Sugar Matters
September 21, 2007

Myths interrupted!

We interrupt our series of common myths with an important question/comment from one of my favorite Vincy readers. His question was in regard to my article on Herbs and Diabetes, and specifically string beans and cinnamon. I found his comments and questions very interesting, so I did a little extra research…{{more}}

First, a caution about things you read in magazines-there is a lot of good information out there, but a lot of trash as well. Start questioning these claims you see in magazines about “people improved” or “sugars got better.” Look for specifics-HOW MUCH did the sugar improve? Did they MEASURE the sugars, or did people just say they felt better? Be careful of mis-information.

Now in regard to string beans-I found some articles on websites talking about beans having a “natural insulin” or “plant insulin.” But some scientists are not even sure “plant insulin” exists, and if it does, how well it works in humans. So, for those of you out there taking insulin, PLEASE DO NOT stop taking your insulin and instead consume four pounds of beans everyday!!! I also found some nutrition journals and articles stating that beans cause blood sugars to rise slowly (and not as high) instead of quickly, and I do agree this can certainly help in regard to sugar control. There is also good information showing beans help lower cholesterol. Now the other very important thing in those studies is that they looked at people eating A LOT of beans—at least half a cup everyday, not just a couple of lonely beans on the side of a mountain of white rice. So, to get the benefits, you should have them regularly in your diet, and ideally even replace some of that fried chicken. Beans overall are wonderful-high in fiber and protein, they also contain complex carbohydrates, folic acid, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

On to the cinnamon-this has been talked about for some time and a few years ago a study showed that 60 people who took cinnamon over 2 months had improved cholesterol and blood sugars. BUT, as luck would have it, I picked up my Diabetes journal last night and found a study, just published, which found no improvement. There are two important things to know about these studies-they were done on people already taking diabetes medication, so we do not know how well cinnamon works by itself, and the people took A LOT of cinnamon in tablet form (between 1000 to 6000 milligrams), not just an extra sprinkle here and there. There is good scientific information that cinnamon does help improve your response to your own insulin. So, in general, it is good. Good enough to lower your blood sugars noticeably? Not completely sure of that yet, and even if the answer is yes, you need to take a lot of cinnamon (and preferably not in a cinnamon bun…).

Thanks for the questions—keep them coming!

Anita Ramsetty, MD
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group