While many of us know spices like cinnamon, tumeric, chili pepper flakes, and ginger as mere flavor boosters, they once had medicinal uses. In fact, the molecular structures of many drugs are based on natural substances.
Cinnamon is an example of an everyday spice that has an impressive roster of benefits, primarily due to a substance it contains known as “cinnamaldehyde“–the molecule that gives it its signature taste and odor (and the sweeter and more pungent the cinnamon, the more cinnamaldehyde it has).
It has exhibited a wide variety of health benefits including anti-carcinogenic properties, the reduction of LDL (“bad cholesterol”), and the potential to fight the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but in this article I want to focus on one benefit in particular that has a direct impact on your physique.
This benefit relates to insulin sensitivity.
When you eat food, your body breaks it down into various substances, one of which is glucose, or blood sugar.
Your pancreas releases the hormone insulin into your blood, which tells your liver, muscles, and fat tissue to take the glucose from the blood and store it. Your liver and muscles store the glucose as a substance known as glycogen, and your fat cells store it as as a substance known as triglycerides. The storage of glycogen expands the size of muscle cells, and the storage of triglycerides expands fat cells.
Now, in healthy humans, cells are sensitive to insulin. That is, they respond to insulin properly by taking in the glucose that the insulin is trying to shuttle out of your blood stream.
The more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the better they respond to its presence in your blood. As insulin sensitivity increases, your body needs to produce less insulin to successfully “convince” its cells to absorb glucose, and it accomplishes this quicker. This is a good thing, and helps maintain a lean, healthy body.
As cells become insulin resistant, however, they fail to respond to insulin in the ways they should. The body must then produce more insulin to force its cells into action, and the insulin must remain in the blood longer to get the cells to take the glucose. This is a bad thing, and leads to weight gain (especially in the abdominal region), increased risk of cardiovascular disease, sleepiness, high blood pressure, and more.
(And as a side note, type 2 diabetes is a condition wherein your cells have become very resistant to insulin and your body simply can’t produce enough to make them respond properly anymore. Thus, diabetics must inject insulin when they eat to strong arm their cells into accepting glucose .)
Now, as the title of this article says, cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity.
In one study conducted with 60 people with type 2 diabetes, the daily ingestion of 1, 3, and 6 grams of cinnamon per day for 40 days decreased blood glucose levels by 18-29% (meaning that their cells were responding better to insulin). The group eating 6 grams per day experienced a significant reduction in only 20 days.
These effects have also been noted in healthy adults, with the effective dosage being 3 grams per day.To put these dosages into perspective, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon is about 3 grams.
So, like stevia, cinnamon is one of nature’s tasty little treats that improves our health. Take a teaspoon per day to improve your insulin sensitivity, which will help you stay lean and healthy.
+ Scientific References
- Solomon, T. P. J., & Blannin, A. K. (2009). Changes in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity following 2 weeks of daily cinnamon ingestion in healthy humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 105(6), 969–976. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-0986-9
- Anderson, R. A. (2008). Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 67(1), 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0029665108006010
- Peterson, D. W., George, R. C., Scaramozzino, F., Lapointe, N. E., Anderson, R. A., Graves, D. J., & Lew, J. (2009). Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with alzheimer’s disease in vitro. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 17(3), 585–597. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2009-1083
- Khan, A., Safdar, M., Ali Khan, M. M., Khattak, K. N., & Anderson, R. A. (2003). Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People with Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 26(12), 3215–3218. https://doi.org/10.2337/diacare.26.12.3215
- Cabello, C. M., Bair, W. B., Lamore, S. D., Ley, S., Bause, A. S., Azimian, S., & Wondrak, G. T. (2009). The cinnamon-derived Michael acceptor cinnamic aldehyde impairs melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 46(2), 220–231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2008.10.025
- American Chemical Society. (n.d.). Cinnamon Oil Kills Mosquitoes -- ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040716081706.htm
- University Of Illinois At Chicago. (n.d.). Popular Chewing Gum Eliminates Bacteria That Cause Bad Breath -- ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040401080031.htm
- Yokomi, N., & Ito, M. (2009). Influence of composition upon the variety of tastes in Cinnamomi Cortex. Journal of Natural Medicines, 63(3), 261–266. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11418-009-0326-8
- Newman, D. J., Cragg, G. M., & Snader, K. M. (2003). Natural products as sources of new drugs over the period 1981-2002. In Journal of Natural Products (Vol. 66, Issue 7, pp. 1022–1037). J Nat Prod. https://doi.org/10.1021/np030096l