Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Spicy medicine, or just spice?

Heart Beat

Spicy medicine, or just spice?

An announcement in 2003 by Pakistani and American researchers certainly added some spice to controlling cholesterol and blood sugar. Their study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes showed that taking capsules of powdered cinnamon lowered blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides. This trio is a common problem for people with diabetes.

That was all it took to jump start a mini-industry in cinnamon-containing supplements and extracts.

One study, though, isn't proof positive. The latest pair of experiments came to different conclusions. German researchers showed that a water-based extract of cinnamon (equivalent to taking 3 grams of powdered cinnamon a day) lowered blood sugar by 10% but didn't affect LDL or triglycerides. Dutch researchers didn't see any change in blood sugar, LDL, or triglycerides in older women with type 2 diabetes who took powdered cinnamon.

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