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The Blood Sugar Control Secret Hidden in Apple Pie

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Highly prized for thousands of years, this warming spice was listed in the medical texts of India, China, Egypt and Greece going back as far as 2700 BC.

It was taken to treat fever, menstrual problems, digestive, respiratory and circulatory disorders and arthritis.

Perhaps most Americans know cinnamon best as an ingredient in apple pie or mulled cider, but people who are well-informed about natural health prize this spice for a more important benefit: its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and most of all for its ability to prevent and control diabetes and improve cardiovascular health.

Health benefits were discovered by accident

Dr. Richard Anderson has been working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than forty years. He specializes in looking for natural products that improve the function of insulin and help prevent diabetes.

In 1990, he and his team conducted research into chromium, a mineral now known to be effective in blood sugar control. In one study, volunteers were fed a low-chromium diet that included apple pie.

In analyzing the foods that helped insulin work more effectively, the researchers were surprised to find that the dessert topped the list!

First they assumed the benefits must come from the apples, but they tested them and found they did nothing. Then they tested everything else the volunteers were eating -- but to no avail.

The only substance left to test was cinnamon. The pie contained so little, it seemed an unlikely candidate. But when tested, the researchers were surprised to find that cinnamon had powerful blood sugar benefits.

According to Dr. Anderson, "The effects that we saw with cinnamon were greater than anything we had seen in the previous three decades."

I think it’s remarkable that a tiny amount of cinnamon in a piece of apple pie could reduce people’s blood sugar. It turned out Dr. Anderson had stumbled on one of the most important blood sugar discoveries in history.

Further studies confirm benefits for diabetes and heart health

In 2003, Dr. Anderson's group tested cinnamon in a human trial involving 30 men and 30 women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

They were divided into six groups, taking either one, three or six gram capsules of cinnamon or placebo for 40 days. At the end of this period the investigators measured levels of glucose, triglyceride fats and cholesterol.

They found that in the cinnamon group, fasting serum glucose fell by 18-29%, triglycerides by 23-30%, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 7-27% and total cholesterol by 12-26%. There were no significant changes in the placebo group.

Allow me to editorialize a bit: These results are amazing.

Other researchers have also performed human studies. One of these was Dr. Paul Crawford at the Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital, Las Vegas.

He enrolled 109 type 2 diabetic patients with HbA1C test results greater than seven percent. This is a diagnostic tool for blood sugar levels. A normal value is below six percent. Those with diabetes have levels of 6.5% or above.

Patients either underwent standard conventional treatments or, in addition, took a one gram cinnamon capsule each day for 90 days. At the end of this period the cinnamon group experienced a fall of 0.83% in their HbA1C compared with a decline of only 0.37% in the “standard of care” group.

A fall of 0.83% can lower the risk of blood vessel, kidney and eye diseases associated with diabetes by 15 to 30%.

In another human study, Dr. Rajadurai Akilen and colleagues from Thames Valley University, London not only found a significant fall in fasting blood glucose and HbA1C in those taking two grams of cinnamon daily for 12 weeks, but also a significant drop in blood pressure, body mass index and waist circumference.

The right way to take cinnamon

Sprinkling a small amount of cinnamon on your dessert periodically is fine, according to Dr. Anderson. You can certainly enjoy it this way. However, taking more generous amounts of cinnamon every day by mouth may pose a problem and even cause harm, he says.

That's because there's a protein made by the salivary glands that binds with some of the active components in cinnamon to limit its effect. Also, cinnamon contains volatile oils that are irritants and can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

For these reasons Dr. Anderson recommends taking supplements containing cinnamon extract because these bypass the salivary glands and are free of the irritating oils. In this way you get all the benefits of this spice without the drawbacks of the whole plant.

He says, "I get calls oftentimes from people who have been diagnosed [with type 2 diabetes]. They start taking the cinnamon and they never end up taking the drugs. I would say, give cinnamon a chance."



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