The Health Benefits of Cinnamon

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN, IFMCPNutrition

Cinnamon is a common culinary ingredient, used in both savory and sweet dishes throughout much of the world. Just looking through the spice shelves of the grocery store will show you that there are many types of cinnamon, with Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon being two of the most popular. Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be “true” cinnamon (1). While both Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon have been studied for their health benefits, Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred type of cinnamon to be used in large quantities or as an herbal medicine because it contains lower levels of coumarin, a naturally occurring compound found in cinnamon that has toxic effects on the liver (2).

Cinnamon has been used and studied as a treatment for diabetes, obesity, hay fever, gastrointestinal conditions, and more, though the research on many of these conditions is mixed. That being said, Ceylon cinnamon may be a useful complementary therapy for promoting glucose homeostasis. Specifically, Ceylon cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin resistance by reducing blood glucose levels. In one study, the addition of 6 grams of cinnamon to a farina based cereal resulted in a significant reduction in post prandial blood glucose levels compared to farina cereal alone in healthy weight and obese individuals (3). Other research investigating the specific amount of cinnamon needed to effect a change in blood glucose levels also found 6 grams to be the quantity necessary for a statistically significant change in postprandial blood glucose (4). While this appears to be a promising herbal medicine for optimizing blood glucose, especially given the familiarity of the general public with cinnamon and the myriad traditional recipes that incorporate cinnamon, research regarding the efficacy of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose is mixed. Other research using the same type and dosage of cinnamon have not yielded statistically significant results on blood glucose levels (5).

Overall, the studies looking into the impact of cinnamon on blood glucose are small and have had mixed results. That being said, cinnamon has other documented benefits, reinforcing that this beautiful spice should be included in the diet, especially if you are eating to promote brain health. For example, cinnamon has been shown to improve cognition and reduce oxidation in the brain (6). Cinnamon contains compounds that have an anti-neuroinflammation effect, effectively reducing cerebral inflammation (7). Finally, cinnamon is high in manganese, a micronutrient and antioxidant important for brain health (8).

If all of that is not reason enough to start including cinnamon in your diet, use this incredible spice simply for its remarkable flavor. In western culture, cinnamon is most commonly used in desserts. For a brain healthy, Ketoflex Nutrition plan compliant dessert with cinnamon, try our spiced baked apple. Cinnamon works equally well with savory dishes and in areas of the middle east and India, is often used along with other spices to flavor rice. For a lower carbohydrate option for those maintaining mild ketosis, try using cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and cumin to flavor cauliflower rice. For an even easier way to incorporate cinnamon into your diet, try sprinkling cinnamon into your morning coffee or Chai tea. Whatever your preferred way to use cinnamon, start including this spice into your nutritional routine. Your brain, body, and taste buds will thank you!


References:

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2020, May).Cinnamon. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cinnamon
  2. Natural Medicines (2021, March).Cinnamon. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1002
  3. Magistrelli, A. & Chezem, J.C. (2012). Effect of ground cinnamon on post prandial blood glucose concentration in normal weight and obese subjects. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(11), 1806-1809.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.037
  4. Kizilaslan, N. & Erdem, N.Z. (2019). The effect of different amounts of cinnamon consumption on blood glucose in healthy adult individuals.International Journal of Food Science,2019,https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/4138534
  5. Wickenberg, J. Lindstedt, S. Berntorp, K., Nilsson, J., & Hlebowicz, J. (2012). Ceylon cinnamon does not affect postprandial plasma glucose or insulin in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance.British Journal of Nutrition, 107(12), 1845-1849.doi: 10.1017/S0007114511005113
  6. Jain S, Sangma T, Shukla SK, Mediratta PK. Effect of Cinnamomum zeylanicum extract on scopolamine-induced cognitive impairment and oxidative stress in rats.Nutr Neurosci. 2015;18(5):210-216. doi:10.1179/1476830514Y.0000000113
  7. Chen, Y.-F., Wang, Y.-W., Huang, W.-S., Lee, M.-M., Wood, W. G., Leung, Y.-M., & Tsai, H.-Y. (2016). Trans-Cinnamaldehyde, An Essential Oil in Cinnamon Powder, Ameliorates Cerebral Ischemia-Induced Brain Injury via Inhibition of Neuroinflammation Through Attenuation of iNOS, COX-2 Expression and NFκ-B Signaling Pathway.NeuroMolecular Medicine,18(3), 322–333.https://doi.org/10.1007/s12017-016-8395-9
  8. Horning, K., Caito, S., Tipps, K., Bowman, A., & Aschner, M. (2015). Manganese Is Essential for Neuronal Health.Annual Review of Nutrition,35(1), 71–108.https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-071714-034419