Cinnamon May Protect Against Damage From High-Fat Diets

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You may not realize it, but that cinnamon swirl on your toast may be helping you stay trim.

In a new animal study, researchers discovered that regular cinnamon consumption among rats led to less belly fat, a lower overall body weight and “healthier levels of sugar, insulin and fat in their blood” compared to non-cinnamon-consuming rats.

Credit: mhiguera/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Over the 12-week study, during which researchers intentionally fed the rats a high-fat diet, those that consumed cinnamon supplements had less activity among molecules involved in the body’s fat-storing process, suggesting that cinnamon somehow inhibits the body’s ability to retain fat, especially around the midsection.

The rats that ingested cinnamon also had more circulating “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules that protect the body from the damages of stress,” according to the study, which researchers presented at the American Heart Association’s Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology/Peripheral Vascular Disease 2017 Scientific Sessions.

Related: Eating Just One High-Fat Meal Can Damage Your Metabolism

While the results have not yet been replicated in human beings, the early indications suggest that cinnamon may be an antidote to cardiovascular damage brought on by a diet that is high in fat and cholesterol.

Finding New Benefits for Cinnamon

The ruddy spice has been used “as traditional herbal medicine for centuries,” notes a journal article touting its potential health benefits, which points to previous studies that, while limited, reveal a health-boosting powerhouse.

Current available evidence “suggests that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects,” reports the study.

Credit: Cinnamon spice is made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. Credit: Dinesh Valke/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Cinnamon comes from the inner layer of bark of the Cinnamomum tree. After the bark dries and is cut down to size, it turns into the spiral shapes commonly found in the spice aisle.

The underlying health benefit of cinnamon may derive from a phytochemical known as cinnamaldehyde, which has shown to “fight viruses, lower blood sugar and ward off diabetes and protect against neurodegenerative diseases,” such as dementia, according to Harvard Health.

Multiple studies have linked cinnamon to diabetes prevention and healthy insulin levels, and there appears to be a “biochemical explanation” at play.

“Cinnamon contains several chemicals that stimulate insulin receptors so glucose can get into cells and that means levels in the blood go down,” reported Dr. Anthony Komaroff with Harvard Health.

However, experts caution that, like the new study on belly fat, the results are so far preliminary and further study is warranted. But that doesn’t mean the results aren’t encouraging for clinical health reasons.

Credit: Lily Bellow/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

“My guess is that cinnamon and other foods may have some value in treating type 2 diabetes, but probably as adjuncts to, rather than as substitutes for, conventional medicine,” reported Komaroff.

Other studies have linked cinnamon consumption to colon cancer prevention, cognitive improvement and even virus protection.

Want to increase the amount of cinnamon you eat? The versatile spice pairs well with a range of foods, from oatmeal and muffins to breads and lentil soup. Some people even recommend adding cinnamon to your coffee in place of cream and sugar.

However you do it, the sweet spice may be stealthily keeping pounds off.

Related: 5 Spices With Brain Health Benefits

Richard Scott
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.