What are the health benefits of cinnamon?

RealAge
Administration
Keep your heart strong and help your body get lean by jazzing up your morning beverage with a swirl of cinnamon.

Research suggests that in addition to steadying blood sugar, cinnamon may be particularly healthy for people who carry lots of extra weight. In a study, cinnamon seemed to blast fat and help minimize some of the negative health impacts that obesity has on the body.

People who are obese (read body mass index of 30 or higher) tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies, and their bodies tend to experience more oxidative stress than the bodies of slimmer folks. Inflammation and oxidative stress are two very unhappy physical states to be in because they can set the stage for heart disease and other health problems. So in addition to losing weight, finding ways to fight oxidative stress and inflammation is an important part of protecting your heart if you carry around too much weight.

A recent study showed that certain cinnamon compounds may help obese people in the fight against fat, inflammation and oxidative stress. In the study, obese people with prediabetes took a cinnamon extract called cinnulin twice a day. At the end of the 12-week study, participants' bodies were experiencing less oxidative stress and their antioxidant defenses against inflammation were heightened. They even lost some fat mass while gaining a bit of lean muscle. Not too shabby for a few shots of cinnamon! Researchers think that cinnulin had such a favorable effect in the study because compounds in the extract may somehow help cells take in sugar and use insulin better -- two things that don't always work so perfectly in people who are obese and have prediabetes.
 
Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
In the US, cinnamon is usually thought of as the delicious spice in apple pie filling, but in other parts of the world, especially India and Asia, cinnamon has been used as a healing herb for centuries. Research is finally catching up to the wisdom of the East; many clinical studies have linked cinnamon consumption to lowered blood sugar. Both in vitro and human studies show improvement in insulin sensitivity with cinnamon polyphenols, as well as total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Cinnamon is also thought to detoxify the system and stimulate brain function. Its antiseptic properties give it the ability to fight bladder infection, and if taken in the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, a cup of strong cinnamon tea might just nip a bladder infection in the bud. Keep in mind that mixed study results make it difficult to prove these benefits on paper -- but it doesn't hurt to sprinkle a teaspoon into your next bowl of oatmeal.
Kent Holtorf, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Cinnamon is shown to have multiple effects on the body that result in improved sugar and insulin levels. It improves pancreatic function and secretion of insulin, it improves insulin resistance (which is seen in pre-diabetes and diabetes), and also inhibits the binding of sugar to cellular proteins. This binding of sugar to proteins in the body is called advance glycation end products (AGEs) and is being implicated in diabetic complications, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Cinnamon also stimulates genes in muscle and fatty tissue that transfer glucose out of the blood stream and into mitochondria, so you burn more sugar. Because it improves sugar utilization, it also improves lipid levels (high triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein [HDL] is a marker for poor sugar control). Studies show that cinnamon supplementation can improve blood pressure, lean body mass, improve polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -- insulin resistance is a major component) -- and improve fasting blood sugar by up to 30%.

In a recent double-blind controlled trial those taking a relatively low dose of 500 mg per day had a 15% reduction in blood sugar after two months with no side effects. A double-blind placebo controlled study published in the journal Diabetic Care compared three doses of cinnamon (1 gram, 2 grams and 3 grams per day) and placebo. After 40 days all three doses reduced serum glucose levels by 18-29%, triglycerides by 23-30%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 7-27% and total cholesterol by 12-26%. The benefits lasted over 20 days after stopping the cinnamon, as well. These improvements are comparable to many prescription medications.
Tim Ferriss
Fitness

Cinnamon, even in small doses, has a substantial effect on glucose levels. There is ample evidence that cinnamon can be used to reduce the glycemic index of a meal up to 29%. Cinnamon's effect on glucose levels seems partially due to the fact that it slows the rate at which food exits the stomach (gastric emptying), resulting in feeling full faster. It has also been shown to lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides in ample doses.


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Cinnamon has a long history of use as a medicine in both Eastern and Western cultures. Some of its reported uses are in cases of arthritis, asthma, cancer, diarrhea, fever, heart problems, insomnia, menstrual problems, peptic ulcers, psoriasis, and spastic muscles. There are scientific studies to support some of these uses. Some of the confirmed effects of cinnamon are as a sedative for smooth muscle, circulatory stimulant, carminative, digestant, anticonvulsant, diaphoretic, diuretic, antibiotic, and antiulcerative. One recent investigation of sixty people with type-2 diabetes demonstrated that 1 to 6 g of cinnamon taken daily for 40 days reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29 percent, triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 7 to 27 percent, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26 percent. In contrast, there were no clear changes for the subjects who did not take the cinnamon.

Cinnamon's unique healing abilities come from three basic components in the essential oils found in its bark. These oils contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.

Cinnamon is often used in multi-component Chinese herbal formulas, some of which have been studied for clinical effects. For example, cinnamon combined with Chinese thorough wax (Bupleurum falcatum) and Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora) was shown to produce satisfactory results in the treatment of epilepsy. Out of 433 patients treated (most of who were unresponsive to anticonvulsant drugs), 115 were cured and another 79 improved greatly.
Improvements were noted not only by clinical symptoms, but also in brain wave patterns. Other clinical studies have shown cinnamon-containing formulae to be useful in cases of common cold, influenza, and frostbite. To what degree the improvements noted are actually due to cinnamon versus the other components is not really known.
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Here's a tantalizing observation: Cinnamon (with an 'm' not a 'b') seems to have an insulin-like effect that helps enhance the satiety center in your brain (and also reduces blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol levels). Just a ½ teaspoon a day can have some effect. Sprinkle it in cereal or toast, or add it to a smoothie.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.