Cinnamon Provides Impressive Benefits for Blood Sugar, Heart Health, Inflammation and More
Monday, April 13, 2015
Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Cinnamon has a most impressive history spanning several millennia and is the most commonly used spice in the world. From its flavorful use as a spice in cooking and enticing aromas, burning in incense, or in ancient practices and traditions of the early Egyptians, it has been in use since early 2000 B.C. It has become enormously popular throughout the world rivaled by only chocolate and cassia over the last few centuries. This popular spice provides a surprising wide array of medicinal benefits surpassing benefits of other spices.
Traditional Uses of Cinnamon
The traditional uses of cinnamon are extensive. The journal Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine in 2014 published a thorough review article on the diverse benefits of cinnamon. The summary list is impressive. It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anticancer, lipid and cardiovascular disease lowering compound. In addition, cinnamon demonstrates activity against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. What follows is a discussion about some of the benefits of this inviting spice.
Cinnamon has traditionally played several roles in the health of oral hygiene in that it has been used to treat toothaches, improve the flora of the mouth, and improve bad breath. It is commonly found in toothpaste, mouthwashes, floss, gum and more to help with dental health and fresh breath. Just take a look at the flavors found in these personal hygiene products – cinnamon flavor is ubiquitous.
The Antioxidant King of Spices
Cinnamon provides the highest antioxidant activity compared to other common spices (anise, ginger, licorice, mint, nutmeg, and vanilla) used in foods. It also surpasses any synthetic food preservatives/antioxidants, i.e. BHA, BHT, and propyl gallate used within the food industry. This popular spice mops up and protects against some of the most damaging free radicals including the superoxide radical. Along with mint, it provides the highest level of protection in stopping oxidation or inhibiting high levels of free radical damage compared to other common spices.
Even more impressive was the role of cinnamon cassia in providing protective inhibitory effects against inducible nitric oxide (iNOS). iNOS is a form of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule, that when it is in excess creates inflammatory, toxic reactions to tissues. Excess iNOS is terribly toxic to nerve cells and DNA. It promotes tumor growth and cancer cell growth, disrupts heart contractions and causes heart disease, and is heavily involved with chronic inflammation. Cinnamon cassia halted this process.
Neurological Inflammation and Neurodegeneration
In regards to brain health concerns, add cinnamon to your supplement and grocery list along with omega 3 oils, curcumin, and grape seed extract. Research showed that active components of cinnamon protected against brain damage and swelling in rats caused by stroke from disruption of oxygen and blood and the release of excitatory toxic chemicals like glutamate. New research shows cinnamon helps glutathione production reducing oxidative stress and problems with mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain. Studies also show that cinnamon cassia helps prevent and potentially treat neurodegenerative diseases associated with microglial cell inflammation induced by several dangerous inflammatory compounds like COX-2, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and NF-kappaB. These compounds often create a domino effect if left unchecked. The phytochemicals in cinnamon were able to restrain this process. This is immensely positive for those with concerns of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, CFS/ME, Lyme’s, depression, fibromyalgia and other neurological disorders.
Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, and AGEs
The use of cinnamon has been popular among diabetics for several years and with good reason. Research shows many positive benefits. One of the active components found in cinnamon was shown to derail the progression of high blood pressure that types 1 and 2 diabetics often struggle with because of insulin deficiency. In addition, several of the proanthocyanidins found in the cinnamon bark inhibited the formation of AGEs, – advanced glycation endproducts. AGEs are the result of excess blood sugar attaching to proteins, making things abnormally stiff and damaged. An elevated hemoglogin A1C is a measurement of AGEs in the body. The more elevated hemoglobin A1C is, the higher the presence of AGEs that result in tissue damage to the kidneys, eyes, nerves and more. It is imperative to have the hemoglobin A1C in the optimal range of 4.8 - 5.5. Higher levels even at 5.6 - 6.0 are linked with progressive neurodegenerative risks and disease development.
Cholesterol, Heart, C-Reactive Protein, and Fatty Liver
Several studies clearly demonstrate remarkable benefits for blood glucose and cholesterol levels and the active components of cinnamon. Twenty-five years ago, researchers found that a compound in cinnamon was an “insulin potentiating factor”, i.e. improving insulin function. A study conducted 15 years ago clearly showed that the active phytochemicals in cinnamon provided the most biologically active insulin-supporting compounds compared to nearly 50 other herbs, spices, and medicinal plants for improving blood sugar health. In addition to providing therapeutic benefits for lipid and insulin levels, other research shows that cinnamon extracts may reduce elevated C-reactive protein and elevated liver enzymes that cause non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease or NAFLD.
The benefits for cholesterol and lipid lowering effects are nothing short of amazing. Researchers found that cinnamon intake caused significant reduction in blood glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in humans. This was after only 40 days of supplementation in type 2 diabetics. The study showed that a dose of 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon extract per day accomplished this improvement; the higher the dose, the better the outcome.
Compounds isolated from cinnamon cassia were protective against myocardial ischemia or heart disease. It also helped reduce platelet clumping often associated with clotting disorders and different cancers.
Cancer Risk and Cinnamon
Researchers find cinnamon is potentially useful in the prevention and/or treatment of cancer. Cinnamon was shown to inhibit NF-kappa B, TNF-a, and IL-8, which are inflammatory immune compounds related with cancer cell activation and growth. Animal studies and cell culture studies demonstrate that cinnamon inhibited the blood vessel growth in cancer cells (angiogenesis) and inhibited tumor growth. Other animal studies showed that cinnamon extracts also help with detoxification and glutathione function in the body in animals with colon cancer.
Anti-microbial Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon oils provide antimicrobial activity against a number of different germs. These include various Gram positive bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes, Enterococcus faecalis, Staph. aureus, and Bacillus cereus) and Gram negative bacteria (Salmonella choeraesuis, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Yersinia enterocolitica). It also was effective against Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Quite impressive to say the least!
As you can see, cinnamon is far more than a favorite spice. The health benefits are impressive and far reaching. No single medication could ever do what this aromatic spice can. Consider adding a little dash here or there of pure cinnamon with your various beverages or foods. Try some with your protein smoothie in the morning too. If you are dealing with an active problem, using a standardized cinnamon extract with the natural phytochemicals present in a therapeutic amount provides the best beneficial support.
Quality of Cinnamon Supplements
All cinnamon supplements are not the same! We recommend a special water-soluble extract of cinnamon’s polyphenol Type-A polymers, called CinnulinPF®. Ongoing research at the USDA has identified these polyphenols as the bioactive factors in cinnamon that support healthy insulin function and act as antioxidants. CinnulinPF® is the only clinically-tested cinnamon extract on the market. In fact, other extracts of cinnamon may contain a toxic fat-soluble compound making long-term use of them uncertain. This may be insignificant when using cinnamon as a spice, but it is quite important when you are taking a cinnamon supplement. The potentially problematic compounds have been removed from CinnulinPF®.*
The next time you are out with friends enjoying a latte with cinnamon share a little trivia about this fascinating spice. It just might open up a discussion about how they can learn to use cinnamon extracts to help with their metabolic syndrome, blood pressure problems or persistent sinus infection that they have been unsuccessfully treating. It may even provide helpful tricks to navigate through mosquito season. Cinnamon provides a wonderful opportunity to “spice up your life”, protect, and revitalize!
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