Could cinnamon actually play a part in weight loss, despite the fact that it’s a key ingredient in many guilt-inducing sweet treats? A new study suggests that this might be the case, as the popular spice comes with an agent that burns energy in human fat cells, therefore making it potentially helpful in reducing obesity and improving metabolism.
Previous research had proven that cinnamon could help burn fat, based on lab tests on mice. But the New York Daily News noted that the new University of Michigan study was able to prove that cinnamon could promote weight loss and faster metabolism in human subjects as well, thanks to an organic compound called cinnamaldehyde. This agent is responsible for giving cinnamon its distinctive flavor and smell, which allows it to be used as flavoring for candy, chewing gum, ice cream, and drinks, and as a component of perfumes. Cinnamaldehyde can also be found in cinnamon oil and can be used as an ingredient in fungicides and insecticides.
In order to test if cinnamon facilitates weight loss in people, the researchers took fat cells from a number of subjects with varying age groups, ethnicities, and body mass indexes. These cells, which are known as adipocytes, were treated with cinnamaldehyde, which then allowed them to burn energy. The researchers also observed an increase in gene and enzyme expression that led to improved lipid metabolism.
According to Michigan News, adipocytes typically store lipids, allowing for a long-term form of energy storage that was especially helpful to our “distant ancestors” who didn’t have the same access to high-fat foods that modern humans do. That also meant it was more important for our ancestors to store fat during winter months and times of food scarcity, with the circumstances forcing adipocytes to burn energy through the process known as thermogenesis.
“It’s only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem,” explained study lead Jun Wu, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute.
“Throughout evolution, the opposite — energy deficiency — has been the problem. So any energy-consuming process usually turns off the moment the body doesn’t need it.”
— Neuroscience News (@NeuroscienceNew) November 21, 2017
Considering the prevalence of obesity in modern society, Wu and her colleagues identified cinnamon as a potential weight loss aid, due to its ability to activate thermogenesis. Due to its popularity as an ingredient in various types of food, Wu believes that patients might be more amenable to “cinnamon-based treatments” than conventional regimens of medication when it comes to dealing with obesity.
“Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it. So if it can help protect against obesity, too, it may offer an approach to metabolic health that is easier for patients to adhere to.”
Although cinnamon is a common ingredient in holiday-themed recipes, the researchers warned that people shouldn’t go overboard with their cinnamon consumption in an attempt to avoid holiday weight gain. More research is needed to determine the best way to allow cinnamaldehyde to improve metabolism without unwanted weight gain or other unpleasant side effects. This was a sentiment shared by Forbes, which cautioned that cinnamon is found in a lot of foods that “aren’t exactly known for their weight loss properties,” such as cakes, doughnuts, cookies, and rolls.
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