Cinnamon for weight loss is one of the more popular “natural” remedies being marketed all over the place. Most of the articles relating to cinnamon for weight loss quote a single scientific study and make an overall assumption that it works.
In order to get to the bottom of this, I have combed the available scientific literature to find out more about cinnamon for weight loss. After reading this article, I hope that you will be able to make an informed decision about cinnamon for weight loss. As always, these investigative articles can be lengthy. As such, you may want to bookmark this article for future reference.
Table of Contents for Article
- 1 Cinnamon Family
- 2 Understanding cinnamon better
- 3 Cinnamon for weight loss -What scientific research has to say
- 4 Ceylon cinnamon or cassia cinnamon
- 5 Cinnamon weight loss summary
Cinnamon is a type of spice that is extracted from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. It is found mainly in countries in the South East Asian region. The more common type of cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. This comes from the plant species known as Cinnamomum verum. It is also known as “true cinnamon”, Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon. Almost 91% of the world’s Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka. The rest of the 9% of Ceylon cinnamon comes from countries such as China, India and Vietnam.
Another popular type of cinnamon though not considered to be in the same class is Cassia cinnamon. This is also known as Chinese cinnamon and comes from the plant species known as Cinnamomum aromaticum. Over 40% of Cassia cinnamon comes from Indonesia with the remaining coming from southern China, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.
Understanding cinnamon better
Most of the scientific studies use either Cassia cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon. Premium Ceylon cinnamon could fetch a price of about 32 USD per pound. 1 pound of Cassia cinnamon could fetch a price of 12USD. Irrespective of currency levels, you can expect Ceylon cinnamon to cost 2.5 times more than Cassia cinnamon. The main differences between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon are as follows;
- Colour : Cassia cinnamon is dark brown while Ceylon cinnamon is light brown
- Outer texture : Cassia cinnamon is thick and hard while Ceylon cinnamon is thin and soft
- Filling : Cassia cinnamon is hollow while Ceylon cinnamon is filled like a cigar. This is the most distinctive feature
There has been lots of speculation that Cassia cinnamon may be toxic when taken at higher dosages. Cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin. Coumarin is a fragrant chemical compound that is mainly found in many types of plants and is widely used in perfumes. The controversy arose when the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment advised against high consumption of cassia cinnamon due to its coumarin content. Cassia cinnamon consumption in small quantities to spice up food is perfectly acceptable. It may pose a problem when consumed in the large quantities necessitated by the studies below.
Cinnamon for weight loss – The metabolic syndrome connection
Most of the research on cinnamon for weight loss relates to blood sugar and insulin management. Most of the obesity related problems can be traced back to some form of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition where your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. When you consume a carbohydrate meal, the digestive enzymes break this down to simple sugars such as glucose. Refined carbohydrates are digested at a much faster pace causing the blood stream to be flooded with glucose.
Glucose is used for the production of energy in cells. Insulin is a hormone that helps drive glucose into cells that need it. When the blood stream is flooded with glucose, the body reacts by releasing high levels of the insulin hormone. The challenge is that that the cells soon become numb to the effects of insulin. As such more insulin is required to drive the same amount of glucose into the cells. This is a downward spiral with the cells becoming more and more resistant to the effects of insulin over time. This is called insulin resistance.
Insulin is a very potent fat storage hormone. In its presence, the body wants to store fat rather than burn it. Insulin resistance results in high levels of insulin being released into the bloodstream. This insulin lingers on in the body, thus effectively putting you in fat storage mode. This is also the condition known as metabolic syndrome. Cinnamon acts by dampening the sugar released into the blood stream after a meal and consequently the insulin spikes.
Read more about insulin resistance from the following resources;
- Glycemic index, glycemic load and insulin resistance
- Complex and refined carbohydrates for weight loss
Cinnamon for weight loss -What scientific research has to say
An article was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2011. The rats in the study had a more than 50% reduction in post-meal glucose hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is a condition where there is an excessive amount of glucose released into the blood stream after a meal. The authors concluded that cinnamon extract could be used as a potential nutraceutical agent for treating post meal hyperglycemia.
A study was published in the Journal Diabetes Care in 2003. 60people with type 2 diabetes were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group consumed either 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon daily. The other group was given placebo pills. After a 40 day period, the researchers had some spectacular findings. The group that consumed cinnamon had the following results;
- Fasting blood glucose reduced by 18-29%
- Triglycerides reduced by 23-30%
- LDL cholesterol reduced by 7-27%
- Total cholesterol reduced by 12-26%
Although the study was based on diabetic patients, it also has far reaching implications for weight loss. Cinnamon can help address metabolic syndrome by reducing insulin spikes. This is the one study that is most quoted when promoting cinnamon for weight loss.
A study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2009. According to the researchers, lack of sleep creates insulin resistance. The researchers wanted to investigate if Cassia Cinnamon could reduce the level of insulin resistance in sleep deprived people. The researchers concluded that Cassia Cinnamon did have the potential to attenuate the effects of insulin resistance. As mentioned above, insulin resistance is one of the main reasons for weight gain. These findings strengthen the case of using cinnamon for weight loss.
A study was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009. Most of the studies before this were done on the effect of cinnamon on blood glucose level. This one looked at the effects of cinnamon on insulin sensitivity. The 8 participants consumed 3 grams of cinnamon a day. There was an average of 27% reduction in insulin response on the 14th day. That was an incredible result. The downside of the findings were that these positive effects of insulin ceased when the cinnamon ingestion was stopped. The researchers concluded that cinnamon may improve glycemic control and insulin sensitivity but the effects are quickly reversed. This is another study that strengthens the case of using cinnamon for weight loss.
A study was published in the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism in 2008. One group of participants took 5 g of cinnamon just before the oral glucose tolerance test. Another group took 5g of cinnamon, 2 hours before the oral glucose tolerance test. Researchers found that participants that took the cinnamon just before the test, had a 13% reduction in blood sugar response. The participants who took cinnamon 12 hours before the test, experienced a blood sugar response reduction of 10%. The researchers concluded that cinnamon may be useful for control of blood sugar as well as improving insulin sensitivity. They also mentioned that the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar were immediate and appeared to be sustainable for up to 12 hours. Yet another study that supports the use of cinnamon for weight loss.
A study was published in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility in 2007. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition experienced by women when they are having metabolic syndrome. It affects the menstrual cycles as well as fertility. Fifteen women were placed on oral cinnamon for 8 weeks. The researchers found that there was a marked improvement in insulin sensitivity among the participants.
A study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009. The objective of the study was to assess the effect of consuming 1 and 3 grams of cinnamon and the effect it had on post-meal blood glucose and insulin release. The researchers concluded that there was a relation between the amount of cinnamon consumed and the the level of insulin reduction after a meal.
Cinnamon for weight loss – Scientific research against the use of cinnamon for weight loss
One study looked into the effect of using aqueous cinnamon extract in controlling post-meal rise in blood sugar. The study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006. There was a 10.3% reduction in fasting blood glucose levels. The authors did not consider this to be significant.
Another study was published in the Journal of the Medical Association in Thailand in 2006 to investigate the effect of cinnamon powder on diabetic patients. The researchers concluded that consuming 1.5 g/d of Cassia cinnamon powder did not have any significant difference in reducing fasting blood sugar levels. The main reason for this could be due to the type of cinnamon used.
A study was published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006. Researchers gave 25 postmenopausal and diabetic patients, 1.5 gram per day of cinnamon. Cinnamon cassia was used. The researchers concluded that 1.5 g/day of cinnamon consumption had no effect on blood glucose regulation or in improving insulin sensitivity.
Cinnamon for weight loss – Why some studies did not show success
On the whole, cinnamon does seem to be effective for dampening spikes in blood sugar levels. This consequently helps to reduce insulin spikes. When insulin spikes are reduced, your body will become more sensitive to the effects of insulin. The research on this is quite compelling and makes a strong case for using cinnamon for weight loss.
What about the 3 studies that have not found cinnamon to be effective in modulating blood sugar levels. The 2006 study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition still had a 10.3% reduction in blood glucose levels. The authors did not consider the reduction as significant. Reference can be made to another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009. That study showed that the amount of insulin reduction was proportional to the amount of cinnamon consumed. Perhaps a 5g/day of insulin consumption would have produced better results.
The other 2 studies published in the Journal of the Medical Association in Thailand and in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 most likely used a very low daily cinnamon dose. The dose used in the study was 1.5 g per day. From the successful studies conducted, a 3 g/day cinnamon consumption seems to me a minimum threshold to see effective results. This and all studies were done primarily with the intention of using cinnamon as a treatment option for type-2 diabetes. Further studies may be required to validate the benefits of using cinnamon to assist in the management of type-2 diabetes.
Ceylon cinnamon or cassia cinnamon
The scientific research existing to date show the benefit of Ceylon cinnamon or Cassia cinnamon for weight loss. Both show promise in reducing blood glucose and insulin levels.
The only downside of Cassia cinnamon is the possible toxicity. In order that cinnamon for weight loss works, one needs to consume more than 3g of cinnamon a day. The benefits are even more pronounced when 5g per day of cinnamon is consumed. Such high levels of cassia cinnamon consumption may be toxic and not advisable. It is therefore advisable to consume only Ceylon cinnamon.
Cinnamon weight loss summary
An article was published in the Journal of Critical Review and Food Sciences in 2010. This is one of the latest studies and it sums up all the findings of the previous studies thus far. The authors summed up that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects. Cinnamon also may act as an insulin mimetic and stimulate cellular glucose metabolism.
The research data on cinnamon consumption for better control of blood sugar and insulin levels is compelling. When blood sugar and insulin levels are reduced, weight loss becomes easier. Moreover, studies have also shown that the effect is almost immediate. Cinnamon for weight loss works provided you consume more than 3 g per day. To avoid toxicity, you should consume only Ceylon cinnamon.
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