Diabetes research

Print More

(Host) It may not surprise you that red wine can help diabetics control blood sugar levels, but how about decaf coffee and cinnamon? Ruth Page reports on some recent research.

(Page) Medical expenses for treating Type Two diabetes come to about $92 billion yearly in this country. Just since 1990, we had a 50 percent increase in the number of cases. It can lead to blindness, heart trouble, kidney trouble and amputations. Type 2, called “non-insulin dependent,” even though people with it often need insulin, is the form of diabetes afflicting 95 percent of patients.

Now we learn that there are three common foods that MAY turn out to be helpful in controlling swings in blood sugar levels. They are – honest! – coffee, wine and cinnamon. They’re no cure, but they appear to postpone the onset of diabetes, and reduce the damage diabetes does to hearts and other organs.

Several years of study have homed in on the chlorogenic acid in coffee as the critical ingredient. Decaffeinated coffee works best. Tests show that in people drinking two cups of decaf and then getting a jolt of sugar, blood concentrations of sugar are lower than when they drink two regular coffees, or even two cups of plain water. When tea was tested, green tea was helpful, but the regular black tea many Americans prefer was not.

Next comes wine: mice tested with red wine showed that both the alcohol and the polyphenols in the wine had anti-diabetic effects. Polyphenols are antioxidents. One five- to six-ounce wine drink a day, or even a single drink of hard liquor, can help people, but doctors hesitate to recommend them because of the danger of alcoholism.

So why not cinnamon? That one really shook me awake. How on earth did researchers ever think of testing it? Surely they don’t have spice cupboards in the lab. Well, some of them do now. Chromium is found in spices like black pepper and cinnamon, and experiments as long as fifty years ago showed chromium supplements can help some people get control over their blood sugar.

The available chromium supplements we get today aren’t easily absorbed, and our sugary diets stimulate our bodies to lose chromium, a double-whammy. But scientists happened to offer apple pie to some volunteers in a study, when they were trying to do some low-chromium testing. To their surprise, the volunteers’ blood sugar stayed in control.

Test-tubes experiments showed that it was the cinnamon in the pie that did the job: it boosted insulin activity just as chromium does. (It’s insulin that works to keep blood sugar under control.) One researcher commented that cinnamon was the best thing they’d ever tested for that purpose. Even capsules containing just 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon helped, and six grams daily for forty days led to a 29 percent drop in blood glucose. Some other spices are also helpful, but none matched cinnamon’s power.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne, Vermont.

Comments are closed.