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Health benefits OF cinnamon

Published:Wednesday | August 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dear Dr Brown,

I am a type-2 diabetic (otherwise in very good health) and take cinnamon in the powdered form almost every morning splashed over my fruits along with grounded flaxseed and pumpkin seed, all mixed together. Is it OK for me to do this? I am a little concerned about the quality of the cinnamon bought in a food store, not knowing if there are added fillers in there. They never tell us anyway. I am uncomfortable buying anything already packaged. Which is better, the leaves or the sticks? Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Dear Reader,

Great question. Cinnamon sticks are made from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Some research has shown that cinnamon may lower blood sugar by decreasing insulin resistance. (In people with type-2 diabetes, the sugar-lowering hormone insulin does not work as well, leading to higher blood sugar levels). In terms of assessing the quality, this comes down to assessing individual suppliers.

Herbal pharmacies are a good option to consider if you have concerns about quality, as they can often provide information on how their herbs are prepared and they are often free of excessive additives. Also, cinnamon bark/sticks are preferable to the leaves.

Flaxseed and pumpkin seeds, are other good choices as there is some evidence that eating flaxseed reduces blood-sugar levels after a meal and increases insulin levels, because of its high content of soluble fibre, while pumpkin seeds has heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. Research indicates that pumpkin pulp and seeds have components that might improve insulin secretion and insulin resistance, thus lowering abnormally high blood glucose.

Yours in Health

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown

Apple cider vinegar and cholesterol level

Dear Dr Brown,

Seeing your column in the Gleaner on May 30, 2012, may I take this opportunity to ask you about lowering high cholesterol. I was told by more than one person that apple cider vinegar is good for lowering high cholesterol. If you know if there is any fact in this, please let me know, and how it should be taken, how often and in what quantity. Thanking you, Doctor.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your question. Apple cider vinegar has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years as a remedy for a number of conditions. In traditional Chinese medicine the vinegars used are primarily grain vinegars such as rice, gao - liang (sorghum), barley or millet - made from rice and other alcohols for a number of ailments. As relates to the use of apple cider vinegar, some research has been done and the findings suggest some health benefits with conditions such as:

Diabetes - one 2007 study of 11 people with type-2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by four to six per cent.

Blood pressure and heart health - one study in rats found that vinegar could lower high blood pressure.

Weight loss - a 2005 study of 12 people found that those who ate a piece of bread along with small amounts of white vinegar felt fuller and more satisfied than those who just ate the bread.

High cholesterol - a 2006 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed evidence that acetic acid (the main component in any vinegar) could lower cholesterol. However, the study was done in rats, so it's too early to know how it might work in people. It found that rats fed acetic acid for 19 days had a significant reduction in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend a dosage. However, www.livestrong.com and a number of other wellness websites do offer some recommendations.

Yours in Health

Dr Tracey-Ann Brown

Send questions and comments to our health specialists at Your Health, c/o The Gleaner, 7 North Street, Kingston; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com. Unless otherwise indicated, letters and the specialists' responses are usually published.