If you feel obesity is a small problem, think again.
In US more than one third of adults are obese. Obesity not only leads to several other problems but it also brings huge financial burden on economy.
In 2008, costs of obesity related medical problems was USD 147 bn!
All of this can be avoided with some care while taking food and healthy lifestyle.
Before going ahead and discussing how cinnamon can help in weight loss, lets understand a bit about obesity. Obesity is generally determined by BMI or body mass index.
A person with a BMI of > 30 is obese and > 40 is extremely obese. Obesity is the cause of numerous diseases.
When a person’s fat is centered on the waist, the consequences are more dangerous. Some conditions associated with obesity include high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, stroke and gallstones.
Consuming a high calorie diet without adequate exercise to burn off excess fat is the leading cause of obesity.
Other factors include psychological problems, age, genetics, medications like corticosteroids, antidepressants and others and medical problems like hypothyroidism or Cushing syndrome.
Even when obesity is caused by medications or an illness, there are ways to combat it by following preventive care, lifestyle changes, exercise etc. For extreme obesity, drug therapies or surgery maybe recommended.
Weight loss is the best way to combat obesity. There are many nutritional supplements, herbs and spices that can provide benefits for weight loss.
Nutritional supplements help maintain proper levels of nutrients which could get depleted during a weight loss program.
A little bit about cinnamon. If you are already aware of it, please skip this section.
Cinnamon is a common as well as among the oldest known spice, condiment and flavoring agent in the world.
Its reference can be found from the holy Bible to its beverage role in ancient Egypt to its penned medicinal properties in Chinese botanical medicine (2700 BC) and Indian ancient texts such as Ashtangahridayaby MaharshiVagbhat( AD 500) .
Cinnamon is procured from inward facing part of the bark of the genus Cinnamomum, a tropical evergreen tree. Out of hundreds of its known varieties, two widely known are:-
- Cinnamomum verum(true cinnamon)
- Cinnamomum cassia (Chinese cinnamon)
The bark obtained is either powdered or made into chunks for final usage. The oil can be obtained by mashing up and distilling it. Cinnamon’s peculiar taste and odor is resultant of compound cinnamaldehyde aging due to exposure of oxygen.
The significant components of medicinal use inherited in Cinnamon are: eugenol, ethyl cinnamate, methyl chavicol, linalool, cinnamaldehyde and beta- caryphyllene .
Numerous scientific studies by different research groups of world have demonstrated beneficial effects of Cinnamon including anti- inflammatory, anti-microbial and prevention against deadly diseases like cancer .
On being having tremendous medicinal effect;can it possibly not aid in reducing obesity and weight management!
When there is naturally occurring spice ‘Cinnamon’ already valued for its medicinal property, let us see its role in weight reduction.
Cinnamon is one such spice that is used for weight loss especially combined with honey.
Cinnamon for Weight Loss
Most of the scientific studies have demonstrated the relation of cinnamon with blood sugar and insulin levels. It has been observed that obesity is tightly coupled to condition called ‘insulin resistance’ .
When we eat a carbohydrate rich diet, the enzymes act upon the food particles and digest it down to simple sugars like glucose. The glucose then enters the blood. In presence of insulin, cells then uptake glucose- the energy producing molecule.
The challenging condition is when cells start becoming insensitive to high insulin amount. Overtime, this numbness increases and is termed as ‘insulin resistance’.
The resistance leads to increase in blood insulin levels. This signals body to start storing fats instead of burning it .
Another peculiar thing about insulin hormone is that its presence in blood directs body to start storing the food in the form of fat instead of utilizing it.
Let us see what scientific studies demonstrated upon role of cinnamon in various aspects related to weight loss:
Cinnamon and Insulin levels
A research group from Germany published a study in 2014 demonstrating role of cinnamon in mediating changes in metabolic pathways leading to decrease in liver fat and balancing blood glucose levels.
The cinnamon constituents’ eugenol and cinnamaldehyde were added and their effect was studied in obese mouse. Fasting glucose levels and glucose tolerance were found to improve .
In another study, it was suggested that cinnamon extract would increase insulin sensitivity by improving glucose uptake. The rat tests were grouped into saline (control) and cinnamon extract doses groups.
After three weeks, their Glucose Infusion Rate was measured. It was found to be elevated by 17% in cinnamon administered rates in comparison to the control groups .
Another similar insulin sensitivity experiments were conducted upon High Fructose Diet fed mouse. The results suggested the increase in insulin sensitivity on the test groups’ administered with Cinnamon extract in comparison to the control group.
This research published in 2004 concluded the decrease in insulin resistance on Cinnamon Extract administration.
What it means: Cinnamon can help improving insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake rate.
Cinnamon and Blood glucose levels
High Blood glucose levels or more aptly, hyperglycaemic conditions occurs when the cellular glucose intake is decreased leading to elevated blood glucose amount.
As we are aware, more blood glucose implies more insulin formation and fat storage; leading to weight gain.
A Canadian Research Group published their study in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2006. The study concluded that the rate of glucose uptake by 3T3 Adipocytes (adipose cells) increased upon treated with cinnamon extract.
Adipocytes were grouped on the basis of presence and absence of insulin. All further were treated with different dose concentrations of Cinnamon extracts. Glucose level was experimentally analysed.
Two fold increase in glucose uptake was found in certain dose concentrations in comparison to control samples .
A US research group also published an article showing decrease in blood glucose levels with effect over other molecular factors on addition of Cinnamon extract.
The study also focused upon the mechanism by which genes regulating carbohydrate metabolism and lipogenesis gets affected in presence of Cinnamon extract.
Their study showed up-regulation of genes involved in Glucose uptake in adipose tissue. The expression studies were conducted upon glucose uptake involved genes such as GLUT- 1, GLUT-4, Glycogen synthase 1 and others in presence of Cinnamon extract.
What it means: studies have shown the beneficial effect of cinnamon over regulating blood glucose levels which will aid in weight loss.
Cinnamon Effects on blood pressure, glycaemic index and blood lipid content
Blood pressure has been found to be increased in obese patients with high glucose levels. It has been reported by many studies such as by Filipovsky et. al. in Journal of Hypertension, 1996 .
A systemic review by Bandara et al enlisted the role of cinnamon in blood pressure, cholesterol and lipid lowering .
Cinnamon is said to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies found that using cinnamon could lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by at least 27%.
Another study published in Diabetic Journal published the research which elucidated possible role of Cinnamatannin B1as the active molecule responsible for:
- elevating glucose uptake by GLUT 4
- increase in glucose metabolism
- inhibiting gluconeogenesis
- decreasing LDL levels
- increasing HDL levels
What it means: Studies unravel that weight can be managed by managing one’s blood pressure and blood glucose levels
Cinnamon and Glucose Tolerance
Glucose tolerance is a physiological condition in which the blood sugar levels are maintained by the actions of hormones insulin (which decreases blood sugar levels) and glucagon(which increases the blood sugar levels).
During 1999-2000, an Obesity and Life style study done by Australian Institute if Health and Welfare found some population of Obese people to have Glucose Intolerance or Impaired Glucose Tolerance. That is, the glucose homeostasis pathway becomes unresponsive and blood sugar remains elevated.
As we are aware, more the glucose levels imply more the insulin gets secreted into the blood. And, more the insulin implies more of fat storage. Hence, weight gain.
A study done in 2009 by a research group from University of Birmingham concluded that glucose homeostasis and thereby insulin sensitivity can be achieved on supplementation of Cinnamon supplementation.
A small population of average 25yr. Old males were made to undergo Oral Glucose Tolerance Tests without consumption of cinnamon, after consumption of cinnamon and 12hours after consumption of cinnamon. Reduction in plasma glucose levels were found in the latter two experimental set ups.
What it means: Cinnamon consumption could possibly play role in reducing plasma glucose levels .
Cinnamon for Inflammation induced obesity
[Pardon me this section is a bit technical]
Fat tissue, comprised of Adipocytes are not only associated with food storing abilities but also play crucial immunological and endocrinal roles.
Inflammation causing molecules, ‘cytokines’ like Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), Interleukins (ILs)have been found to be expressed in obese population . Various other research groups such as Emanuelli et al and Nieto-Vazquez et al have proven the role of TNF in weight gain.
A research group concluded in 2009 that cinnamon extract reverses over production of certain intestinal lipoproteins by attenuating expression of inflammatory molecules like TNF .
The enterocytes or intestinal cells treated with TNF were grown in presence of Cinnamon extract and further expression of inflammation causing genes were experimentally analysed. Expression of TNF and certain Interleukins were found to be reduced where as expression of insulin receptor and lipid metabolism genes were found to be elevated.
Some research studies do not agree though..
Such a huge amount of research data is compelling and holds for a strong opinion regarding use of cinnamon to overcome obesity.
Still, certain research groups observed no significant data in their experimental set up. Like:
- Mang et al concluded that effect of cinnamon extract in decreasing post meal blood sugar levels are not significant.
- Suppapittiporn et al in 2006 concluded in their study that cinnamon powder(1.5g) does not have significant role in decreasing blood glucose levels.
- No blood glucose regulation was observed on 1.5g cinnamon powder fed 25 post menopausal and diabetic patient by Vanschoonbeek et al
These study results were not found to be significant because of:
- Specific test groups
- Lower dose administered
- Quality of cinnamon consumed
But on the whole, cinnamon can be termed as a justified and an effective source of weight loss.
Weight Loss Recipes with Cinnamon
There are several recipes for cinnamon for weight loss but the main weight loss recipe is a combination of cinnamon and honey. For this you need:
- Cinnamon powder – ½ tsp
- Honey – 1 tsp
- Boiling water – 1 cup
Combine the cinnamon and honey and make a paste. Add boiling water, cover and leave the mixture for ½ hour. Now, stir it well, filter and drink half the quantity on an empty stomach before breakfast.
You can refrigerate or leave the rest of the mixture at room temperature and drink it before bedtime. Do not reheat it. There are reports of people who have used this recipe regularly and lost about 3kg in a week.
Apart from cinnamon and honey which is a specific recipe for weight loss, there are many ways that cinnamon can be combined in food and even this could help with weight loss.
Add cinnamon to herbal tea preparation, making it healthier and more flavorful. Check recipe here
Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, toast, breakfast cereal or even added to a cup of morning coffee. Cinnamon is often used to flavor products like cheese, butter, peach or apple pies, ciders and juices.
Those who want an easier option can choose to take cinnamon supplements (not recommended though).
The consumption of cinnamon (especially cassia) should be restricted to 4-6 g/day and large dosage should not be consumed for extended periods of time.
Please consult a doctor or a physician before you use cinnamon for health purposes especially if you are on medications.
Precautions with cinnamon
Some people can develop mouth lesions, inflammation of lips, gum diseases, tongue inflammation, mouth sores or acne when using cinnamon-flavored chewing gum, cinnamon oil, cinnamon toothpaste or mints.
The effect could be due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde in these products.
Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin could cause liver problems if taken in large quantities for a long period of time . Those taking heart medications, blood thinners, antibiotics must be careful when using cinnamon. In case of any confusion, it is best to consult your doctor before going ahead and taking cinnamon.
Several available experimental evidences, suggest that cinnamon can play role in balancing body insulin levels, cholesterol levels, glucose levels aiding in weight loss. Thus, cinnamon can be opted as among wise options for weight loss and management.