Monday, January 3, 2011

Does Cinnamon for Weight Loss Really Work?

One of the bolder claims for cinnamon made by natural products manufacturers and enthusiasts is that in addition to helping lower blood sugar levels, cinnamon can also help you lose weight. While the claim isn't entirely false, there is a lot of important detail left out in the more sensational articles on the topic.

There are at least four kinds of cinnamon. They come different species of the plant, and they look, taste, and smell different. They also have different effects on the body.

The cinnamon used to make apple pie is a red, zesty, aromatic spice taken from the plant Cinnamomum verum.  It can help slow down the passage of food through your digestive tract. This helps you lower your blood sugars if you are eating carbohydrate, but not if you are on a very low-carb0hydrate, Atkins-style diet.

The cinnamon you get in over the counter capsules to lower your blood sugar is a gray, dull, not particularly aromatic spice taken from the plant Cinnamomum cassia. This is not the cinnamon used in apple pie and cinnamon rolls. It's used in curry powder. Like the afore-mentioned form of cinnamon, Cinnamomum cassia has greatest effect for type 2 diabetics who (1) eat a relatively high-carb diet (possibly because they cannot afford protein foods) and (2) do not use other medications. For some type 2's, this kind of cinnamonmakes a big different in blood sugar control.

Recently, natural healths news reporters have been making claims that eating apple pie can lower your blood sugars. It can't. However, putting cinnamon in the pie might slow down the rise in blood sugars caused by eating all the sugar and flour.  The Dr. Anderson who did the experiments cited in these reports used another form of cinnamon Cinnamomum burmannii. There actually are apple pies made with this third kind of cinnamon, but it's the "cheap stuff," not the "good stuff." When it is heated, it can form some compounds that work similarly to insulin, but not so well that apple pie will lower your blood sugars or help you lose weight.

The research that found that when mice consume cinnamon, they lose weight, involves yet another form of the spice, Cinnamomum parthenoxylum, also known as saffrole laurel. There's no solid evidence that this fourth species of cinnamon helps humans lose weight. You aren't likely to get this form of cinnamon legally in the USA, since it contains large quantities of saffrole, which can be used in illicit drug labs to make MDMA, also known as Ecstasy (and you really should not try to order it, since the Drug Enforcement Administration would get a copy of your order).

Moreover, the mice that lost weight when given this herb were fed 100, 200, or 300 mg per kilogram of body weight. For a 100 kilogram (220 pound) human being, the equivalent dosage would be 10 grams, 20 grams, or 30 grams, or 1/3, 2/3, or a full ounce of cinnamon every day. That's more cinnamon than comes in a typical jar of cinnamon, and far more than enough than would give you serious heartburn and indigestion. Of course, if your stomach is always upset, you do lose weight, so this strategy might actually work. We just don't recommend it!

It's a lot better to Stay on Your Diabetes Diet. Please see our book for details.

Selected Reference:Jia Q, Liu X, Wu X, Wang R, Hu X, Li Y, Huang C.  Hypoglycemic activity of a polyphenolic oligomer-rich extract of Cinnamomum parthenoxylon bark in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Phytomedicine. 2009 Aug;16(8):744-50. Epub 2009 May 22.

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