Cholesterol is needed to line the outer layers of cells. This fatty substance is important for the body and is also found in the blood. Blood cholesterol is got from liver production and dietary intake. Cholesterol forms the building block of estrogen and testosterone also. We get dietary cholesterol from foods such as liver, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. High cholesterol is called hyperlipidemia.
There are 2 types of cholesterol. The first is ‘good’ or HDL cholesterol and the other LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol levels can cause atherosclerosis and increase coronary heart disease risk. It is important to lower LDL cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks and peripheral artery disease. Excess body weight, diet, lack of exercise, gender, age, diabetes, other medical conditions and hereditary causes all affect cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels of >240 is considered dangerous. Proper diet and drugs can treat high cholesterol.
Cinnamon and Cholesterol
Cinnamon is a common spice used in cooking a variety of dishes. This has shown potential in various studies for reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with high cholesterol. In a study on 60 type-2 diabetes patients, it was found that ¼ tsp or 1g of cinnamon was capable of reducing triglycerides by 23-30%, blood sugar by 18-29%, total cholesterol by 12-26% and LDL cholesterol by 7-27%. It was also found that small doses of cinnamon did not cause any side effects.
While more studies are required, senior dieticians suggest that since small doses are not harmful and do not increase calories, they could be beneficial. However, those taking cinnamon and diabetic medications should monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. Also we are advised not to take cinnamon in calorie-filled muffins or cakes for this really will not offer health benefits.
Proanthocyanidin is a compound which is water-soluble and found in cinnamon. This is a polyphenol which when it enters cell membranes can activate insulin receptors found in cells. Once this gets activated, a whole series of chemical reactions takes place and energy from sugar is utilized more efficiently. Hence, cinnamon acts in a similar manner to insulin especially in diabetic patients whose insulin is not performing well. Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity. While cinnamon is not as powerful as cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, initial studies have proved impressive enough to warrant further tests on its benefits for cholesterol.
Along with adding moderate amounts of cinnamon to our daily diet, we need to focus on changes in lifestyle to lower cholesterol. This includes eating a diet that contains healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, losing weight, stop smoking and starting appropriate exercise routine.
It is also suggested that the type of cinnamon used is also important. Some studies suggest using cassia cinnamon and other say to use cinnamon extracts or powdered cinnamon.
A combination of honey and cinnamon could help with lowering high cholesterol levels.
The usual dosage of ground cinnamon is 1-6g per day. ½ to ¾ tsp (2-4g) cinnamon powder thrice a day or ½ tsp (2-3ml) cinnamon oil tincture thrice a day could lower cholesterol levels.
Precautions while taking cinnamon
Cinnamon taken in food amounts does not cause any side effects. Exposure to cinnamon could cause bronchial constriction or skin inflammation. Those with skin sensitivity could develop mouth or tongue sores when they come in contact with concentrated cinnamon oil. Pregnant and breast feeding women are advised not to use cinnamon, diabetic patients and those scheduled for surgery or taking anticoagulants are advised not to take cinnamon.