Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon
By: Ashleigh Smith
Date: May 2016
Cinnamon is one of those ingredients that has been around for centuries. It is a well-known spice that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum. There are two main types of cinnamon; Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamon cassia. Cinnamonum cassia is the most common variety today and generally what we refer to as cinnamon. Each varietal has a different chemical composition explaining their differences in pharmacological effects. The main ingredients that give cinnamon its beneficial effects include vital oils and other derivatives, such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate. Cinnamaldehyde, is the key ingredient that gives cinnamon its flavour and smell but also its medicinal properties.
SO WHAT ARE THESE HEALTH BENEFITS?
Blood glucose control & improved insulin sensitivity
This is one of the most researched benefits of cinnamon. When searching on google, there are numerous articles that state studies that show the beneficial effect of cinnamon, however if you dig a little deeper and look at research from journals and evidence based nutrition organisations, these effects are hard to prove. There has been some evidence to show that cinnamon bark extracts may be useful in the control of blood glucose, as it slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. In a paper on Cinnamon and Health by Gruenwald et al (2010), they reviewed evidence that when cinnamon was ingested at a dose of < 1.5 g they found no statistically significant blood glucose control. However when subjects consumed 3 to 6 g, more positive effects were found.
Medagama (2015) conducted a review of clinical trials and found an improvement in glycaemic control was seen in patients who received cinnamon as the sole therapy for diabetes, those with pre-diabetes (IFG or IGT) and in those with high pre-treatment HbA1c. They also concluded that more long term studies need to be done in those as evidence is inconclusive.
Leach et al (2012) conducted a systematic review on all studies up until 2012 that assessed cinnamon intake, all species, in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. After assessing 577 participants, from 10 randomised control trials, they concluded that “there is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon in type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus”. This view is supported by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and PEN (Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition). This being said, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder weighs approximately 1.5 g, so including 2 -3 tsp. of cinnamon in your diet wouldn’t be too difficult and could be used as a potential add-on therapy when managing type 2 diabetes. 1,2,4,5,8
Anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties
Another one of cinnamon’s health benefits includes its ability to help fight various kinds of infection. It has been reported that cinnamon oils have natural antimicrobial effects against different bacteria, fungus and yeast species.1 They also found that when cinnamon oil was combined with clove oil, this effect was further enhanced.4
When looking at the antioxidant properties of cinnamon, it was concluded in a comparative study among 26 spices, that cinnamon showed the highest antioxidant activity.1,2,9 When an extract of C. Cassia was compared to the natural antioxidant vitamin E, results in animal studies proved that cinnamon had better antioxidant properties 9 Most of the studies done on cinnamon’s antioxidant activity were done on animals but these trials show promise.
Several studies on medicinal plants and their components have indicated that cinnamon has various anti-inflammatory activities within the body. This anti-inflammatory effect has been shown with an extract of C. Cassia.1, 4, 5
Cholesterol- and Lipid-Lowering properties
This effect was proven in one study by Khan et al (2003). They demonstrated in their study that the intake of 1, 3 or 6 g of cinnamon per day for 40 days, followed by a 20 day wash out period, reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Animal studies within this field show the same reduction in total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels. 1,2,11
Research in animal studies show that cinnamon may have some protective effects against cancer. It is said to act by reducing the growth of cancer cells as well as the formation of blood vessels within tumours.1,2,5 As most of this research was done in animals, it is unclear if it has the same effect in humans.
It has been suggested that a compound extracted from cinnamon appears to stop the build-up of a protein called tau in the brain, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.1,2, 5,9 All of the articles on this quote the same paper, therefore more research needs to be conducted on this topic.
From the information above it seems that cinnamon is one of those superfoods that has a multitude of benefits. What is clear from all these studies is that the medicinal properties were dependent on a few factors. This included the varietal of cinnamon used, which part of the plant was used e.g. bark, leaves or buds as well as the extraction process used. The majority of the studies were conducted on animals therefore can we truly say it will have the same effect in humans. The question is, how do we know that the cinnamon we are buying from the shops has all these beneficial properties and compounds that were extracted and found to be beneficial. This being said there is no harm in adding a few teaspoons of cinnamon every day? Health benefits or not, cinnamon tastes delicious and is a great way to flavour your food without adding sugar or salt.
FUTURELIFE® Smart Oats is available in four flavours of which one is Apple Cinnamon. You could also add some cinnamon to a delicious FUTURELIFE® smoothie such as the Apple Crunch Smoothie seen below, which can be found on the FUTURELIFE® website. Visit http://www.futurelife.co.za/recipes/ to see more.
|APPLE CRUNCH SMOOTHIE|
½ cup skim milk
Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend together on full power until smooth. Serve and enjoy.
Serves 1 – meal
- Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/
- Leech – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007170.pub2/abstract;jsessionid=AEEE7F7D451ABA170D1B330D0BC61A58.d02t04. Accessed 29 September 2015.
- Health benefits of herbs and spices: the past, the present, the future http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2450&context=hbspapers
- Cinnamon and Health https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47350289_Cinnamon_and_Health
- Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/12/3215
- The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26475130
- Antioxidant activity of Cinnamomum cassia. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12916067
- Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with Alzheimer’s disease in vitro http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433898
- Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14633804/