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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Cinnamon, Spices, Herbs and Similar

On the various diabetes groups I read there is a perennial question as to the benefits of cinnamon for reducing blood glucose peaks. Many of the stories about cinnamon can be traced back to a limited study in Pakistan a few years ago and some US follow-ups. I won't argue about their validity but I've seen no credible in-depth studies on the subject. However it keeps recurring almost weekly on places like the ADA forum and was discussed last month on the ADA web-site and last April on David Mendosa's excellent web-site. [see the post-script at the foot, added 18 February 2009

The minimal, if any, effect that cinnamon had on me was trivial. Reducing my carb input by just a few grams had a much greater effect. I still use cinnamon as a spice frequently and infuse it in my morning coffee - but for taste, not BGs. It did affect my post-breakfast BG peak indirectly, because I no longer add milk to my morning coffee as a consequence.

I use many other herbs and spices in my menu. Some for taste, some for medicinal purposes, some for both. Some have proven benefits, such as turmeric for some cancers, some are anecdotal. My attitude is that if it is not harmful I have nothing to lose and a possible gain by adding such things to my menu. However, I do NOT buy capsules or pills of cinnamon, or turmeric, or garlic or anything. I eat them by including the herbs, spices and specific foods regularly in my normal way of eating. Sometimes by spicing up an existing recipe, such as a sprinkle of turmeric and black pepper (the two are complementary) in a morning omelette; sometimes by adding new spicy dishes to my menu, such as Asian stir-fries etc.
So I have tiny amounts of many things almost every day.

As I wrote this I started reviewing the herbs and spices in my menu over the last few days. Just normal days, nothing unusual. Turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, grated black pepper, cumin, paprika, thyme, mint, basil, rosemary, hot chili, fresh garlic, grated ginger and the broad combination spices of garam masala and commercial curry powder. That's in addition to ensuring my menu also included items like avocado, nuts, psyllium husks, leafy greens, onions, capsicum (peppers) etc. And, of course, a modicum of red wine. Most of my herbs are grown fresh at home. When the crop is over-abundant I dry it, chop it and store it for future use out of season.

As to which of those, if any, is helping my diabetes or CLL, who knows. But I'll follow my docs' advice and keep doing what I'm doing.

Because, even if they don't improve my health, they definitely help a slightly restricted menu taste good.

Post-script, 18th February 2009. I just became aware of this paper published in Diabetes Care in January 2008:
Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose Control and Lipid Parameters.

"CONCLUSIONS— In this meta-analysis of five randomized placebo controlled trials, patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes receiving cinnamon did not demonstrate statistically or clinically significant changes in A1C, FBG, or lipid parameters in comparison with subjects receiving placebo."

PPS Added 26th January 2014. This extract from an editorial is from the Annals of Internal Medicine published 17th December 2013 

Other reviews and guidelines that have appraised the role of vitamin and mineral supplements in primary or secondary prevention of chronic disease have consistently found null results or possible harms (56). Evidence involving tens of thousands of people randomly assigned in many clinical trials shows that β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality (67) and that other antioxidants (6), folic acid and B vitamins (8), and multivitamin supplements (1, 5) have no clear benefit.

Despite sobering evidence of no benefit or possible harm, use of multivitamin supplements increased among U.S. adults from 30% between 1988 to 1994 to 39% between 2003 to 2006, while overall use of dietary supplements increased from 42% to 53% (9). Longitudinal and secular trends show a steady increase in multivitamin supplement use and a decline in use of some individual supplements, such as β-carotene and vitamin E. The decline in use of β-carotene and vitamin E supplements followed reports of adverse outcomes in lung cancer and all-cause mortality, respectively. In contrast, sales of multivitamins and other supplements have not been affected by major studies with null results, and the U.S. supplement industry continues to grow, reaching $28 billion in annual sales in 2010. Similar trends have been observed in the United Kingdom and in other European countries.

The large body of accumulated evidence has important public health and clinical implications. Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation, and we should translate null and negative findings into action. The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided. This message is especially true for the general population with no clear evidence of micronutrient deficiencies, who represent most supplement users in the United States and in other countries (9).
Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter


jpatti said...

I find it works better if I don't chop herbs when I dry them. Dry them whole and then crumble them when actually using them. They're much more flavorful that way, apparently the oils don't evaporate out.

The difference is HUGE in basil - a whole dried basil leaf crumbled at use is almost exactly like fresh basil.

Alan said...

Thanks for the tip Jackie; I'll try that with the next crop.

Unfortunately some bug is attacking the basil at the moment so I'm looking for a chemical-free bug deterrent for that. The price of living in paradise is bugs:-)

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