What does the research say about the health benefits of cinnamon?
The health benefits of cinnamon have been studied for decades. Some call it a super spice! In other words, something containing amazing properties for battling diseases and chronic illness.
Evidence suggests cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and supports a relationship between its phytochemical makeup and these properties. Phytochemicals are compounds that protect cells from damage.
Anti-inflammatories help reduce inflammation caused by a foreign invader. Inflammation is a desirable response by our body when it is under attack. However, when inflammation becomes chronic and persists it becomes unhealthy.
The advantage of an antioxidant is the role it plays in attacking dangerous free radicals that can cause cell damage, aging, and disease.
Cancer is characterized by irregular and abnormal cell growth. There is evidence to suggest a compound in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, has anti-cancer properties, slowing cell growth in some types of cancer.
In one study, mice given a mixture of cinnamon and cardamom had fewer melanoma tumors. Findings showed the rate of growth was significantly inhibited and tumors exhibited a decrease in size and shape.
In another study, cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory activity interfered with tumor growth in mice with induced colon cancer, with further data supporting cinnamon’s beneficial antioxidant response to human colon cancer cells.
Diabetes is a metabolic condition where there is insufficient insulin. As a result, elevated blood sugar levels occur. There are several studies regarding the role cinnamon may play in fighting diabetes.
In one study, results showed increased insulin sensitivity in response to 3 oral glucose tests, in 7 men given a 5 mg cinnamon supplement. Additional research, conducted with individuals with prediabetes, resulted in improved fasting blood glucose and glucose tolerance after 12 weeks of cinnamon supplementation vs placebo.
In a 2016 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 11 studies found reductions in fasting blood sugars with cinnamon intervention vs placebo, and HbA1c modestly reduced. However, only 4 of the studies achieved fasting blood glucose <130 mg/dl or HbA1C <7%, goals of the American Diabetes Association.
The American Diabetes Association has not formally accepted the use of cinnamon for diabetes. Consequently, health professionals continue to encourage diabetic patients to also follow existing recommendations for diet and lifestyle.
Benefits of Cinnamon for Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition involving pain as a result of swelling, soreness, and stiffness in the joints. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis are the three most common.
Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear or overwork. For example, from running or repeated use. The rheumatoid and psoriatic types result from autoimmune disorders. In other words, conditions where the body attacks itself. Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the lining of the joints. Psoriatic arthritis attacks healthy tissue. In some people, it can be seen as patchy skin areas or psoriasis.
In a study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, women with RA took 500mg of cinnamon for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, there was a significant decrease in inflammation and fewer tender and swollen joints vs a placebo group.
Evidence suggests there may be multiple ways the active substance in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, works to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of RA. Research is ongoing.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurological condition affecting the brain. We see it typically in the elderly and includes symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, loss of physical abilities, and speech. Consequently, this often results in the inability to perform activities of daily living and often even to recognize the family.
Research finds tau protein in the AD brain to be in abnormal “tangles”. Cinnamon may be helpful in reducing memory loss by blocking and reversing tau formation, according to one study.
There is also evidence that AD may be related to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the role of cinnamon in blood glucose control may be related to the benefits seen in AD.
Benefits of Cinnamon for Heart Disease
Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as uncontrolled blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease, which continues to be a major cause of death in the United States.
Evidence shows the benefits of cinnamon in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In one study, 60 adults received 1, 3, and 6 grams of cinnamon for 40 days. Subsequently, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol levels improved in all cases. There was no significant change with HDL. Additionally, fasting blood sugar also improved.
In a review of 13 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 750 participants, researchers looked at the effects of cinnamon on blood lipid levels. They concluded that “Cinnamon supplementation significantly reduced blood triglycerides and total cholesterol concentrations without any significant effect on LDL and HDL”.
Evidence also suggests cinnamon may play a role in reducing blood pressure. In a review of 9 RTCs, researchers found “significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure” with cinnamon supplementation.
More About Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a common spice in the kitchen. It comes from the bark of many species of the cinnamon tree or Cinnamomum Verum. But it is not only the bark that is useful. The leaves, berries, and roots are used in cooking and medicines.
There are several different types of cinnamon. Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon are the most common. Cassia is from China and the type found in most grocery stores. It is cheaper and sold in larger quantities.
Ceylon cinnamon is from Sri Lanka and considerably more expensive. It is of better quality and considered “true cinnamon”. It is also safer since it has a lower amount of coumarin.
Coumarin is a natural substance in all cinnamon. It is toxic to the liver in large quantities. Cassia cinnamon has a larger amount of coumarin, therefore, limit intake to 1 tsp per day.
Cinnamon leaves are dried and used for seasoning and flavoring and boiled for tea. The leaves do not soften when cooked and should be removed before eating. They are not poisonous as was once believed.
Cinnamon berries are used whole or ground, similar to peppercorns. They add flavor to curry or spicy Indian dishes and can replace cloves in mulling blends and teas. Cinnamon buds are famous for their presence in German pfeffernusse cookies which are popular around Christmas.
Cinnamon roots are used in fragrances. Root oil contains high concentrations of camphor. Camphor has anti-itch properties and is used in lotions and creams. It is also found in vapor rubs.
How Can I Add Cinnamon To My Diet?
Cinnamon is safe to eat in moderate amounts, from about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day. Avoid excess that can lead to liver damage, low blood sugar, and possible interactions with medications. Moreover, avoid cinnamon pills that may have an undetermined amount.
You can add cinnamon to baked goods and hot beverages. Add it to cereals and vegetables such as butternut squash and pumpkin recipes.
It’s an ingredient in my Aronia Berry Banana Bread and Aronia Berry Raw Apple Cake!
To sum up… the benefits of cinnamon
Cinnamon and its active substance, cinnamaldehyde, seem to be beneficial in the treatment of a number of chronic conditions.
Evidence suggests cinnamon may inhibit cancerous tumor growth. There is also support for the role it plays in improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management in type 2 diabetes.
Arthritis pain and swelling may be reduced as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon. And cinnamon may be helpful in reducing memory loss in Alzheimer’s as well as lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.
So, start spicing up your diet and reap health benefits as a result.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to continue reading more, check out our other article on 7 Foods To Improve Your Spinal Health