You’ve already heard that cinnamon is just the thing for diabetes. Perhaps a well-meaning neighbor or coworker has told you that a cinnamon pill cured their cousin’s diabetes. The spice is one of the most notorious “miracle” supplements in the diabetes world, and it has received plenty of mockery in the online community.
Well, here comes a new miracle spice: cardamom.
As reported at Medscape, a recent review in Iran found that cardamom was associated with improved A1C and insulin sensitivity. The analysis pooled together data from multiple studies in which participants with a variety of metabolic issues took a daily 6-gram cardamom supplement for two to three months.
It’s nice news, but of course it’s only one study, a small and short one that wasn’t really designed to address the questions we want answered in detail. Hopefully it will lead to more robust experimentation.
Not familiar with cardamom? Fans of Indian cuisine know that it’s a wonderful spice, with a subtle peppery and minty flavor and a strong and complex herbal aroma. It tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes, and is one of the most important flavor components of a good mug of chai tea. It’s also pretty pricey stuff, at least as a culinary ingredient. It is known, as per the researchers, as the “queen of spice.”
The new analysis is not the first study of cardamom in patients with diabetes and related metabolic issues. A 2014 study, also from Iran, found that cardamom helped improve cholesterol numbers but not measures of glycemic control. More promising studies have been conducted in rats, but that’s hardly evidence of any such effects in humans.
Cardamom supplements are widely available, and there are many different health claims for the spice. Cardamom may help improve blood pressure, and it appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. However, our review of the scientific literature showed that the vast majority of studies arguing for cardamom’s health benefits have been performed on rodents or in test tubes. We are seriously lacking high-quality evidence of cardamom’s effects on actual human beings. The science just isn’t there.
One study is nice, but it’s just a start and shouldn’t be enough to guide anybody’s behavior. Cardamom is safe when used as a food ingredient, but as a supplement, we’re not really sure. The FDA does not regulate its use.
It will not be surprising if we see cardamom become a new trendy anti-diabetic supplement. But to be honest, there’s little proof that it actually does anything. Our take? Be skeptical.
By the way: What about the original miracle anti-diabetes spice? Does cinnamon actually do anything? Read our analysis right here.