Cinnamon is a popular spice and is obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum.
Did you know that there are hundreds of types of cinnamon? But only 4 types are used for commercial purposes. These are: C. cassia (cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon, the most common type), C. burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon), C. loureiroi (Vietnamese cinnamon) and C. verum (ceylon cinnamon or “true” cinnamon).
All cinnamon types are sold as cinnamon but are not obtained from the same plant. Ceylon (‘’true’’ cinnamon) has one advantage over all other types of cinnamon. It has ultra-low coumarin levels. The Cassia variety contains significant amounts coumarin, which is believed to be harmful in large doses. So, it is better to use Ceylon cinnamon.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
While I’ve always been a fan of its flavor and aroma, as a Dietitian, I’m also thrilled to spread the news about cinnamon’s health benefits.
These are the Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols. For example, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon packs as much antioxidant potency as a half cup of blueberries.
The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower the risk of disease. Some studies showed that the antioxidants in it have potent anti-inflammatory activity (1).
Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon, has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which may reduce infections and help fight tooth decay and bad breath (2). Additionally, cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi.
Better heart health
Cinnamon has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease. It reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while HDL cholesterol remains stable. More recently, a review study concluded that a cinnamon dose of just 120 milligrams per day can have these effects. In this study, cinnamon also increased HDL ‘’the good” cholesterol (3). Additionally, in animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure (1). When combined, all these factors may drastically decrease the risk of heart disease.
Cinnamon reduce insulin resistance
Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and energy use. It is also essential for the transport of blood sugar from the bloodstream into cells.
Cinnamon has been shown to significantly increase sensitivity to the insulin (4) and as a consequence, cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels, which brings us to the next health benefit.
Blood sugar regulation and diabetes protection
Apart from the beneficial effects on insulin resistance, cinnamon can lower blood sugar. It has been shown to slow stomach emptying, which controls the sharp rise in blood sugar following meals, by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slow the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract (5).
Additionally, numerous human trials have confirmed the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 10-29% (6, 7). The effective dose is typically 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day (around 0.5-2 teaspoons).
Better brain function
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive loss of the structure or function of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types. Two compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (8). In mice study with Parkinson’s disease, cinnamon helped to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function (9). However, these effects need to be studied further in humans.
Cinnamon has been widely studied for its potential use in cancer prevention and treatment. Overall, the evidence is limited to test tube experiments (10) and animal studies (11), which suggest that cinnamon may have protective effects against cancer. However, these effects need to be confirmed further in humans.
Take Home Message
-Cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthiest spices on the planet.
-It can lower blood sugar levels, reduce heart disease risk factors, and has a plethora of other impressive health benefits.
-Just make sure to get Ceylon cinnamon, or stick to small doses (no more than 0.5-2 teaspoons a day) if you’re using the Cassia variety.
1. Rao, P.V. and Gan, S.H. (2014). Cinnamon: A multifaceted medicinal plant. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 2014, pp.1-12.
2. Zhu, M., et al. (2011). Short-term germ-killing effect of sugar-sweetened cinnamon chewing gum on salivary anaerobes associated with halitosis. The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 22, (1), pp.23-26.
3. Allen, R.W., et al. (2013). Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann. Fam. Med., 11, (5) pp.452-459.
4. Anderson, R.A. (2008). Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 67, (1), pp.48-53
5. Mohamed, S.S.H., et al. (2011). Cinnamon extract inhibits α-glucosidase activity and dampens postprandial glucose excursion in diabetic rats. Nutrition & Metabolism, 8, (1), p.46.
6. Kirkham, S., et al. (2009). The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Diabetes. Obes. Metab., 11, (12), pp.1100-1113.
7. Mang, B., et al. (2006). Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur. J. Clin. Invest., 36, (5), pp.:340-344.
8. George, R.C., Lew J. and Graves D.J. (2013). Interaction of cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin with tau: implications of beneficial effects in modulating Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. J. Alzheimers Dis., 36, (1), pp.21-40.
9. Khasnavis, S. and Pahan K. (2014). Cinnamon treatment upregulates neuroprotective proteins Parkin and DJ-1 and protects dopaminergic neurons in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 9, (4), pp.569-581.
10. Jianming, L., et al. (2010). Novel angiogenesis inhibitory activity in cinnamon extract blocks VEGFR2 kinase and downstream signaling. Carcinogenesis, 31, (3), pp.481–488.
11. Bhattacharjee, S., et al. (2007). Inhibition of lipid peroxidation and enhancement of GST activity by cardamom and cinnamon during chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in Swiss albino mice. Asian. Pac. J. Cancer Prev., 8, (4), pp.578-582.