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Can Cinnamon Help You Lose Weight?

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Diet is an important part of any successful weight loss program – the foods you eat can either accelerate you toward or your goal or hold you back.

In this article we’ll take a look at cinnamon – a sweet tasting spice that has been suggested to have a number of health-related and weight loss properties. We’ll break down the science to see if this food should be included in your diet.

This is what we’ll cover:

  • What is cinnamon?
  • What are the health benefits?
  • Can it help you lose weight?
  • What else can boost weight loss?

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a spice derived from the aromatic evergreen, cinnamomum. It is reddish-brown and has a strong, sweet aroma and taste. It is one of the most widely used spices in the world as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. It is also used in perfumes and medicines [1].

There are a number of different species of cinnamomum tree. For example, cinnamomum verum provides what is generally classed as Ceylon or the ‘true’ version of the spice, whereas commercially sold versions are referred to as ‘cassia‘. The spice powder itself is made from removing the woody parts of the bark that then curl into strips as they dry. These are then ground into the powder that you’ll see in most local food stores.

This spice contains a number of bioactive ingredients such as procyanidins and catechins – both potent antioxidants.

One teaspoon of this spice provides a large proportion of manganese – a mineral that is important in maintaining healthy bones and metabolism. It also contains small amounts of fiber, iron and vitamin K – an important vitamin for blood clotting.

This reddish spice is intensely researched and has been granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the United States Food and Drug Administration [2].


cinnamon

Key Point: Cinnamon is a spice used in both savory and sweet dishes, as well as in perfume and medicine.


What Are the Health Benefits?

It is claimed that due to its nutritional profile and antioxidant content, this spice has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. To date, researchers have identified a number of different bioactive compounds that can improve health.

A number of studies show that the spice can reduce insulin resistance which in turn can lower blood sugar and protect against type 2 diabetes. For example, one study found that cinnamon reduced blood glucose by 18-29% and cholesterol by 12-26% after 40-days of 1-6g doses [3].

Likewise, robust research in the Annals of Family Medicine [4] concluded that even small doses of 120mg on a daily basis could improve cholesterol levels in diabetics, as well as blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance has been linked to memory impairment and neurodegeneration [5]. It isn’t just metabolic disease that this spice can protect against – it has been found to protect against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s too [6].

So the evidence is there that it improves markers of overall health. But can it also help with weight loss? Let’s have a look at what the studies say…


weight-loss

Key Point: Cinnamon helps to improve both metabolic and neuro-protective health.


Can Cinnamon Boost Weight Loss?

Foods that cause big increases in blood sugar may be partly responsible for weight gain – sugar forces you to release insulin in higher amounts, and this can make you feel hungry quickly. As we’ve already seen, cinnamomum can help restore insulin sensitivity, therefore can contribute to a more healthy energy balance.

Additionally, it has been found to directly effect body composition and lean mass too.

In a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [2], 22 overweight and pre-diabetic volunteers were given either 500mg per day of a water-soluble cinnamon extract or placebo. This occurred over a 12-week period.

The extract group increased lean mass by 1.1% and decreased body fat by 0.7%. Whilst this may seem small, don’t forget that the test group did not change their diet at all.

Similar results were seen in a study conducted in Greoble, France [7]. In this study, again using 22 overweight volunteers, 250mg of extract was used over a 12-week period. The group reported a fat mass decrease of 0.7% and an increase in body mass of 0.6kg.


Key Point: Research suggests that cinnamon can help you lose weight and increase lean muscle – not massively, but every little bit helps.


Summary – Does Cinnamon Help With Weight Loss?

Cinnamon is a spice derived from the aromatic evergreen, cinnamomum. It is reddish-brown and has a strong, sweet aroma and taste. It is traditionally used to flavor foods but also used in perfume products and in medicines as well.

One teaspoon of this spice provides a large proportion of the mineral, manganese. Additionally it also contains small amounts of fiber, iron and vitamin K. It contains a number of bioactive ingredients such as procyanidins and catechins – both potent antioxidants.

Ultimately, cinnamon is a healthy spice with a distinct flavor and aroma. It has been seen to improve metabolic markers of health such as blood sugar and insulin resistance. It’s been shown to have neuro-protective benefits too.

There is a small but strong body of evidence to suggest that this spice benefits weight loss. Whilst it only promotes modest changes on its own, combining it with a calorie deficit and healthy approach will help you to lose weight safely and effectively.


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References

  1. Huang TC et al. Induction of apoptosis by cinnamaldehyde from indigenous cinnamon Cinnamomum osmophloeum Kaneh through reactive oxygen species production, glutathione depletion, and caspase activation in human leukemia K562 cells. Food Chemistry.2007; 103(2): 434–443
  2. Ziegenfuss, TN et al. Effects of a Water-Soluble Cinnamon Extract on Body Composition and Features of the Metabolic Syndrome in Pre-Diabetic Men and Women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006; 3(2): 45–53
  3. Anderson, RA. Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. Proc Nutr Soc. 2008; 67(1): 48-53.
  4. Allen, RW et al. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med. 2013; 11(5): 452-9
  5. Anderson, RA et al. Cinnamon counteracts the negative effects of a high fat/high fructose diet on behavior, brain insulin signaling and Alzheimer-associated changes. PLoS One. 2013; 8(12): e832437
  6. Rao, PV et al. Cinnamon: A multifaceted medicinal plant. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014
  7. Roussel, AM et al. Antioxidant Effects of a Cinnamon Extract in People with Impaired Fasting Glucose That Are Overweight or Obese. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2009; 28(1): 16-21