Diabetes effects approximately 23.6 million Americans have . That means a staggering 7.8 percent of the U.S. population currently suffers from diabetes. We know that proper diet and regular exercise are fundamental in order to achieve desirable glucose (or blood sugar) levels. But could certain foods we’re eating actually help lower blood sugar? Some research says yes. Cinnamon, chromium, and vinegar have all been under investigation for their potential ability to help improve glycemic control in people with diabetes.
Diabetes (type 2) is characterized by a decreased sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that gets sugar into our cells so that it can be used for energy. Researchers have found that cinnamon may increase insulin sensitivity. Studies show that cinnamon can decrease fasting blood sugar by 10 to 30 percent depending on the dose. Cinnamon may also improve cholesterol levels in diabetics according to small research studies.
- The bottom line: A dose of one to three grams of cinnamon per day is a safe dietary intervention that may help achieve improved glycemic control in people living with type 2 diabetes. To realistically get a dose this large, however, you’d probably need to take your cinnamon in capsule form.
When we eat carbohydrates, blood sugar levels increase in the blood stream. Chromium, a mineral that’s needed in the body in trace amounts, appears to be directly involved with carbohydrate metabolism by playing a role in insulin sensitivity. The majority of research has shown that dietary supplementation of chromium is beneficial in moderating glucose levels by improving the insulin response. It may also have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.
- The bottom line: The AI (adequate intake) is 35 mcg for males and 25 mcg for females. The most effective forms of chromium supplementation in the studies were brewer’s yeast, chromium picolinate and chromium chloride. Food sources of chromium include broccoli, grape juice and red wine. That said, chromium supplementation may help improve blood sugar control in diabetics, though it is not completely clear what an effective dose is.
Accumulating evidence indicates that vinegar may mitigate blood sugar levels following a carbohydrate-rich meal. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which may slow gastric emptying. This is especially important for diabetics because a delay in gastric emptying means a slower, more gradual absorption of nutrients, which makes for a more gradual rise of blood sugar in the bloodstream. Additionally, acetic acid may block the complete digestion of starch molecules, and promote glucose uptake by muscles. Theoretically, if vinegar can reduce post-meal sugar levels, it would help improve longer-term blood sugar control in diabetics.
- The bottom line: Regular vinegar used modestly appears to improve glycemic control. Vinegar can easily be incorporated as a complementary means to reduce hyperglycemia, but should not replace ongoing adherence to a moderate carbohydrate diabetic diet and use of prescribed diabetes medications.
Many of the studies that examined the effectiveness of these interventions were small, and the research is still at an early stage. Nonetheless, this is valuable information. Adding some cinnamon, supplementing with chromium and incorporating more vinegar into your diet are all simple and safe ways to potentially improve glycemic control in diabetics. It is important to note that these interventions are recommended as ancillary treatments. These foods or nutrients are not a replacement for a carbohydrate controlled/diabetic diet, regular exercise, oral hypoglycemic medications or insulin.