WRITTEN BY R.D.N ANTONIO GOMEZ
Cinnamon is a substance obtained from the inner bark of several trees, especially the evergreen aromatic “Cinnamomum” tree, it has been used for centuries as a culinary ingredient, a traditional medicine, and more recently considered as a complementary agent for aiding in inflammatory markers for people with metabolic syndrome (a handful of symptoms/conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
During the past decade, numerous clinical trials have investigated the efficacy of cinnamon supplementation in alleviating hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), dyslipidemia (high levels of LDL and/or Cholesterol) relief of gastrointestinal distress, arthritis, high blood pressure (BP), dermatitis, toothache, colds, improving menstrual irregularities and for wound healing.
Its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean for centuries by people in the food trade market, protecting it from big monopoly suppliers, it was used as a flavoring agent for beverage and soups.
In Ancient Egypt, cinnamon was used to embalm mummies, it was also used by Egyptians to create ”kyphi” an aromatic scent used for burning.
In Greek literature, cinnamon is mentioned to be used as a flavoring agent for wine.
In recent times cinnamon bark is used as a spice, employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material.
In Mexico, It is used in the preparation of chocolate.
In the United States cinnamon is often used to flavor cereals and fruits.
In Portuguese and Turkish cuisine cinnamon is used for both sweet and savory dishes.
Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in enhancing the flavor of Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.
Scientific Health Evidence
- Cinnamon powder supplementation in nondiabetic women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) decreased the severity of pain and nausea compared with controls. (Hajimonfarednejad et al)
- Ibuprofen was more effective than cinnamon in menstrual pain severity and duration. (Jaafarpour et al)
- Compared with controls, postprandial glycemic responses to cinnamon administration were inconsistent. (Solomon and Blannin)
- Collective lipid profile data from cinnamon supplementation is nonetheless inconsistent and preclude generalizations. (Maierean et al)
- Limited data suggest that short-term cinnamon intake can aid in high blood pressure in type 2 diabetes patients. (Akilen et al)
- Significant improvements in arthritic symptoms and in blood markers of inflammation were detected for women receiving cinnamon, compared with controls. (Shishehbor et al)
- Administration of a cinnamon-containing mouth rinse decreased the number of bacteria containing biofilm (plaque) and reduced the magnitude of inflammatory gingivitis (Gupta and Jain)
Cinnamon’s claimed health benefits have been investigated mainly in animal and in vitro studies, nevertheless, it seems that the impact of cinnamon is relevant in numerous human randomized trails affected with metabolic syndrome, the mechanism of action behind the positive cinnamon response is mainly due to an enhanced insulin signaling leading to a means of better glucose transport and absorption, a better glucose metabolism will aid by reducing expression of proinflammatory cytokines, this will explain the positive results in studies in type 2 diabetes, a woman with PCOS and arthritic symptoms
The specific constituents of cinnamon producing these health benefits in humans are not known yet, but from in vivo and in vitro studies, some substances are theorized to be responsible of the positive response, these include two mainly polyphenols: methyl hydroxy chalcone polymer and cinnamaldehyde, this last one is the substance that gives cinnamon its flavor and odor, it occurs naturally in the bark of cinnamon trees, higher concentrations are found in the genus “camphor” and “cassia”.
Claims related to toothaches and dental hygiene showed that the oils of cinnamaldehyde possess antibacterial activity and its use as an alternative aid for dental hygiene is effective in inhibiting the growth of dental pathogens.
The tolerance of specific doses of cinnamon and any adverse effects were not routinely reported in human trial studies. Cinnamon use as a spice or flavoring agent is considered generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration, nevertheless, administration of cinnamon in large amounts (in powder) up to 3 g per day for long time periods needs to be carefully monitored for potential adverse effects including interactions with prescription drugs.
The health claims of cinnamon that shown no relevant outcomes in human trials are related to the alleviation of inflammation and/or pain like symptoms in dysmenorrhea, in this case, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are far more effective to treat general pain.
Lipid profile markers seem to be unchanged with cinnamon supplementation, recommendations instead of changes in diet and lifestyle need to be prioritized.
Similarly, no generalizations can be made for routine use of supplemental cinnamon in moderating high blood pressure as only slight changes have seen but only in type 2 diabetes.
“Cinnamon is a highly underrated sweetener, it has little to none calorie content per tablespoon, is proven by the literature to possess antibacterial properties and its aid in glucose metabolism seems to be promising, even more in populations with type 2 diabetes, its use in the bark or in powder makes it a nice addition to have, it can easily replace added sugars in desserts and from a nutritional point of view a far superior option”
Cinnamon in the form of powder can be added to our Quinoa cereals, it goes well with milk and fruits especially apples, you should give a try if you want a little more flavor to your breakfast.
Cinnamon Nutritional Facts
5 kcal per tablespoon (2 grams)
Ulbricht C, Seamon E, Windsor RC, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2011.
Jaafarpour M, Hatefi M, Khani A, Khajavikhan J. Comparative effect of cinnamon and ibuprofen for treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. J Clin Drag Res. 2015.
Hajimonfarednejad M, Nimrouzi M, Heydari M, et al. Insulin resistance improvement by cinnamon powder in polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2017.
Solomon TP, Blannin AK. Changes in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity following 2 weeks of daily cinnamon ingestion in healthy humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009.
Gupta D, Jain A. Effect of cinnamon extract and chlorhexidine gluconate (0.2%) on the clinical level of dental plaque and gingival health: a 4-week, triple-blind randomized controlled trial. J Int Acad Periodontol. 2015.
Shishehbor F, Safar M, Rajaei E, Haghighizadeh MH. Cinnamon consumption improves clinical symptoms and inflammatory markers in women with rheumatoid arthritis. J Am Coll Nutr.2018.
Maierean S, Serban M, Sahebkar A, et al. The effects of cinnamon on blood lipid concentrations: a systematic review and metaanalysis. J Clin Lipidol. 2017.
Akilen R, Pimlott Z, Tsiami A, Robinson N. Effect of short-term cinnamon administration on blood pressure in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Nutrition. 2013.
Anderson R, Zhan Z, Luo R, et al. Cinnamon extract lowers glucose, insulin, and cholesterol in people with elevated serum glucose. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016.