The spices in your kitchen cabinet may do more than add flavor to your foods. Some of the most commonly used spices may prevent inflammation which is believed to help fuel diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Researchers from the University of Georgia tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices and found that many contained high levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant that inhibits inflammation. We’ve heard about these antioxidants before in things such as green tea, red wine, pomegranate, etc. According to researcher James L. Hargrove, PhD, “the early findings suggest that liberal use of cinnamon in your morning oatmeal or Italian seasonings in your spaghetti sauce could have big payoffs for your health.” (WebMD, Diabetes Health Center, Aug. 6, 2008.)
Hargrove and colleagues found that out of all the spices and herb extracts tested, ground clove won for the most polyphenols and anti-inflammatory effect. Cinnamon came in a close second. There has been so much research supporting the positive effects of cinnamon for lowering blood sugar that many diabetics and pre-diabetics now take supplements with cinnamon in it.
I know we have a few supplements at our clinic with cinnamon and a host of other blood sugar stabilizing nutrients in it.
Richard Anderson, PhD, a scientist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center was the first to make the connection with cinnamon and blood sugar. In a 2003 study, Anderson and colleagues found that “as little as half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduced blood sugar and improved cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes who took cinnamon in capsule form after meals.”
Of course there are some studies with mixed reviews. These studies were small and just looked at people either taking placebo or various doses of cinnamon. Just taking cinnamon daily will not prevent or treat diabetes. It can help to stabilize blood sugars, but a healthy diet of complex carbs, high fiber, quality protein and healthy fats along with exercise is the main foundation to build from.
It certainly won’t hurt to think about adding cinnamon to some of your meals as well as other herbs and spices. It might be best if we used less salt and more of these herbs and spices. I have seen excellent positive effects with cinnamon supplements in addition to lifestyle changes with my patients.