NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adding some cinnamon to your dessert may temper the blood sugar surge that follows a sweet treat, a new study suggests.
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Researchers at Malmo University Hospital in Sweden found that adding a little more than a teaspoon of cinnamon to a bowl of rice pudding lowered the post-meal blood sugar rise in a group of healthy volunteers.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to evidence from past studies that cinnamon may aid in blood sugar control. However, it's too early to prescribe cinnamon as a therapy for diabetes, a disorder in which blood sugar levels soar because the body cannot properly use the sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

Dr. Joanna Hlebowicz and her colleagues based their findings on 14 healthy volunteers who had their blood sugar measured before and after eating a bowl of rice pudding; each volunteer was tested after eating plain rice pudding and after having a cinnamon-spiced version.

Post-pudding blood tests, which were taken repeatedly over 2 hours, showed that volunteers' blood sugar rose to a lesser degree when they had the cinnamon dessert.

One reason for the effect seems to be that cinnamon slows the rate at which food passes from the stomach to the intestines, according to Hlebowicz's team. Using ultrasound scans, they found that the volunteers showed a slower rate of "gastric emptying" when they ate the cinnamon rice pudding.

Whether people with diabetes should start spicing their diets with cinnamon remains to be seen. One small study, Hlebowicz and her colleagues note, found that when people with type 2 diabetes added cinnamon to their diets for 40 days, their blood sugar and cholesterol levels tended to dip.

On the other hand, a recent study found no such benefits among people with type 1 diabetes.

Further studies focusing on people with diabetes are still needed, Hlebowicz and her colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007.