Cinnamon as a diabetes medicine

Diabetes mellitus, also known colloquially as diabetes, is a condition in which the glucose level in the blood is too high. There are two types of diabetes, namely type-1 and type-2. In type 1, the β cells in the pancreas do not produce enough insulin. One cause of this is the destruction of these cells by immune reactions in the body. In type 2, the β-cells work well, but the body is insufficiently sensitive to insulin.

Insulin receptor

To find out whether cinnamon is suitable for use as a medicine, we will first have to look at the insulin receptor. This receptor is of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) type [1]. The operation of this receptor is based on the activation of the tyrosine kinase domains. This happens after a ligand (in this case insulin) binds to the receptor. The tyrosine complexes on the receptor are then phosphorylated. This process is called autophosphorylation because the receptor consists of two parts that cluster together and phosphorylate each other’s tyrosines. These phosphorylated tyrosines act as binding sites for other proteins to form active complexes.
At the insulin receptor, insulin activates the receptor, causing it to form an insulin-receptor substrate complex. This substrate binds to phospoinositide-3-kinase in the cell. This kinase activates proteins that ensure that glucose is transported into the cell via GLUT-4 transport molecules, this glucose is stored in vesicles located in the cell, causing the glucose level in the blood to drop.

Existing resources

There are several existing medicines for type 2 diabetes. Examples are sulfonylureas, biguanides and thiazolidinedione[2]. Sulfonylurea derivatives stimulate insulin release. Biguanides cause reduced glucose production in the liver. Thiazolidinedione stimulates GLUT-4 molecules. These medications affect different processes, but they all have the same result, namely lowering glucose levels.

Cinnamon

Research shows that cinnamon ensures faster absorption of glucose from the blood in laboratory animals. The active substance in cinnamon is methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP). This substance ensures better functioning of the insulin receptor. Despite this, it cannot be concluded that this mechanism also occurs in humans; clinical studies are required for this. Unfortunately, few studies have been done on the effect of cinnamon on glucose levels in humans. A study in Pakistan[3] of 60 subjects showed that taking cinnamon capsules results in a drop in glucose levels. However, one cannot conclude from this one study that cinnamon actually has an effect, as the study population is too small for this. In addition, it is not known whether MHCP is harmful to human health.

Conclusion

The question remains whether cinnamon can be used to support a diet for type 2 diabetes. Several similar studies will need to be conducted to investigate the effectiveness and possible side effects. It will also become clear whether it also has an influence on, for example, obesity and other sugar level-related conditions.

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