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Cinnamon: Health Benefits, Nutritional Profile And Side Effects

Cinnamon, a spice with a unique aroma and flavour, is familiar to people around the world, who use it in varieties of delicacies to enhance the flavour of the food and get a wide range of benefits from controlling blood glucose levels to helping in weight loss, and from treating respiratory disorder to improving the digestive system.

They are mainly exported in the form of quills or say, tightly rolled cinnamon sticks which are made by peeling the bark of the cinnamon tree into very thin layers and rolling into pipes. [1]

Cinnamon is not only one among the vital cooking ingredients, but also a huge part of industries related to modern medicine, fragrance, foodstuffs and medicinal products. Also, the colour, texture and amounts of active compounds in cinnamon vary from country to country in which it is grown, considering there are around 250 species of cinnamon genus identified globally.

In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of cinnamon along with its nutritional profile, side effects and other details. Take a look.

Active Compounds In Cinnamon

Cinnamon leaves contain two principal compounds cinnamaldehyde and trans-cinnamaldehyde (Cin) which gives the spice its unique fragrance. Cinnamon essential oil, which is usually prepared from its leaves, thus contains high levels of Cin with great benefits for the human body. [2]

The bark of the cinnamon tree contains catechins (a predominant antioxidant in green tea) and procyanidins (a predominant antioxidant in berries).

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Nutritional Profile Of Cinnamon

According to the USDA, 100 g of cinnamon (ground) contains around 10.6 g of water and 1040 kJ of energy. It also contains the aforementioned nutrients: [3]

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Health Benefits Of Cinnamon

1. Controls blood sugar

Cinnamon is widely used not only to control blood sugar levels but also to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure and prevent diabetes-related complications. According to a study based on a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials data, cinnamon consumption can significantly lower levels of fasting blood glucose and LDL or bad cholesterol levels and increase good or HDL cholesterols. This may help diabetics in the management of the condition. [4]

2. Reduces the risk of obesity

Obesity comes under metabolic syndrome diseases that can increase the risk of heart diseases and diabetes. A study has shown that cinnamon can act at a cellular level and reduce the risk of obesity among Asian Indians, as they are more prone to the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome diseases due to their body composition. As cinnamon is a huge part of the Indian kitchen, including the spice in the daily diet is easier. [5]

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3. May benefit people with neurodegenerative diseases

Cinnamon has neurotropic functions, meaning it can help in the formation of new neurons in the brain, as well as, in the survival of existing ones. According to a study, Cin in cinnamon gets converted into its metabolite sodium benzoate (NaB) in the body, This NaB is of great medicinal importance as along with other functions, it also increases neurotropic functions which may benefit people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. [6]

4. Improves blood circulation in the uterus

Some studies say that cinnamon may help improve blood circulation in the uterus and promote tissue regeneration. This helps prevent the reduction of blood supply during menstruation and keep up the fertility and good health of an egg. Cinnamon may also help improve uterine blood flow during pregnancy, which further helps maintain umbilical blood flow for the good health of the fetus. [7]

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5. Prevents bleeding

Well, cinnamon does not only help improve the blood supply when required but may also act as a coagulant and prevent bleeding. According to a study, cinnamon oil, compared to its water form, can help reduce the blood clotting time at circumstances when there's a problem related to clotting of wounds such as the large size of wounds or an underlying condition such as diabetes or haemophilia. [8]

6. Good for the heart

Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid in cinnamon is known to have cardioprotective effects, along with potent anti-inflammatory properties. A study conducted on Sprague Dawley rats shows that cinnamon can widely help in the treatment of ischemic heart disease by its ability to produce nitric oxide and reduce vascular tension of the heart. [9]

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7. Improves colon health

Cinnamon can effectively help improve the health of the colon and thus, reduce the risk of colon cancer. It is among the major causes of mortality worldwide. A study has highlighted that cinnamaldehyde in the spice helps prevent the colon from the harmful effects of free radicals, while its chemopreventive effects help at cellular levels and reduce the risk of colon cancer. [10]

8. Has anti-cancer properties

Cinnamon not only helps prevent the risk of colon cancer, but a range of cancer types along with assisting in providing better results of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. Some of the compounds of cinnamon are also extracted for the preparation of anticancer drugs. The antiproliferative actions of cinnamon may be effective against leukaemia cells, liver cancer and melanoma. [11]

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9. Has antimicrobial effects

Cinnamon bark is known to have strong antimicrobial effects against a range of pathogens such as bacteria, fungus and viruses. The cinnamic aldehyde in this aromatic spice is the main compound that helps prove antimicrobial effects. This property of cinnamon open ways for fresh-cut industries, such as those producing minimally processed food products like fresh-cut apples as cinnamon helps keep it fresh for longer without any damage due to pathogens. [12]

10. May help with arthritis management

Cinnamomum cassia, one of the best cinnamon types, is widely known for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, says a study. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis properties mainly due to the presence of cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamic acid and coumarin. These compounds may help reduce the swelling and pain related to arthritis and help in the management of the condition. [13]

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11. Prevents respiratory tract infection

Many types of bacteria and viruses are responsible to cause respiratory tract infections such as cold and flu. As aforementioned, the antimicrobial activity of cinnamon may help prevent or kill the pathogens and prevent the infection. Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon may also help reduce the irritation of the lung cells caused due to tobacco smoking and thus, may help improve the airways. [14]

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Side Effects Of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a great herb with no or minimal side effects. However, it may cause certain problems when taken in excess. Some of the side effects due to excess consumption of cinnamon may include:

  • Liver toxicity or damage.
  • Allergies
  • Increased risk of DNA damage.
  • Increasing body heat.
  • Mouth sores with itching or burning sensation.
  • Interaction with certain medications like heart or diabetes medicines.
  • Causing throat irritation.
  • Certain problems during pregnancy.
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    To Conclude

    Cinnamon is a great spice and a traditional herb that has been in usage for centuries. The consumption of the spice is dose-dependent. Include this spice in your daily diet for multiple benefits, however, if you are planning to use or is using its supplements or powder for a particular health benefit, make sure to consult a medical expert for proper dosage and other details.

What is the best way to take cinnamon for health benefits?

The best way to take cinnamon is by adding it to foods that we prepare daily. Include a small amount in your curries, soups or teas or sprinkle some on your salads. In whichever ways you add, make sure to not use in excess. You can also take cinnamon supplements after consulting a doctor.

What does cinnamon do to a female body?

Cinnamon may help improve fertility in females by increasing the blood supply to the uterus that helps maintain the good health of an egg. During menstruation, cinnamon may help maintain a balance of blood in the body. Cinnamon also helps with proper blood flow in the umbilical cord during pregnancy.

Can cinnamon help lose belly fat?

Yes, cinnamon is widely known to reduce belly fat in individuals with obesity, compared to adults with normal belly fat. Obesity is the major cause of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and reducing belly fat by reducing cholesterol, cinnamon can help prevent a range of metabolic syndrome diseases.