Health Benefits of Cinnamon: For your Brain and Body – SuperFat - Amazing Nut Butters

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

This article was medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RDN, LD.

Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices on the market. It comes from the bark of a number of trees in the Cinnamomum genus. There are a number of types of cinnamon available on the market according to the flavor of the bark of the tree from which it is extracted.

Cinnamon’s unique flavor comes from the aromatic essential oil that is about one percent of its make-up. When extracted from the bark, this oil is yellow and consists of about ninety percent of a chemical compound known as ‘cinnamaldehyde.’

Benefits of Cinnamon

The world’s largest producer of cinnamon is Sri Lanka. Because of its potent medicinal benefits, it is a favorite of herbalists and naturalists. In this article, we’ll drill down on the scientifically confirmed benefits of cinnamon.

Health Benefits

Brain Booster

Research conducted at the Wheeling Jesuit University in the United States suggests that cinnamon may have potent neurological benefits. The research team found that, when used as a flavoring, cinnamon boosted the brain functioning of sturdy participants as related to attention, virtual recognition, working memory and visual motor reaction rate.

The study results showed a definite relationship between efficiency of carrying out tasks and the enhanced effects of the various odors and flavors within the spice. Flavor and aroma of various spices were tested, with cinnamon having by far the strongest effect on attention and memory.

Protects Against Alzheimer’s

Researchers have identified two compounds in cinnamon that hold promise to help prevent and/or treat Alzheimer’s disease. They are cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin. Research conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara shows these may block the formation of the filament-like tangles that are present in brain cells characteristic of the disease.[source]

Researchers have identified that Alzheimer’s is associated with the clumping together of a protein called tau. When this protein fails to bind properly, which is the case with Alzheimer’s patients, these clumps are formed and their knots and tangles get progressively worse as the disease sets in. However, cinnamaldehyde has proved itself effective in the prevention of these tau knots. It does this by binding itself to the cysteine residues of the tau protein, preventing its oxidation. Oxidation of the residues modifies their structure which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s.

The other compound, epicatechin, is a known powerful antioxidant, also found in green tea, whose action has been shown to reduce amyloid-beta levels and may impact Alzheimer’s pathology. (source)

Blood Sugar Regulation

Cinnamon may have the ability to reduce blood sugar levels. As a result, it is used by millions of diabetics for that very purpose.

Cinnamon, both whole cinnamon and cinnamon extract, have been shown to improve fasting glucose levels.[source]  Contained within cinnamon is a bioactive compound that gives it effects similar to that of the hormone insulin which is crucial in maintaining your blood sugar levels. 

Cinnamon has also been seen to reduce the rate at which your stomach empties and thus controls rapid rises in sugar levels after meals. [source]   Research also shows that cinnamon at doses of 1, 3 or 6 gram dosages per day demonstrate improved blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, helping to reduce heart disease risk which is often elevated among those with diabetes. [source]

Helps Fight Cancer

The anti-cancer effects of cinnamon are directly related to a group of compounds called procyanidins. These mimic the effects of insulin and, therefore, help to control Type II diabetes. In addition, a polymeric compound called methylhydroxychalcone or simply MHCP also has insulin like properties. Those with diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar levels are at a higher risk for some types of cancers [source].

These compounds are collectively a part of polymeric polyphenols i.e.  they consist of a chain of molecules, each of which holds more than one phenol. These plant polyphenols have antioxidant properties that may give them the ability to protect against different types of cancer.

Researchers have applied the cinnamon extract to three types of cancerous human cells: two of which represented leukemia and one to account for lymphoma. These two diseases are responsible for the harmful growth of blood cells and lymph cells respectively. 

The results were collected after a period of twenty-four hours. The water-soluble cinnamon extract decreased the rate of cancerous cell growth by a drastic amount and even induced tumor cell death.

More research is needed to confirm that these test tube and mice studies translate to live human subjects.

 

Help for Arthritis Sufferers

Research out of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition compared women with rheumatoid arthritis treated with 4 capsules of 500mg cinnamon daily for 8 weeks to women on a placebo. Cinnamon supplementation resulted in various markers of the disease including swelling, tenderness, and the disease activity score. Diastolic blood pressure also improved in the treatment group.

Anti-Infectious Properties

Cinnamon has been used in ancient medicine to treat sore throats and infections for centuries. Modern science has found out why it was so effective; it is able to directly combat a range of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

They key to the infection fighting properties of cinnamon lies within its bark. The main job of the bark is to protect the plant from infection. Cinnamon bark contains cinnamaldehyde which is known to be highly anti-microbial in nature in addition to working against inflammation.[source] Cinnamon has also shown activity against the following listed pathogens [source]:

  • Candida albicans
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Escherichia coli 
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Klebsiella and Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Salmonella typhi, typhimurium
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

    Weight Loss

    Recent studies with rats and mice have produced promising results in terms of the ability of cinnamon to enhance weight loss. One study paired high fat foods with cinnamon in one group and compared it to another group which just consumed high fat foods. The group that took cinnamon weighed less and had less belly fat at the end of the study. 

    Researchers were unsure whether these results would translate to humans. But then scientists at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute treated human fat cells with cinnamaldehyde, which is the essential oil that gives cinnamon its distinct taste. They found that the cinnamon-infused cells expressed a larger number of metabolism-boosting enzymes and genes. Other studies also confirm that cinnamon ingestion promotes browning of fat, which is more metabolically active fatty tissue because it contains more mitochondria for energy production. These mechanisms help explain cinnamon’s anti-obesity effects. [source]

    Cinnamon Nutritional Breakdown

     1 tablespoon (7.8g) of ground cinnamon provides:

    19 calories

    0g fat

    6g carbs

    4g fiber

    0g protein

    1.4mcg manganese, 61% of daily needs for men, 78% for women

     

     

    Principle

    Nutrient Value

    Percentage of RDA

    Energy

    247 Kcal

    12%

    Carbohydrates

    50.59 g

    39%

    Protein

    3.99 g

    7%

    Total Fat

    1.24 g

    4.5%

    Cholesterol

    0 mg

    0%

    Dietary Fiber

    53.1 g

    133%

    Vitamins

    Folates

    6 µg

    1.5%

    Niacin

    1.332 mg

    8%

    Pantothenic acid

    0.358 mg

    7%

    Pyridoxine

    0.158 mg

    12%

    Riboflavin

    0.041 mg

    3%

    Thiamin

    0.022 mg

    2%

    Vitamin A

    295 IU

    10%

    Vitamin C

    3.8 mg

    6%

    Vitamin E

    10.44 mg

    70%

    Vitamin K

    31.2 µg

    26%

    Electrolytes

    Sodium

    10 mg

    <1%

    Potassium

    431 mg

    9%

    Minerals

    Calcium

    1002 mg

    100%

    Copper

    0.339 mg

    38%

    Iron

    8.32 mg

    104%

    Magnesium

    60 mg

    15%

    Manganese

    17.466 mg

    759%

    Phosphorus

    64 mg

    9%

    Zinc

    1.83 mg

    17%

    Zinc

    Phyto-nutrients

    Carotene-ß

    112 µg

    --

    Crypto-xanthin-ß

    129 µg

    Lutein-zeaxanthin

    222 µg

    --

    Lycopene

    15 µg

    --


    (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

     

    Learn More About Other Healthy Ingredients in Our Nut Butters or Read Our Ultimate Guide to Nuts.


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