Cinnamon rolls, cakes, doughnuts, or cookies aren’t exactly known for their weight loss properties.
It turn out, though, that the cinnamon may be the healthiest part.
The favorite household spice has been investigated for its anti-inflammatory properties, anti-diabetic effects, and more recently, weight loss benefits.
What Is Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of tress called Cinnamomum. Cinnamon farmers harvest the cinnamon by peeling off the inside of the bark.
The cinnamon is then dried, which causes it to curl up into “quills.” These quills are then cut into sticks or crushed into powder for use.
There are many varieties of cinnamon, but only two which are usually consumed: Ceylon and Cassia. The majority of the cinnamon at the grocery store, however, is Cassia.
For thousands of years, cinnamon has been used medicinally for its health benefits.
In a review of 10 studies, cinnamon was associated with a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels, triglycerides, and LDL (also known as bad cholesterol) in Type 2 diabetics.
Other research has looked at cinnamon for its potential weight loss properties.
Cinnamon for Weight Loss
A study published in the Journal of Metabolism investigated the effects of cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its characteristic flavor and aroma, on mice and human fat cells.
When researchers treated the fat cells with cinnamaldehyde, they found an increase in genes that enhance fat metabolism and activate thermogenesis — a process that burns calories to create heat.
In other words, cinnamaldehyde turned on genes that are responsible for fat burning. Other research supports this in showing cinnamaldehyde supplementation in food protects mice from gaining weight when fed a high calorie diet.
This led researchers to conclude that consuming cinnamon may protect against obesity and other metabolic disorders by activating thermogenesis.
In Vitro vs In Vivo
At face value, this study provides an easy solution to the obesity epidemic: sprinkle cinnamon on everything you eat. Cinnamon challenge anyone?
And the media took it as such. USA Today says “Cinnamon May Help Attack Fat, Fight Obesity.” And Newsweek writes “Cinnamon: How this Common Spice Helps You Burn Fat and Lose Weight.”
This study, however, was performed in vitro meaning it took place outside of a living organism — such as in a petri dish. While convenient and cheaper, research in vitro cannot replicate the precise cellular conditions that occur in vivo — experimentation in humans or other living organisms.
For example, consuming cinnamon is not the same as putting cinnamon on isolated fat cells. It’s also not clear how much cinnamon you would need to consume to have any meaningful effect.
The results of this study are not likely to correspond to the circumstances occurring in humans.
Therefore, until randomized-controlled trials are performed in humans, nothing meaningful can be drawn from the results of the study — no matter how promising the media makes them look.
This research does, however, provide framework and reason for further investigation in humans.
But until this occurs, sprinkling cinnamon on anything and everything will only get you weird looks and false hope.