Just the word cinnamon can drum up the fragrance of a pleasingly aromatic spice. However, it’s also known to support health in a variety of areas, including the brain, the blood, digestion, the heart, immunity and keeping unhealthy cholesterol and inflammation levels in check.
What cinnamon is perhaps best known for, however, is its ability to stabilize blood sugar levels. For example, even back in 2007, a study published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism concluded that ingesting cinnamon reduced total plasma glucose and improved insulin sensitivity in study participants. What’s more is that those positive blood sugar effects stayed in place for 12 full hours!
Speaking of insulin . . . here’s where we can see some synergy between cinnamon and chromium, which have been shown in studies to improve insulin sensitivity. They also have similar effects on insulin signaling and on glucose control—and have even been known to positively affect the cluster of symptoms surrounding metabolic syndrome.
For starters, however, it’s important to know that chromium is crucial for insulin being able to assist in metabolizing and storing nutrients—including all proteins, fats and carbs. As far back as 1957, a component in brewer’s yeast—which was later identified as chromium in 1959—helped to support and maintain normal levels of blood sugar in test animals. In short, it was determined that chromium was the active ingredient in this so-called “glucose tolerance factor.” Unfortunately, chromium is often difficult to absorb for some people, so dietary supplementation may be a viable option for many.
Since chromium is directly involved in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, much research is now focused on determining the extent to which chromium operates in the body. For example, researchers are looking further into defining the types of people who respond favorably to chromium supplementation. They’re also investigating the content of chromium found in foods as well as its bioavailability. Determining if there is a clinically relevant chromium deficiency among people due to inadequate diet and creating measurements for a person’s “chromium status” are important topics, too.
Some interesting facts surrounding chromium levels in the body are that absorption of chromium via the intestinal tract is low, while the rest is simply excreted. The absorbed chromium, however, is stored in the liver, the spleen, soft tissues and in bones. Some nutrients that help with chromium absorption include vitamin C and the B vitamin niacin. Reduced chromium levels in the body can result from unhealthy diets, especially those high in simple sugars; infection; acute exercise; pregnancy; lactation; and stress or physical trauma.
Additionally, the symptoms of chromium deficiency appear similar to those of metabolic syndrome, which, by the way, improve in the presence of adequate chromium. As far as what foods provide chromium, you can find good amounts of chromium in broccoli, grape juice, oranges, fish, lean meats (including beef), poultry, eggs and nuts. And cinnamon? You can sprinkle it on so many things or you can also use supplements to glean the benefits of this amazing spice—for blood sugar health and more.
Blood sugar balance is a big deal these days, too, and is getting more and more difficult to attain for many people. Statistics from January of 2011 say that 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S.—8.3 percent of the population—have diabetes, while 7 million are undiagnosed and 79 million people are pre-diabetic. And the numbers are expected to climb—to the tune of a 64 percent increase in diabetes over the next 10 years.
But diabetes doesn’t stop with just blood sugar. Long-term effects of diabetes can include heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputations—among other serious outcomes. There are two types of diabetes, but type 2 makes up more than 90 percent of the cases—and type 2 diabetes can be managed or reversed with proper diet and lifestyle choices.
And now, thankfully, we can add cinnamon and chromium to the mix.