to tell from the studies whether it leads to a significant, long-term reduction in blood sugar.

To read more about type of cinnamon and how much, click here

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