The Health Benefits of Cinnamon and How It Can Help With Weight Loss
A sprinkle of cinnamon on oatmeal, coffee, and other baked goods, gives it a festive touch of spice, especially as the weather gets colder. But beyond its great flavor, cinnamon can also benefit your overall health.
Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years as a spice, but also as medicine. The long history of using cinnamon in traditional medicine spans the continents, from Asia to the Middle East, according to the National Institute of Health. Today, cinnamon is commonly used as a supplement to lower blood sugar, alleviate irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
Keep reading to learn more about the health benefits of cinnamon, and how it can help anyone who is looking to lose weight.
There are two categories of cinnamon
Believe it or not, there are two main types of cinnamon. They are:
- Cassia cinnamon: Cassia comes from the tree called Cinnamomum cassia. It’s considered to be lower quality but has a stronger, spicier flavor due to higher amounts of oil called cinnamaldehyde. It is the most common form that is sold as a spice in supermarkets.
- Ceylon cinnamon: This type is referred to as “true cinnamon,” and comes from the Cinnamomum verum tree. The quality of Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be higher than Cassia which makes it more expensive. The flavor is also much milder from the lower level cinnamaldehyde in it.
While both Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon have health-promoting properties, consuming too much Cassia cinnamon may actually be harmful, according to research Cassia cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which is found naturally in different plants. Consuming too much coumarin can wind up being toxic, and may create damage to organs such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs. The tolerable daily intake (TDI) of coumarin is set at 0.1 mg/kg/day according to the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority.
According to a 2013 systematic review, just one teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon powder would contain around 5.8 to 12.1 milligrams (mg) of coumarin. On the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon contains so little coumarin that it’s hardly detectable. That’s why experts recommend using Ceylon cinnamon when as a long-term supplement.
How cinnamon may help with weight loss
When it comes to cinnamon's effect on weight loss, research has shown there is a strong association.
A 2020 meta-analysis that looked at randomized controlled trials, consuming cinnamon could lead to a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), and fat mass. Those under the age of 50 with a baseline BMI of 30 or greater had the best effects from cinnamon intake. The data showed that taking two or more grams of cinnamon per day for 12 or more weeks was linked to a reduction in body fat mass.
The outcome reported in these studies could be linked to the oil in cinnamon — called cinnamaldehyde. A 2017 article found that cinnamaldehyde could activate thermogenesis and metabolic responses in both humans and animals. Thermogenesis is the process by which your body burns calories to create heat (and burn off energy). An increase in this process could lead to more calories burned and, therefore, weight loss.
While it may be convenient to just add cinnamon to your recipes and hope for weight to magically drop off, that won't happen, since it has to be combined with other weight-loss strategies, such as daily exercise and a healthy plant-based diet, to see best results.
Other health benefits of cinnamon
Weight loss is just one potential benefit of adding on cinnamon, which also comes with many other health-promoting properties, including:
- Boosts antioxidants: Cinnamon contains a variety of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, according to a 2018 study, that found it helped women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In the study, women with PCOS who received 3 cinnamon capsules (of 500 mg each) daily for 8 weeks showed improved antioxidant status that can help alleviate the symptoms of PCOS, a metabolic and reproductive condition that creates oxidative stress and decreased antioxidant levels in the body.
- Has Anti-inflammatory properties: Consuming cinnamon powder (in the range of 1.5 to 4 grams per day) showed a reduction in various proteins that indicate inflammation in the body, a 2020 meta-analysis found.
- Lowers blood sugar: Consuming 3 to 6 grams of cinnamon per day for 40 days had beneficial effects on blood glucose both before and after a meal, a 2019 study found. (However, there wasn’t a significant effect on the average blood sugar levels over two to three months.)
- Protects against neurodegenerative diseases: While further research needs to be completed on human studies, a 2021 study found that the supplementation of cinnamon extract reduced the severity of memory impairment and decreased neuronal loss in animals with brain injury. The loss of neurons leads to memory loss and the ability to conduct daily tasks, often seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease: High LDL (bad) cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. A 2017 study found that cinnamon supplementation helped to reduce blood triglyceride levels and total cholesterol levels. Although this study didn’t find a difference in LDL cholesterol levels, another 2013 study showed that consumption of cinnamon was associated with improvements in both LDL and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Bottom Line: Among its many health benefits, cinnamon has been shown to help with weight loss
Cinnamon has been shown to help improve blood sugar, lead to less inflammation in the body, and protection against certain diseases. If you plan to consume cinnamon on a regular basis be sure to choose the higher quality Ceylon cinnamon to avoid too much coumarin.
For more science-backed weight loss tips, check out The Beet's Diet & Weightloss articles here.