Someday Cinnamon May Be Prescribed For Weight Loss

Cinnamaldehyde, the essential oil responsible for cinnamon’s flavor, seemed to protect against obesity and hyperglycemia in animal studies. This made researchers at the University of Michigan wonder if cinnamaldehyde would benefit humans as well.

“Scientists were finding that this compound affected metabolism,” said professor and researcher Jun Wu. “So we wanted to figure out how—what pathway might be involved, what it looked like in mice and what it looked like in human cells.”

When Wu and colleagues treated human adipocytes with cinnamaldehyde they noticed greater expression of several enzymes and genes that intensify fat metabolism. There was also an increase of proteins involved in the generation of body heat, or thermogenesis.

Adipocytes are cells specializing in the storage of fat. These cells greatly benefitted our distant ancestors who needed stored body fat to survive. When food was scarce, or in cold weather, the adipocytes converted the stored fat into heat.

“It's only been relatively recently that [fat] surplus has become a problem,” said Wu. “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.”

Because of the growing obesity epidemic, researchers have been looking for ways to stimulate fat cells to reignite their fat-burning processes. Wu’s findings suggest cinnamaldehyde may be an effective stimulant.

“Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it,” says Wu. “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.”

How best to benefit from cinnamaldehyde’s metabolic effects has yet to be determined, but someday the spice we sprinkle on our toast and egg nog may also help some individuals lose weight.

Source: University of Michigan News
Photo credit: Raj Stevenson

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