The shorter and cooler days immediately make you want spicy, warm and fascinating aromas, reminiscent of home and love, like cinnamon! And then cinnamon is also the ingredient of various preparations typical of this period, such as apple strudel or pumpkin pies. But cinnamon doesn't just give dishes a delicious taste. This spice is in fact a concentrate of properties for health. Let's try to deepen the benefits of cinnamon based on the most recent scientific research.
Cinnamon and diabetes
A third of a teaspoon a day of cinnamon, about 1 gram, has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin in a few weeks. The latter value indicates the average glucose levels in recent months and therefore is a much more reliable indicator than blood glucose measured at the time of the blood test to assess the presence or risk of diabetes (Santos et al, Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 2018). This anti-diabetes property of cinnamon is believed to be due to a multiple action. On the one hand, in fact, cinnamon increases glucose tolerance and reduces insulin resistance, on the other hand it has characteristics such that it is considered capable of mimicking insulin, increasing the use of glucose and its storage under form of glycogen, thus reducing circulating glucose and blood sugar (Kizilaslan et al, Int J Food Sci, 2019 - Nishikai Shen et al, Sci Rep, 2022).
Cinnamon and free radicals
Among all herbs and spices, cinnamon is second only to cloves, mint and allspice in its anti-free radical power. In fact, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, capable of counteracting aging processes, but also the damage that conditions such as hypercholesterolemia or diabetes can cause to different organs, such as the heart and kidneys (Santos et al, Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 2018).
Cinnamon and heart
Cinnamon helps raise good HDL cholesterol and reduce triglyceride levels (Shen et al, J Tradit Complement Med, 2012). Not only that, cinnamon also helps reduce inflammation, with benefits for the health of the whole organism and the heart, thus helping to prevent cardiovascular disease (Silva et al, Nutrients, 2022). In addition to these effects, cinnamon has also been shown to protect the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels and the heart (Shang et al, Food Funct, 2021). Studies have observed benefits with a dose of 1 gram of cinnamon per day, which corresponds to a third of a teaspoon (Silva et al, Nutrients, 2022).
Cinnamon and obesity
Regular intake of cinnamon helps reduce body weight and body mass index (Keramati et al, J Food Biochem, 2022).
Cinnamon and brain
Cinnamon, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is neuroprotective. In fact, cinnamon helps to counteract the accumulations of tau and beta amyloid proteins in the brain, which are a distinctive feature of Alzheimer's (Momtaz et al, Pharmacol Res, 2018).
Cinnamon, how to take it
Cinnamon can be added, in powder form, to preparations such as fruit salads, smoothies, desserts, sauces or yogurt. Alternatively, it is possible to prepare an herbal tea with cinnamon, since even the aqueous extracts of the spice have shown antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Roffey et al, Mol Nutr Food Res, 2006). In fact, one of the most powerful active ingredients in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, is a water-soluble polyphenol (Silva et al, Nutrients, 2022). In this case, bring a glass of water and half a cinnamon stick to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and let it rest for ten minutes, filter and drink.
Cinnamon, risks and warnings
Cinnamon is generally considered safe but, as always, you shouldn't overdo it. In fact, if cinnamon, in the form of herbal tea or powder to be added to preparations, is included in moderation within a varied and balanced diet, it is well tolerated. On the contrary, if in excess, and this can happen when taking supplements indiscriminately, it can be hepatotoxic due to the presence of coumarins. Also beware of the combination of cinnamon supplements and statin, which together can cause liver problems (Brancheau et al, Am J Case Rep, 2015). It should be emphasized that the presence of coumarins depends on the type of cinnamon. For example, ceylon cinnamon contains only traces of coumarins, and therefore lends itself to being used for constant and regular intakes, albeit without ever exaggerating, while cassia cinnamon has a significantly higher coumarin content, up to 1%, and therefore its regular or high consumption could lead to exceeding the maximum tolerable daily coumarins level, which is set at 0.1 mg / kg (Gu et al, Front Pharmacol, 2021 - Blahova et al, ScientificWorldJournal, 2012). Finally, given the hypoglycemic action of cinnamon, pay attention and ask your doctor for advice if you are taking blood sugar control drugs. Cinnamon is contraindicated in pregnancy.