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Cinnamon piles the glucose on in the muscles

Cinnamon improves the functioning of insulin in muscle cells, Japanese researchers discovered when they did experiments on rats. The spice enhances the activity of signal proteins in the muscle cells, as a result of which a cell with the same insulin concentration absorbs more glucose.

Animal study
Cinnamon piles the glucose on in the muscles
The researchers gave their experimental animals an extract of cinnamon with a high concentration of the active ingredient MHCP, for a period of three weeks. One group was given 30 mg extract per kg bodyweight, the other group got ten times as much. At the end of the three weeks the Japanese gave the animals insulin and glucose intravenously, and recorded how much glucose the rats’ cells absorbed. The results are shown below.

The graph on the left shows the absorption for a dose of 3 milli IU insulin per kg bodyweight per minute. This took ninety minutes. After that the Japanese raised the insulin dose by a factor of ten – shown in the graph on the right. At the first dosage, which is closest to the concentrations you find in humans, the effect of the cinnamon was greatest.

Cinnamon piles the glucose on in the muscles

The researchers went in search of the mechanism that makes cinnamon boost the glucose uptake.

The figure below shows for example that cinnamon raises the concentration of IRS-1. The insulin receptor needs this protein to be able to work. The figure shows what happens with the high dose of cinnamon extract: the low dose had no effect.

The left-hand bar shows the amount of IRS-1 in the muscle cells. This rises slightly, but the rise is not significant. On the right-hand side you do see a significant effect. That graph shows the increased frequency of phosphor groups attached to the protein. At cell level, many signal proteins only become active when phosphor groups are attached to them.

Cinnamon piles the glucose on in the muscles

The activated insulin receptor attaches IRS-1 to the enzyme P13 kinase. When that complex gets phosphor groups, the muscle cell starts extracting glucose out of the bloodstream through glucose transporters. The figure below shows the effect of cinnamon on the complex of IRS-1 and P13 kinase.

The graph on the left shows the amount of the complex. This doesn't change. But the number of phosphor groups attached to the complex does increase. And that means more activity.

Cinnamon piles the glucose on in the muscles

Human study
Humans may be more sensitive to cinnamon than rats, according to Pakistani research on people with diabetes-2. [Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec; 26(12): 3215-3218.] A 40-day course of capsules containing 1, 3 or 6 g cinnamon – not extract – reduced the test subjects' sugar and cholesterol levels. The amount the people took was not important – all dosages worked equally well. One gram of cinnamon is a half a teaspoon.

The cinnamon also worked in people who did not have diabetes 2. A researcher tried the cinnamon out on himself and discovered that his blood sugar level went down too.

The authors of the Pakistani study emphasise that they don't know the exact dose at which cinnamon becomes poisonous. It is known, however, that extreme doses of cinnamon are toxic. Pregnant women are advised not to use large quantities of cinnamon as this may harm the brain of the unborn child.

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2003 Dec;62(3):139-48.

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