Could this age old common spice prove to be one of the healthiest things you could consume? Cinnamon being mentioned in the Bible (Exodus, Proverbs and Songs of Songs) it is one of the oldest herbal medicines in the world, dating back up to 4000 years in Chinese texts.
Cinnamon is cheap, inexpensive supplement with major health benefits to consider. How does this list of cinnamon health benefits sound like? Cinnamon has been said to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering and immunomodulatory effects. Effect on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity make cinnamon especially useful for those who suffer from type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. It may even have benefits for the prevention of devastating Alzheimer’s Disease.
Above all other factors (happiness, overall diet, social community) the most common thread among all centenarians is their lower levels of insulin and better response to it (insulin sensitivity). Cinnamon lowers the blood sugar response, insulin levels and improves insulin sensitivity (your body’s ability to take sugar from blood).
Cinnamon has many benefits which can be considered as life-extending, like:
-We know that cinnamon is so good at controlling your blood sugar that you can cheat on a diabetes test by consuming two teaspoons of cinnamon the night before (or 2h before) your glucose tolerance test (where they basically make you drink some sugar-water and observe how well your body can keep blood sugar level in control). This is very interesting and welcome benefit to basically anyone (high blood sugar makes you age more quickly), and besides who wouldn’t want more stable energy with less amounts of energy crashes? Cinnamon blunts the spike in blood sugar rise significantly.
According to this video Cassia cinnamon (although containing coumarin which is possibly dangerous for the liver in large amounts) is responsible for the blood sugar blunting effect. So this might be the only purpose to use occasionally Cassia cinnamon instead of the safer Ceylon cinnamon.
- Cinnamon as a antioxidant – having one of the highest ORAC values (131,420 μ mol TE/100g, seventh on the list of highest antioxidants in the world, source) cinnamon makes itself excellent addition to diet of health conscious people. It is supposed that antioxidants reduce the formation of free radicals that have a part in aging and causing cancer. Antioxidant function is thought to be the reason many compounds even raise testosterone because of the testicle protecting antioxidant function.
- Cinnamon and Alzheimer’s disease prevention: There is preliminary evidence that cinnamon might be useful in preventing or treating Alzheimer’s Disease. Couple of studies to check out: Orally Administrated Cinnamon Extract Reduces β-Amyloid Oligomerization and Corrects Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease Animal Models, (news article).
Cinnamon Extract Inhibits Tau Aggregation Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease In Vitro, (news article).
- Lose weight with cinnamon?
Improved blood sugar control is very good for people who are after weight loss. Cinnamon flattens the peaks in blood sugar therefore lowering the amount of insulin in the blood which leads to maintaining adequate blood sugar levels and evading the very possible cravings when blood sugar dips too low.
Cinnamon enhances functioning of insulin in the muscle cells, piling glucose on in the muscles. Cinnamon does this by enhancing the activity of signal proteins in the muscle cells whereupon cells with the same insulin concentration absorb more glucose (source).
- Cinnamon may be able to rejuvenate skin by boosting IGF-1 driven collagen synthesis. Hormone that stimulates skin cells to produce more collagen is IGF-1, Insulin-like growth factor 1. Cinnamon extract potently up-regulated both mRNA and protein expression levels of type I collagen without cytotoxicity. Cinnamaldehyde was identified as a major active component promoting the expression of collagen. Researchers concluded that Cinnamaldehyde improves the performance of IGF-1 and it would seem that it can completely replace IGF-1 in skin cells (there’s no info whether Cinnamaldehyde does this in muscle cells) (source 1, 2).
- Nootropic benefits of cinnamon
Cinnamon might also have nootropic qualities. One possible, but not only mechanisms of cinnamons nootropic action might be blood sugar control:
There is also the added benefit of controlling and keeping your blood sugar levels low. According to this video blood sugar levels is directly related to the shrinkage of the brains memory center.
There is also some scientific information about cinnamons ability to increase alertness and memory. According to this study, only the smell of cinnamon might be able to increase your alertness and decrease drivers frustration when driving a car. Cinnamon also decreased drivers’ fatigue levels.
Potential dangers of cinnamon
One teaspoon of cassia cinnamon powder therefore contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin, which may be above the tolerable daily intake value for smaller individuals.
Antibacterial effects for gut bacteria – some sites mention also this problem for your internal microbiome (gut bacteria). It might be a bit far fetched but it is a thing to keep in mind if you consume cinnamon a lot. You might also want to include high quality probiotic supplement in your diet.
Types of cinnamon
Cinnamon spice is the powdered inner bark of Cinnamomum trees which there are four common types: Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian and Ceylon cinnamon. Types of cinnamon you see most often are usually Cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon) and Ceylon cinnamon.
How to choose right cinnamon product?
It’s important to choose to use Ceylon cinnamon because other varieties contain dangerously high amount of hepatotoxic coumarin (high amounts might lead to liver damage). Ceylon cinnamon has lowest levels of coumarin at 190 mg/kg or below where Cassia cinnamon might contain 700-12,230 mg/kg of coumarin which makes it easy to reach the Tolerable Daily Intake TDI. One teaspoon of cassia cinnamon powder contains about 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin, which may be above the tolerable daily intake value for smaller individuals (source).
Coumarin TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) is currently at 0.1 mg/kg bodyweight so it’s just 7,5 mg for a 75 kg individual. It used to be much higher at 2 mg/kg but has been lowered over the years drastically.
It can be tough to find proper cinnamon in stores, because it usually just says “Cinnamon” in the bottle, meaning that the product is very likely to be the cheaper “Cassia cinnamon” which is potentially dangerous, especially if consumed excessively.
You may also want to consider cinnamon extracts:
Studies have shown that the potentially toxic compounds in cinnamon bark are found primarily in lipid soluble fractions but are present only in extremely low levels in water soluble cinnamon extracts which are therefore considered highly safe for uptake (source).
As a summary: cinnamon is excellent addition to anyones diet, bringing in serious health benefits and always welcome variety to your diet. Cinnamon is perfect addition on nearly any hot drink and especially to coffee, which is tasty and brings with it great mental benefits. Cinnamon has very good record for controlling blood sugar and for someone it may even be enough to avoid the afternoon blues when blood sugar dips (although high fat, moderate protein diet with low amount of carbohydrates is recommended if you suffer from that).
Remember that while supplements like cinnamon can be very helpful, they are not cures and are not substitutes for healthy diet and exercise. You can occasionally use cinnamon to cheat the system and improve the way your body processes sugar, but in the end harmful effects of sugar will cause harm. You cannot get the full benefits of cinnamon if you have poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Focus on improving your diet and exercise patterns while enjoying cinnamon.
If you are still wondering should I get some cinnamon this video should be helpful in that: cinnamon is second on the list for most antioxidant bang for your buck, only second to red cabbage (third on the most recent updated video). As you can see, cinnamon is one of the cheapest and most helpful additions to nearly everyone’s diet, especially if you want to eat healthy on a restricted budget.
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