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Native to Sri Lanka and India, Cinnamon is one of the world's most important spices and an ancient herbal medicine, first written about in the Jewish religious text, the Torah.
However, there is more to cinnamon than meets the eye (and the name on the label on the spice jar).
First of all you need to know that there are two types of cinnamon:
- Cassia Cinnamon with the scientific name Cinnamomum cassia
- Ceylon Cinnamon with the scientific name Cinnamomum zeylanicum
You also need to know that most of the cinnamon sold in supermarkets is the cassia variety. To find the zeylanicum variety, which is more rare and more expensive than cassia, you’ll have to seek out organic supermarkets or health food stores.
Cassia Cinnamon vs. Ceylon Cinnamon
Cassia cinnamon contains high levels of a compound called coumarin, which is potentially toxic to the liver if consumed in excess on a regular basis. In fact Cassia cinnamon contains upwards of 200 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon, containing up to 8 percent coumarin by volume. Comparatively, Ceylon cinnamon contains a mere 0.04 percent coumarin by volume. If you have liver disease or liver problems you should probably avoid taking the Cassia cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon, often also referred to as "true" cinnamon, is a more potent cinnamon variety, which can provide optimal benefits with minimal risk. Ceylon cinnamon also contains much higher levels of cinnamon oil compared to cassia varieties.
Ceylon cinnamon is definitely the better choice if you, like me, plan to supplement your diet with cinnamon on a daily basis. However it should be noted that any type of cinnamon "in moderation" is safe for everyone.
Traditionally, cinnamon was taken for colds, flu and digestive problems, and is still used in much the same way today. However recent research shows cinnamon can also be an excellent regulator of blood glucose and triglycerides (triglycerides serve as the backbone of many types of fats).
A study published in the "International Journal of Preventive Medicine" from 2012 tested cinnamon on diabetic patients. Patients were given 3 gram of an unspecified cinnamon supplement per week or a placebo. At the end of eight weeks, the test subjects experienced improvements in their blood sugar and triglycerides, and they lost weight compared with the placebo group.
But wait, there is more good news...
Cinnamon and Belly Fat
The active compound in cinnamon is called cinnamaldehyde. In a Japanese study published in the "Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology" in 2012, two groups of mice were fed a high-fat and high-sucrose diet. One group was given cinnamaldehyde daily, and the other group was not (the control group).
After a month, the scientists found that the group of mice receiving the cinnamaldehyde were weighing significantly less than the control group, and their levels of mesenteric adipose tissue (a fancy word for belly fat if you like) had also decreased significantly compared with the control group. They concluded that the cinnamaldehyde stimulated the metabolism of the fatty visceral tissue, suggesting that cinnamon could be useful in reducing belly fat.
I have always loved cinnamon. I add cinnamon to my morning smoothies and all my coffees on a daily basis. I have recently switched exclusively to using only Ceylon cinnamon and I would recommend you do the same.