Now that we are deep into fall we are all looking to shift our seasonal choices to warming foods and beverages. Just by adding spices to the menu we can receive medical benefits and even some fat-burning benefits.
Cinnamon is an indigenous spice belonging to the Lauracea family has an exotic flavor and aroma making it a key ingredient in the kitchen of every household. Derived from the brown bark of cinnamon trees and has been used for centuries as a medicinal spice, with Chinese botanical textbooks mentioning it as early as 2,800 B.C., and Biblical references are numerous. Our ancestors have used cinnamon for various purposes such as anointment, embalming and various ailments, it has instigated the interest of many researchers. Recently many trials have explored the beneficial effects of cinnamon in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
There are two types: Ceylon cinnamon, produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean, and cassia cinnamon, coming mainly from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The types of cinnamon, country of origin and special features are shown below.
|Cinnamonum zeylanicum||Cinnamonum burmanni||Cinnamonum loureiori||Cinnamonum aromaticum|
|Taste||Slightly Sweet||Spicy||Spicy & Sweet||Spicy, bitter|
|Color||Light-Medium Reddish brown||Dark Reddish Brown||Dark Reddish Brown||Dark Reddish Brown|
|Special features||Lowest coumarin||Cheap, High Coumarin, Strong Aroma||Strong Aroma, Spicy, High Coumarin,||High Coumarin, Very Strong Taste|
Blood Glucose, Diabetes and Weight Control
Cinnamon is a zero-calorie medicinal spice comes with a bevy of health benefits pertinent to weight control and the complications of being overweight. One USDA study showed that as little as a quarter of a teaspoo6n of cinnamon daily lowered blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins in type 2 diabetics.[2, 3] It’s also a fat-burning powerhouse that boosts metabolism and has been proven to help your body block the absorption of glucose and enhance the action of insulin to clear sugar from your blood. It has been shown to induce the gastric-derived hormone ghrelin to turn off your appetite and enhance satiety. In this same study cinnamaldehyde adipose tissue up-regulation of genes related to fatty acid oxidation was observed.
Cinnamon is one of the most powerful antioxidant spices and an anti-inflammatory agent that counteracts the effects of obesity. It’s been shown to slow gastric emptying, which stabilizes blood sugar, by slowing its transit into the small intestine, its principle site of absorption. Overweight and obese people often have poor satiety mechanisms and faster gastric emptying of food, so they tend to dump loads of sugar into the bloodstream, inducing a surge of insulin release by the pancreas, which facilitates fat accumulation. So cinnamon is a clear winner for these folks. There’s also research showing that cinnamon slows the rate of gastric emptying and stabilizes after-meal blood glucose in healthy subjects.
Adding 6 grams of cinnamon to rice pudding significantly delayed gastric emptying and lowered blood sugar levels after the meal—one reason cinnamon is an excellent addition to the diet for overweight individuals. [6-8] When rats were fed a high-fructose diet and a cinnamon extract, their ability to respond to and utilize glucose (blood sugar) was improved so much that it was the same as that of rats on a normal (control) diet. Cinnamon can prevent insulin resistance in animals fed a high-fructose diet by promoting insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon induces insulin sensitivity akin to anti-diabetes medications such as the thiazolidinediones by increasing the expression of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (PPAR) α and γ.
Cardiometabolic Health and Antiinflammatory Benefits
Cinnamon is a medicinal spice that also promotes cardiometabolic health and well-being as it not only stabilize good glucose, insulin sensitivity but also improves blood lipids in diabetics. This is an important consideration for the 86 million Americans with prediabetes and the additional 29 million diabetics as a meta-analysis of several studies concluded that cinnamon improves fasting blood glucose in diabetics and prediabetics. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects 20-30% of the US population and is a result of glucose-insulin dysregulation. Cinnamon appears to have therapeutic benefits on lipid profile, liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and the inflammatory marker high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. The multifaceted nature of cinnamon has incited researchers to look further into its likely uses. Cinnamon possesses anti-inflammatory actions which contributes towards its cardiometabolic benefits. Cinnamon decreases genetic expression of apoB48 lipoprotein signaling by attenuating the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha. A systemic review done of three studies have suggested that cinnamon can cause a significant fall in systolic as well as diastolic BP though the precise mechanism remains to be ascertained.
Healthy brain aging and the problems of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are a global concern. Beyond 60 years of age, most, if not everyone, will experience a decline in cognitive skills, memory capacity and changes in brain structure. Longevity eventually leads to an accumulation of amyloid plaques including some vascular dementia damage. Therefore, lifestyle choices are paramount to leading either a brain-derived or a brain-deprived life. Cinnamon is thought to benefit Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative conditions by downregulating neuroinflammation in microglia cells in the brain. The oral administration of cinnamon extract to an aggressive Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice model led to the reduction of amyloid plaques and improvement in cognitive behavior. The results showed that the use of natural compounds such as cinnamon can inhibit toxic amyloid formation in Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the main etiologies of gastric carcinoma is the gram-negative bacilli Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). It is also known to be responsible for conditions such as atrophic gastritis, duodenal ulcer, and gastric lymphomas. In a pilot study of fifteen patients, cinnamon alcoholic extract helped decrease gastric colonization by H. pylori. One animal study suggested that cinnamon can inhibit the survival, viability and proliferation of tumor cells in vitro without having a significant effect on the normal cells. On further detailed analysis, it was found that such an effect could be attributed to the ability of the extract to induce apoptosis in tumor cells and also by inhibiting the activity of NFκB. Angiogenesis is the development of new blood vessels in a mechanism used by tumors to promote growth and metastasis. Extensive research has been done to see the effect of cinnamon on melanoma cells showing anti-angiogenesis.[18, 19] Cinnamon has the potential to be a routine diet-based strategy for cancer prevention and treatment.
Cinnamon is also a powerful antimicrobial agent that works against a number of pathogenic gut microbes including food-borne pathogens. It can inhibit the growth of Listeria and Escherichia coli in food products thereby potentiating their shelf life. In one of the studies, the effect of cinnamon was studied against various organisms like bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, fungus and yeast species. Its combination along with clove oil has been effective as an anti-fungal combination. C. zeylanicum has been found to improve HIV-related fluconazole resistant Candida.
When the gut microbiome becomes disrupted and out of balance the resulting ecology favors fat formation. Cinnamon is one of a myriad of antimicrobial herbs and spices that can inhibit the growth of enteric pathogens and weed out these pesky gut bugs that contribute towards illness. In my book, The Gut Balance Revolution, cinnamon is a top spice that I highly recommend to prevent dysbiosis and prevent unhealthy weight gain.
Try sprinkling some to your coffee, whole-grain cereal, dessert, sweet potatoes and gain many important health benefits. Due to its high coumarin content Cinnamomum cassia is a concern, but Cinnamomum zeylanicum with its low coumarin content would be a safer alternate.
Cinnamon is a must have for your kitchen pantry!
Health Benefits of Cinnamon. CVD=cardiovascular disease.
- Ranasinghe, P., et al., Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med, 2013. 13: p. 275.
- Bandara, T., I. Uluwaduge, and E.R. Jansz, Bioactivity of cinnamon with special emphasis on diabetes mellitus: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 2012. 63(3): p. 380-6.
- Mullin, G.E., Nutraceuticals for diabetes: what is the evidence? Nutr Clin Pract, 2011. 26(2): p. 199-201.
- Camacho, S., et al., Anti-obesity and anti-hyperglycemic effects of cinnamaldehyde via altered ghrelin secretion and functional impact on food intake and gastric emptying. Sci Rep, 2015. 5: p. 7919.
- Mullin, G.E. and J.O. Clarke, Role of complementary and alternative medicine in managing gastrointestinal motility disorders. Nutr Clin Pract, 2010. 25(1): p. 85-7.
- Hlebowicz, J., Postprandial blood glucose response in relation to gastric emptying and satiety in healthy subjects. Appetite, 2009. 53(2): p. 249-52.
- Hlebowicz, J., et al., Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 85(6): p. 1552-6.
- Mettler, S., I. Schwarz, and P.C. Colombani, Additive postprandial blood glucose-attenuating and satiety-enhancing effect of cinnamon and acetic acid. Nutr Res, 2009. 29(10): p. 723-7.
- Rafehi, H., K. Ververis, and T.C. Karagiannis, Controversies surrounding the clinical potential of cinnamon for the management of diabetes. Diabetes Obes Metab, 2012. 14(6): p. 493-9.
- Blevins, S.M., et al., Effect of cinnamon on glucose and lipid levels in non insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 2007. 30(9): p. 2236-7.
- Davis, P.A. and W. Yokoyama, Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis. J Med Food, 2011. 14(9): p. 884-9.
- Askari, F., B. Rashidkhani, and A. Hekmatdoost, Cinnamon may have therapeutic benefits on lipid profile, liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. Nutr Res, 2014. 34(2): p. 143-8.
- Qin, B., et al., Cinnamon extract attenuates TNF-alpha-induced intestinal lipoprotein ApoB48 overproduction by regulating inflammatory, insulin, and lipoprotein pathways in enterocytes. Horm Metab Res, 2009. 41(7): p. 516-22.
- Nyadjeu, P., et al., Acute and chronic antihypertensive effects of Cinnamomum zeylanicum stem bark methanol extract in L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats. BMC Complement Altern Med, 2013. 13: p. 27.
- Ho, S.C., K.S. Chang, and P.W. Chang, Inhibition of neuroinflammation by cinnamon and its main components. Food Chem, 2013. 138(4): p. 2275-82.
- Frydman-Marom, A., et al., Orally administrated cinnamon extract reduces beta-amyloid oligomerization and corrects cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease animal models. PLoS One, 2011. 6(1): p. e16564.
- Kwon, H.K., et al., Cinnamon extract induces tumor cell death through inhibition of NFkappaB and AP1. BMC Cancer, 2010. 10: p. 392.
- Cabello, C.M., et al., The cinnamon-derived Michael acceptor cinnamic aldehyde impairs melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth. Free Radic Biol Med, 2009. 46(2): p. 220-31.
- Kwon, H.K., et al., Cinnamon extract suppresses tumor progression by modulating angiogenesis and the effector function of CD8+ T cells. Cancer Lett, 2009. 278(2): p. 174-82.
- Matan, N., et al., Antimicrobial activity of cinnamon and clove oils under modified atmosphere conditions. Int J Food Microbiol, 2006. 107(2): p. 180-5.
- Quale, J.M., et al., In vitro activity of Cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive Candida species and a pilot study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med, 1996. 24(2): p. 103-9.