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Sugar and spice

Is a natural medicine hiding in your kitchen?

CINNAMON may prevent or at least delay a type of diabetes that develops with age, say researchers in the US.

Clinical trials of a cinnamon extract are due to begin within a year, but nutritionist Richard Anderson says patients with type II or non-insulin-dependent diabetes could benefit now by adding the spice to their food or drink. "We recommend people take a quarter to a full teaspoon a day of cinnamon, perhaps in orange juice, coffee or on oatmeal," he says.

Type II diabetes kills 100 million people prematurely each year. In patients with the condition, fat and muscle cells gradually lose their ability to respond to insulin, the hormone that directs cells to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision.

In earlier laboratory experiments, Anderson and his colleagues at the US Agricultural Research Service's nutrition labs in Beltsville, Maryland, established that cinnamon rekindles the ability of fat cells from type II diabetics to recognise and respond to insulin, increasing their glucose metabolism twentyfold. Now the team has discovered the substance responsible, a polyphenol called methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP).

Anderson says the extract doesn't replace insulin by binding to the hormone receptor itself. Experiments have shown that it simply makes fat cells more responsive to insulin, ensuring that the "remove glucose" message registers inside the cell.

In unpublished studies, abnormally high glucose concentrations in diabetic mice fell drastically when they were given MHCP. Blood pressure also remained stable in spontaneously hypertensive rats, rodents with an insensitivity to insulin whose blood pressure normally soars when they eat a high-sugar diet.

"Any work in this area is welcome," says Cathy West, a spokeswoman for London-based Diabetes UK. She says that around two million people have type II diabetes in Britain, but cautions that it is too early to start recommending that people take cinnamon to treat the condition. "But we look forward to the results of further research."

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-- Jim Morris (, August 11, 2000


Type II DM is also avoided for many people by LOSING WEIGHT. Recommend first that your patients LOSE WEIGHT.


-- Someone (, August 11, 2000.

Very true, Frank.

But I was thinking more of people like my father who had type II diabetes but was as skinny as a rail...

-- Jim Morris (, August 11, 2000.

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