Does Cinnamon Reduce Blood Glucose Levels? I Try it Out

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a family history of diabetes that I have been able to hold at bay – I think – through my low carb diet. My siblings both got rather severe cases in their early 40s, while I have been able to keep the number relatively low in comparison.

Despite the fact I do keep the carbs low, it still tends a bit above 100, which indicates pre-diabetes. It is easy to see when I indulge in high carb stuff, it can easily shoot up 40-50 points – though oddly, after a high-carb extravaganza, sometimes it goes DOWN.

I have a personal hypothesis about this. I think that the occasional high carb meal might ‘wake up’ a sluggish insulin response that hasn’t gotten much of a workout due to low carb intake for a period of time. The introduction of carbs after a period of low carb alerts a system that is NOT overstressed – and it performs its function. I’ll also note that if I were to do the high carb thing for a second day, that response is WAY less likely to work. It’s a sprinter, not a marathoner.

Of course, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, so I wouldn’t put much credence to the last paragraph. It’s just a working explanation I need to noodle around with further.

What I HAVE been playing with is the notion that cinnamon might increase insulin response. I’ve read that the stuff works in more than a couple of places, and if your insulin response is better, you have a better shot at losing weight. Here’s an example of the claim I got from a random site on a Google search – there’s plenty more:

The glucose levels were reduced by 18–29% following 40 days of treatment. Whereas the highest dose (6 g/day) produced the most rapid response, the lowest dose (1 g/day) produced the most sustained response, i.e., a continued reduction in glucose levels even at the 60-day point; the reduction observed was 16%. The two higher doses produced slightly lower sustained responses, and they were judged not to be statistically significant.

On September 20, 2011, I bought a huge container of your regular grocery store cinnamon. Then, just about every single weekday until November 10, 2011, I put at least 3 tablespoons in my yogurt. That’s a lot more than was recommended, as cinnamon has a compound in it that can cause liver and kidney damage in high concentrations, but I chose to ignore this (maybe I’m stupid).

So I took the stuff in this timeframe probably 38 times.

before starting it, an average of my blood glucose, taken with those store-brand test kits available in any pharmacy, between August 6 and September 19: 118.3

The average for the entire time on the stuff: 114.9

The average for the last calendar month on the stuff – between October 10 and November 10: 115.4

Regarding my diet during this time, it’s been more or less the same and my weight has moved in a 6 lb. range.

So, my highly unscientific study on myself showed there’s little point in adding cinnamon to my diet – except that the stuff is damn yummy in greek yogurt.

Now this is not to say that cinnamon does not work, but that it does not work, in any meaningful way, for me. It’s a personalized research, and while not formal science in any way, it does prove empirically – for whatever reason – it doesn’t do anything for me.

I think more science, especially surrounding nutrition, should be personalized like this.

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Food Rules – A Book by Michael Pollan

Being on a diet for over 8 years – essentially the same diet for 8 years – gives one a different perspective on dieting than most folks.

I’ve come to reject a lot of the thinking surrounding the popular notion of diets, and am currently trying to sort out just how am I different from all the other folks over the years who have come to this site, commented, lost some weight – even had blogs of their own – only to pull the blogs down or stop posting.

I fear it wasn’t because they succeeded in their hard-won goal of losing weight and keeping it off for the rest of their life.

Here’s a random post, from a random fellow, found on a random weight loss forum:

Hello everyone I have a few questions for the trainers and the morbidly obese who have managed to meet their goals and lose weight to gain a happier life.I have recently decided to make a lifestyle change and get my self  in shape ,but i am very in experienced at doing this so I have decided to come here for advice ok so far I am 6 days in and I have lowered my calorie intake and for the last 3 days i figured i could walk non stop for 1hr possibly even more with being to tired or winded but i believe i could push my self to do something a little more rewarding.I have also purchased a stability ball from ball dynamics and i was wondering could you guys give me tips on what type a exercise a very big guy can do standing by himself or on a stability ball to shed weight and build strength IM still a rookie and i cant do push up yet so something looking for something low impact but effective i was also wondering could you guys refer to some workout videos for big guys thats not grueling that i can use to lose some weight.any tips would be highly appreciated it

It struck me that this person is probably going to fail. He’s eating Stouffer’s TV dinners and seems ashamed of eating a BBQ chicken – and wants to exercise to lose the weight.

I thought of posting something – but what? That he’s going about it all wrong? Do I have the right to do this? Do I know what I’m talking about?

The problem with starting a diet is that there is something wrong with the whole concept of ‘diet’ as we know it. Check out Everydiet.org, which attempts to give an overview of 400 + diets.

I wonder how many of them led to even a single person losing the weight they wanted and keeping it off.

I will bet you that each one of them laid claim to some science to back up whatever gimmick their diet was built around. And here’s partly the reason we go off the rails.

Science has become the new God – the supreme power that even God must bow to. Let me prove it. In the past year, I have had a Baptist and Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door in order to share with me their messages of God.

Both mentioned very early in the discussions that God was ‘proven by science’. These nice folks didn’t realize it, but they had made Science superior to their diety.

The problem with Science is three-fold:

  1. Science is done by humans, and sometimes it’s wrong – willfully or through a genuine misunderstanding.
  2. People – even scientists – sometimes think all science it the same. The science that put a man on the moon is a very different body of work than the science that is used in determining why people get fat or can’t lose weight. Unlike rocket science, which obviously works and everybody agrees with the principles, nutrition science has ‘proof’ that is unclear and debated by intelligent people of integrity.
  3. Science, to a lot of people, is inscrutable. Like God, if they are told things are a certain way and can’t understand the explanation, science becomes a belief system.
This is where Michael Pollan’s Food Rules comes in. To me, one quote sums up my thinking nicely:
Nutrition Science…is today approximately where surgery was in 1650-very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you? I think I’ll wait a while.
In this tiny, science-light book, he lists a number of simple rules about eating that I believe would be a great start for anyone trying to sort out how to be healthier – and maybe slimmer.
I don’t agree with every item, but it is a noble attempt at a different approach on eating healthy.
Here’s 6 rules from the excerpt on his site:

#11 Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

Food marketers are ingenious at turning criticisms of their products—and rules like these—into new ways to sell slightly different versions of the same processed foods:

They simply reformulate (to be low-fat, have no HFCS or transfats, or to contain fewer ingredients) and then boast about their implied healthfulness, whether the boast is meaningful or not. The best way to escape these marketing ploys is to tune out the marketing itself, by refusing to buy heavily promoted foods. Only the biggest food manufacturers can afford to advertise their products on television: More than two thirds of food advertising is spent promoting processed foods (and alcohol), so if you avoid products with big ad budgets, you’ll automatically be avoiding edible foodlike substances. As for the 5 percent of food ads that promote whole foods (the prune or walnut growers or the beef ranchers), common sense will, one hopes, keep you from tarring them with the same brush—these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

#19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

#36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

This should go without saying. Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we’re eating them every day. The french fry did not become America’s most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes—and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they’re so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you’re willing to prepare them—chances are good it won’t be every day.

#47 Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.

For many of us, eating has surprisingly little to do with hunger. We eat out of boredom, for entertainment, to comfort or reward ourselves. Try to be aware of why you’re eating, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry—before you eat and then again along the way. (One old wive’s test: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.) Food is a costly antidepressant.

#58 Do all your eating at a table.

No, a desk is not a table. If we eat while we’re working, or while watching TV or driving, we eat mindlessly—and as a result eat a lot more than we would if we were eating at a table, paying attention to what we’re doing. This phenomenon can be tested (and put to good use): Place a child in front of a television set and place a bowl of fresh vegetables in front of him or her. The child will eat everything in the bowl, often even vegetables that he or she doesn’t ordinarily touch, without noticing what’s going on. Which suggests an exception to the rule: When eating somewhere other than at a table, stick to fruits and vegetables.

It’s not a diet book, but would be a much better place for fat folks to start at than most on that list of 400.

Fatty Foods Addictive as Cocaine in Growing Body of Science

Is the mainstream media starting to take notice?

This article from Bloomberg is a must-read, I assure you. It discusses research that shows the addictive properties – real, serious, addictive responses to junk food as serious as the chemical dependency of drugs – occur.

I think that while the entire article is worthy of a careful read, one aspect jumped out at me – the total unscientific response the researchers got when they initially tried to get funding for the research:

Scientists studying food addiction have had to overcome skepticism, even from their peers. In the late 1990s, NIDA’s Volkow, then a drug addiction researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, applied for a National Institutes of Health grant to scan obese people to see whether their brain reward centers were affected. Her grant proposal was turned down.

“I couldn’t get it funded,” she said in an interview. “The response was, there is no evidence that food produces addictive-like behaviors in the brain.”

Wait…isn’t the point of research to find evidence?

I guess if you don’t look for something, it doesn’t exist…right?

Oh. Notice the unconscious bias in the headline. It should be ‘fattening foods’, not ‘fatty foods’…

My Core Foods

I have a habit of noodling through an idea, then failing to follow through on it. Luckily, this blog helps me record these ideas when I come to revisit them from another angle.

One of these ideas is the notion of food monotony I wrote about in January of 2010. I’ve come to disagree with a number of the items in this post – in particular, the notion of counting calories, which I find so onerous that I would rather be fat than do it daily. And I don’t think it really works.

The food monotony part, however, has been a direction I’ve gone, perhaps coming to it from that other angle I mentioned.

Part of what I’ve been doing is to work on a new type of tracking system for what I eat. It’s strange, but I have been doing it for a few months and I have been losing weight – not dramatic, but the trend is in the right direction and I am maintaining a lower weight consistently than I’ve been able to in the past 2 years.

The the strangeness of this tracking system is that I don’t track how much I eat – I only track what. If I eat 1 hot dog or 3, all I note for a given day is that I had 1 ‘hot dog as a food’ for the day. This seems to make me focus on ingredients more than quantities, and after a few months, identify what I really like that’s low carb – and what I need to be careful about.

It also shows me very clearly that I can lose weight on low carb and still eat cake, and cookies, and bread – I’m still trying to figure that one out, so please bear with me on that.

Another thing it has shown me are that there are certain foods that:

  • Are high quality
  • Easy
  • Filling and do a very good job of controlling hunger
  • I lose weight eating them
  • Reasonably priced
  • Availability – if I have to search high and low for the stuff, it’s just too high a price to pay
  • Most important: I can eat them over and over without wanting to barf
By charting over the past couple of months my eating in the way I’ve described, I’ve found a few ‘core’ foods that allow me to eat more monotonously without it feeling monotonous. I do mix it up a bit, but some of these I eat quite a lot. I’ll list a couple as an example. You might think my choices are awful, and they might be – for you. Your core foods will probably differ, and you might want to experiment with identifying these.
Having a dead-simple meal plan makes adhering to a diet easier.

One last note: nobody pays me to write about these products, and I don’t get freebies – these are items that I sought out and paid for myself.

I probably eat this stuff 5 days a week. I still don’t really eat breakfast still, so I usually end up having one of these at work sometime before noon. I mix in 3 drops of EZ-Sweetz (a zero-carb Splenda product) and most recently cinnamon (as an experiment – it’s purported to have the ability to increase insulin response). My understanding is that the cultures are good for you, the process that the cultures perform on the milk makes it more digestible, the carbs are not at an Atkins-level, but it doesn’t seem to bother me.

Most importantly, it fills me for hours, and I really enjoy it, even though I eat it nearly every day in work. I usually don’t eat it on the weekends.

I’ve found what I feel are better yogurts – organic, grass-fed – but those little containers are handy, the price is fair, and I can find the stuff, though getting a full-fat yogurt is just too damn hard these days. I typically get it for about $1.79, so I think the price is OK.

I have a deep and abiding love for processed meat, which I don’t like about myself, but I have to live with. These wieners are the absolute best of the worst, as they attempt to remove every barrier that cause people to diss the stuff.

I enjoy them on a romaine lettuce leaf with mustard and have these at least 2-3 times per week.  I can find these at my Whole Foods on most shopping trips. They are about the most expensive dogs you can find – $7 a package, but at a little less than a dollar a dog, given the quality, I’m OK with it.

I know that many of you suppressed a gag reflex when you saw the word ‘sardine’ – so did I when I bought my first can many years ago. Why we have this reflex to certain foods is a complex psychological matter, but since I started low carb, I’ve learned to give good foods a chance. And sardines are good stuff. These little fishies are damn healthy for you – and opening a can of them is as simple as can be. I also find I lose weight when I eat them, and a little can controls my appetite for hours.

Now – about actually liking them.

To be honest, I don’t think I would ever be presented with a plate of the things and exclaim: “Oh, boy! sardines.” I like ’em, and that took a little work and a lot of experimentation. During my original go-round with low carb where I peeled off 80 lbs., I would sometimes have a can of the type in water with a big dollop of mayonnaise and some sweet relish sweetened with Splenda. That sometimes constituted my dinner – it was quite filling.

From time to time over the years I’ve tried different sardines and liked a lot of them, my current fave, however is the one listed above. I eat them straight out of the can at work. It seems like a small amount, but it satisfies hunger if I give it the 10-20 minutes it takes for my body to register that it ate something – then I’m good for hours.

The marinara sauce reduces the ‘sardineness’ of the little fishies. I probably eat this at least 2 times a week – and double that some weeks. These are available at my regular grocery store for considerably less than at Whole Foods – I just paid $1.49 a can.

The light tuna, in comparison to albacore tuna, is lower in mercury, and this particular brand claims to be lower still. The stuff is full of Omega-3 oils, and since I’ve given up on supplements (a story for another day), I consider it to be an important part of my diet.
Another curious fact about tuna is that the cheap-o tuna that you buy has been cooked twice – first on the boat, then in the can. This reduces the quality of the meat – and drains off some of the omega-3 oils, which they then sell to supplement manufacturers. Wild Plant cans the fish on the boat and only cooks it once. You get a better quality and more omega-3.

In addition, they don’t use BPAs in the cans. BPA is a chemical that is known as an endocrine disruptor and just might help make you fat. It’s in a lot of cans, but not these.

Organic Romaine Lettuce Hearts

Romaine lettuce has more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, and a stronger flavor. They also make great hot dog roll replacements – actually, I use these as bread replacements for other things that I would want to throw on a piece of bread. The hearts are pretty crunchy, not limp, and since I really don’t do salads, this is the primary way I get lettuce. These are typically available at my local grocery and cost maybe $1.00 per heart.  A bag of 3 lasts the week.

Whole Foods 365 Brand Canola Mayonnaise

I have to eat mayonnaise – OK? Some things in life are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, every commercial mayonnaise is pretty much made of soybean oil, and I try to avoid soy for the most part.

I could make my own – but I could also learn French, or take up surfing. I know me – I’m not doing any of these. I at least tried making mayo – it didn’t work out. So the reality of having to make a sub-optimal food choice becomes real.

The Whole Foods brand is made of canola – formerly known as rapeseed – not a good food name. Canola was once inedible but through selective breeding they were able to breed out whatever nastiness would make you sick eating the stuff and produced a light oil relatively high in Omega-3 compared to a lot of others.

The stuff I buy is expeller pressed, which means it wasn’t chemically removed from the seeds – which is good. Whole Foods doesn’t sell GMO food, so there’s no salamander genes or Roundup-Ready genes in it. Good.

The not-so-good is that it’s a new food, eaten for less than 100 years, and no one knows if there’s any long-term effects – nobody really knows, though I’m betting on: probably not. One thing that IS known is that it is higher in omega-6 oil than olive oil, but its way lower than a lot of other oils. While you do need omega-6 oil, Americans typically get too much. I reason that my diet doesn’t include all that many sources, so while canola is not great, but it could be worse.

There’s apparently a lot of haters who think this stuff is bleech – but I like it. It’s reasonably priced and I have it maybe a half-dozen times a week. It goes on the tuna above, and whenever there’s cheese – it’s there.

This is a calorie and sugar-free Splenda. Those little packets have maltodextrin in them – a sugar. This stuff the pure splenda. I use this in my yogurt, mostly, so it’s 3-4 drops a day, every day. It’s powerful stuff, and an $11.00 bottle lasts 6 months.

Locavore Grass-Fed Ground Beef

I know the farmer. We talk each week. I know where the cows live. Where and how they are slaughtered. I like knowing this. I think I am paying for quality when I pay what seems like a lot at $8.00 a pound. Some of this has little to do with losing weight, but I do know that the cows ate grass, had no hormones or antibiotics given, and this means fewer chances of residues of that stuff getting into me and perhaps messing up my weight without me knowing it. I’d say I go through a pound a week.

Locavore Organic Eggs

Different farmer. Same story, more or less. We often get these eggs the same day they were laid. The yolks are a deep orange from all the beta-carotene that authentic ‘free-range’ chickens get. The yolks also seem to stand higher than a store-bought egg, which I was told can be a month old by the time you get it. These go for $8.00 a dozen and I have maybe 8-12 per week.

This is only a partial list. There’s other items that cycle in and out, and I am constantly experimenting with new items. Again, the point here is not to slavishly follow my list, but to experiment with your own list and see if it brings you any benefit. If your weight loss program is working for you, don’t mess things up and experiment (unless you’re like me and enjoy experiments), but if you’re looking for another approach, maybe something of this sort will work for you.