We always enjoy getting your article requests. One reader wanted to know more about the health benefits of cinnamon. They had read an article online talking about cinnamon and honey and how the combination could cure or prevent about nineteen illnesses ranging from indigestion to cancer. Unfortunately, when a source says something can cure that many problems, it’s probably a less than credible source.
On the other hand, cinnamon is a spice that does seem to have some compelling health benefits that you should know about. There are also some special precautions you should take if you plan on consuming more than a half-teaspoon of cinnamon a day.
The Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Good for Blood Sugar and Your Waistline?
Cinnamon may do more than add flavor to a bowl of oatmeal or to a cup of coffee. Research shows it helps to lower blood glucose levels after a meal and increase feelings of fullness, so you’re less likely to overeat. Therefore, it may help with weight control.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming a little over half a teaspoon of cinnamon after a meal helps to lower insulin levels after a meal. Higher concentrations, a teaspoon, helps to lower blood glucose levels according to the results of another study. That’s a good thing if you have type-2 diabetes or you’re trying to control your weight. Insulin not only regulates blood sugar, it’s also a “fat storage” hormone that makes it easier for your body to store fat rather than use it for energy.
There’s another way cinnamon could help control your weight. The study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a half teaspoon increases levels of a hormone called GLP-1 that makes you feel full.
Protection Against Heart Disease?
Based on another study published in Diabetes Care, a publication put out by the American Diabetes Association, modest amounts of cinnamon, as little as a half-teaspoon, lowers total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides in people with type 2-diabetes. They also confirmed its blood sugar lowering effect. These are all factors that could lower heart disease risk in type 2 diabetics. That’s a good thing since heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with this disease.
Other Possible Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Some research suggests that cinnamon has anti-viral properties, especially when it comes to the HIV virus and the virus that causes oral and genital herpes, although more research is needed to confirm this.
In mice, cinnamon seems to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s no human research on this. It does appear that cinnamon is a strong antioxidant that helps to protect cells against damage from rogue molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals damage cells and their genetic material and are linked with cancer, so a little free radical protection is a good thing.
Precautions You Should Take When Using Cinnamon
There are some problems with consuming large amounts of cinnamon you buy at the grocery store. The type supermarkets sell is called cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon contains moderate levels of an ingredient called coumarin that can be toxic to your liver at high doses. It also increases the risk of cancer in animals.
Interestingly, coumarin is also used to enhance the aroma of pipe tobacco but is banned as a food additive because of its potential to be liver toxic. Experts don’t recommend taking in more than a teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon a day because of this, and we would recommend no more than a half-teaspoon. Fortunately, this is enough to get some of the health benefits.
A better option is to buy Ceylon cinnamon. You can buy Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true” cinnamon, at some spice stores and online. Unlike Cassia cinnamon, it contains only small amounts of coumarin, as little as one-sixtieth the amount in Cassia cinnamon. It may cost a little more and you have to go more out of your way to get it, but it’s worth it if you add it to your oatmeal or coffee every morning.
The Bottom Line?
Cinnamon may not cure nineteen different diseases, but it does have health benefits, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. We use Ceylon cinnamon in our oatmeal in the morning because of the coumarin issue and enjoy the taste. It’s not as strong as Cassia but has a slightly sweeter, almost citrusy taste. It’s a good alternative to Cassia cinnamon that’s in most supermarkets – and better for your health.
Medscape.com. “Cinnamon Dose-Dependently Reduces Insulin Concentration”
Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2009: 89: 815-821.
Diabetes Care. “Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes”
Indian Journal of Medical Research 112: 73-7. PMID 11094851.
Food and Chemical Toxicology. Volume 50, Issues 3–4, March–April 2012, Pages 903–912.