Can cinnamon boost your metabolism or help you lose weight? Nutrition Diva takes a closer look.
Q. I love your show! I just listened to the podcast on the benefits of lemon water and would love to know your thoughts on cinnamon. I have read many articles that say that it boosts your metabolism--but none backed by medical research. What's the story?
A. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any research to support the claim that cinnamon boosts the metabolism. But there is some encouraging research about its ability to improve blood sugar control.
Ground cinnamon taken with meals can lower the amount of glucose that is released into the bloodstream as you digest your food. Cinnamon also seems to improve the uptake of glucose from the blood into the cells. That's all good news for those who are trying to control their blood sugar. It might even help with your cholesterol levels!
(Important Note: Don't discontinue any prescribed medications without discussing it with your doctor.)
An Important Warning About Cinnamon
The recommended amount of ground cinnamon to take with meals is a half teaspoon (or a 1,000 mg capsule). Alternatively, you can make an infusion by boiling cinnamon sticks in water for 30 minutes. You can then drink it as a tea or use it in smoothies or to make oatmeal.
As you can see, the amount of cinnamon used to improve blood sugar is quite a bit higher than the amounts you'd probably use in normal cooking. And with those high amounts, an important precaution applies. The most common form of cinnamon (Cassia) contains a compound called coumarin (not to be confused with the blood-thinning drug Coumadin.)
Coumarin can cause liver toxicity when ingested in high amounts. If you're just using cinnamon for regular cooking, you are unlikely to run into trouble. But if you're taking a half teaspoon or more with every meal, you easily might. To avoid any concern, look for Ceylon cinnamon, which has much lower levels of coumarin.
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Mang B, Wolters M, et al. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur J Clin Invest. 2006 May;36(5):340-4.
Qin B, Panickar KS, Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010 May 1;4(3):685-93.
Cinnamon stick and powder image courtesy of Shutterstock