It is estimated that more than one in 17 people in the UK has diabetes, many of which are undiagnosed.
Around 90 percent of sufferers have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body is not making enough insulin, or the insulin it is making is not being used properly.
Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by lifestyle factors such as obesity and inactivity, and can be reduced by improving diet and fitness levels.
A family history of the disease plays a part, as does ethnicity – it is six times more common in people of South Asian descent and three times more common in people of African and African-Caribbean origin.
The average life expectancy reduction for someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in their 50s is about six years, states Diabetes UK.
Cinnamon has been found to help treat diabetes.
The spice contains antioxidant polyphenols that can help to improve blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
It does this by improving the responsiveness of insulin receptors so they react to insulin hormone more effectively, explained Dr Sarah Brewer.
She cited data from 10 trials, involving 543 people with type 2 diabetes, which found that taking cinnamon at doses of at least 120mg per day for at least four weeks significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels.
Improvements were also seen in the patients’ cholesterol levels.
“As a bonus, recent research suggests that cinnamon also improves working memory in people with pre-diabetes – poor glucose tolerance,” the doctor added.
According to Diabetes UK, cinnamon also slows stomach emptying and significantly reduces hyperglycemia after meals.
Other benefits of the spice include helping to relieve pain in arthritis sufferers, easing indigestion and boosting the body’s immune system.
A study in the Diabetes Care journal found it may also reduce risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
Cinnamon is grown in the Caribbean, South America and South East Asia. Its use dates back thousands of years among many ancient civilisations.
As well as being used in cooking and baking, it can be taken in supplement form.
Fenugreek is another spice that can help lower blood sugar, according to Dr Brewer.
The spice could cause significant improvements in blood glucose levels and improve diabetes symptoms without any side-effects.
She also recommended turmeric for its anti-inflammatory effects, stating that it could lower the risk of diabetes-related complications.
“Only take herbal medicines in addition to prescribed medication with the permission and supervision of your doctor,” she advised.