Cinnamon may help fat cells burn lipids, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
Cinnemaldehyde (CA) is an essential oil within cinnamon that gives it its flavor. Following previous studies that found cinnamaldehyde protected mice from obesity and hypoglycemia, the team of Michigan researchers decided to test the compound on human fat cells to see if they could observe the effect it had on them, according to Medical Xpress.
They gathered human adipose stem cells from a variety of donors of different ages, ethnicities, and weight. These adipose stem cells would have turned into fat cells if they were inside a human body. Those fat cells, called adipocytes, store energy in the form of lipids in times of plenty and burn lipids when you exercise. The team also examined mouse fat cells.
The scientists found that both the human adipose stem cells and the mouse fat cells treated with CA began to heat up, or undergo “thermogenesis.” The addition of CA triggered the cells into a metabolic process. The heat helps them more efficiently burn off the lipids in swollen fat cells. The results, the researchers said, supported prior research showing that CA has an anti-obesity effect. The results are published in the journal Metabolism.
Because cinnamon is so common, the researchers note, it's easy to envision replacing other anti-obesity treatments with this one, if CA could be converted into a therapeutic form. But using cinnamon for weight loss has some practical hurdles. Anyone who has witnessed the viral “ cinnamon challenge” on YouTube knows that it’s very difficult to consume a large amount of the spice all at once. Also, we sprinkle cinnamon on foods that are not necessarily weight-loss material. A cinnamon bun is filled with fat, carbs, and sugar, and a little bit of CA mixed in isn’t likely to negate that.
Furthermore, the researchers emphasize that the current findings are in mice and human cells, but not actual humans. Although the CA found in cinnamon might help burn lipids, there haven’t been any studies in people of the potential benefits—and possible side effects—of consuming this compound.
The benefit of studying cinnamon, though, is that we know that in small doses it’s safe for human consumption. Humans have been adding it to various dishes for thousands of years. If CA becomes distilled for use as a weight-loss therapy, it will meet ready palates.
In the past being able to store energy in the form of fat was beneficial to human ancestors who might not know when they would get their next meal. Today, an abundance of food often means an unhealthy excess of fat. As we all know an entire industry has sprung up just to reduce that stored energy. Only time will tell if cinnamon can help as well. For now, you can stir it into your pumpkin pie batter and use its fat-burning properties as an excuse for a second slice.