Scientists report that an extract of cinnamon could offer some protection against adult-onset diabetes.
An expert behind the trials has even issued the recommendation that people could benefit now by adding the spice to their food.
Adult-onset, or type II diabetes is far more prevalent than insulin-dependent diabetes, which normally begins earlier in life and requires a regimen of blood testing and insulin injections. It happens when cells in the body normally responsible for dealing with excess blood sugar lose their ability to respond to insulin, the hormone which instructs them to perform this function.
The increased blood sugar levels cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision, and can make the patient far more prone to heart disease and stroke. Patients often have to greatly modify their diets and take exercise to protect their health.
Scientists at the US Agricultural Research Service's nutrition labs in Beltsville, Maryland, US have found that an extract of cinnamon can actually revitalise this function of cells, making them far more responsive to insulin.
The chemical responsible is called methylhydroxy chalcone polymer (MHCP), and unpublished studies on mice found that abnormally high glucose concentrations in diabetic mice fell dramatically when given MHCP. Clinical trials of this chemical are due to begin within a year, said lead scientist Richard Anderson. He said: "We recommend people take a quarter to a full teaspoon a day of cinnamon, perhaps in orange juice, coffee, or on oatmeal."
Other researchers have found that the spice appears effective against the E.coli bacterium, which can cause food poisoning.