By the way, doctor: Cinnamon as treatment for diabetes?
Q. I've heard that you can treat diabetes by taking an extract from cinnamon. I suspect this is snake oil, but is there anything to it?
A. A few years ago, I heard the same thing from a friend. My first reaction was like yours, but my friend was knowledgeable about food and suffered from type 2 diabetes, so I looked into it. There have been several published scientific studies — randomized, placebo-controlled trials — of cinnamon in patients with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Most involved relatively few people (between 20 and 60) and lasted a short time (a few weeks). A slight majority showed that cinnamon reduced blood sugar more than placebo, but the other studies didn't show a benefit.
Whenever some improbable treatment is reported to work, and I'm not sure I believe it, I look for a biochemical explanation. With cinnamon and diabetes, there is one, and it involves glucose, insulin, and insulin receptors.