Can I spice up my diabetes prevention regimen with cinnamon?

Q: Can you please recommend a good cinnamon extract for treating diabetes? Thanks. — L.M., Hopatcong, NJ

Dr. Micozzi: Many herbal remedies may be excellent candidates for natural management of diabetes. And cinnamon has shown some impressive results for controlling blood sugar. Unfortunately, in my view, the necessary research hasn’t been carried out to allow us to develop real-world clinical protocol to manage diabetes in human adults using cinnamon extracts.

In other words, even though we know cinnamon works to control high blood sugar, we can’t just wing it and guess how much of this spice, how often, each person with diabetes needs, in what form, and for how long. It’s just potentially too risky. Which is why I don’t recommend taking a cinnamon extract supplement. Controlling blood pressure effectively over the long term is just too important to your health.

Of course, the unfortunate reason we don’t know enough about how to use cinnamon extracts most effectively is that the government agency charged with doing the kind of research necessary is too incompetent and ineffective to get the right studies done to really find out.

If you like the flavor of cinnamon, there’s no reason you can’t add it (as an actual spice) to your coffee or tea or sprinkle it on yogurt or fruit. But for diabetes and blood sugar management, I don’t recommend substituting any herb as a dietary supplement when there is already an excellent drug available that is safe, effective, and affordable.

I’m referring, of course, to metformin.

In the last 50 years of big pharma, there have been two or three drugs arising out of the whole mess that have long proven totally safe and effective—and metformin is one. Of course, that’s probably because it’s based on the ancient herbal remedy French lilac, or goat’s rue.

Even though some newer drugs have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, they have still not been proven to lower the long-term risk of eye, heart, kidney, and other diseases caused by diabetes. And the newer drugs can have dangerous side effects.

Metformin, on the other hand, not only lowers blood sugar, but it also drastically reduces the risk of these long-term disease complications. And its major “side effect” is that it reduces the risk of various cancers, including pancreatic cancer.