Cinnamon has an ever growing body of evidence showing its health and body composition benefits. It helps push carbs towards muscle cells (where they can be burnt as energy) and away from fat cells (where they may have converted to fat). This effect is similar to that of exercise, particularly resistance training, causing your muscles to become more like sponges rather than just mechanical objects, burning up those calories.
Acting in this way, cinnamon is termed a ‘glucose disposal agent’. What this means is that it helps pull glucose (sugars, broken down from carbs) out of the blood stream. This is great news for type 2 diabetics as it can assist the control of insulin. Even better is that when these carbs are being sucked out of the blood, they will be shuttled towards muscle cells preferentially over fat cells[i]. A big plus if you’re trying to avoid fat gain!
Whenever you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into their basic structure of a sugar to allow transportation in the blood stream. They can be used immediately as energy, or can be stored as glycogen (groups of sugars) in the muscles (good) or converted to fat then stored in a fat cell (bad). As your blood sugar levels rise, your body releases a hormone called insulin that triggers the storage process (sugar to muscles or fat cell) to lower your blood sugar levels back to the normal range. Type-2 diabetes occurs when you consistently elevate blood sugar above the ‘normal-healthy’ range until your body is unable to keep up with the demand to remove the sugars and insulin remains within the blood stream for too long a time. At this point, your body becomes ‘insulin resistant’ and doesn’t respond as strongly to insulin’s signals. When you reach this point you’re in trouble since you now struggle to remove sugars from the blood stream which has many negative health connotations. Cinnamon it appears helps improve this and is doing so with some remarkable results.
However, these health benefits are limited to those with blood sugar issues. Studies on healthy individuals have resulted in the same results, showing cinnamons benefit in assisting weight loss and preventing weight gain.
Just check out these results taken from recent studies.
“The results of this study demonstrate that intake of 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon per day reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and suggest that the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases”
“The intake of 6 g cinnamon with rice pudding reduces postprandial blood glucose and delays gastric emptying without affecting satiety. Inclusion of cinnamon in the diet lowers the postprandial glucose response.”
The results are very encouraging for both diabetics and the weight conscious alike. Not only does cinnamon assist in glucose disposal but it may also assist in the control of bad cholesterol!
How to use
Cinnamon is very easy to include into your daily eating. Breakfast is a fantastic time to get it in as a sprinkle on your oats, cereal or toast can almost go unnoticed. Khan and his friends in 2003 found that a 1-gram dose worked just as well as a 6-gram dosage, 1-gram of cinnamon works out to be 1⁄2 a teaspoon.
Keep in mind
However, it is important to note that there are components of cinnamon that have the potential to become toxic if the user is susceptible to them and they build up in the liver. For this reason a high and prolonged dosage of cinnamon may not be healthy over a long period. There have not been many studies in this area. Cinnamon has been labelled as Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA and is not restricted. But it is always better to be safe than sorry so stick to half-teaspoon servings, and take a break from consistent use to allow your liver to flush itself clean. Pregnant women should avoid high doses of cinnamon.
Types & quality
There are two types of cinnamon, which are indistinguishable in powdered form. These are Cassia (generally cheaper/lower quality) and Ceylon. Both contain coumarin, which in very high doses is toxic. Ceylon, as opposed to Cassia, only contains minute levels of coumarin and is a better choice for long term use.
All in all, while cinnamon could never take the place of a healthy diet and exercise, it can assist you in your goals. Use it wisely and it may just be one more tool for your arsenal.
Hlebowicz J., Darwiche G., Bjorgell O & Almer L. (2007). Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying and satiety in healthy subjects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 85(6), 1552-1556
Khan A., Safdar M., Khan Mohammad, Khattak K. & Anderson R. (2003). Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 26(12), 3215-3218
Qin B, Nagasaki M, Ren M, Bajotto G, Oshida Y & Sato Y (2003). Cinnamon extract (traditional herb) potentiated in vivo insulin-regulated glucose utilization via enhancing insulin signalling in rats. Diabetes Research Clinical Practice 62(3), 139-148