Cinnamon and Weight Loss – Heavenly Match?
As America and much of the western world grows more obese every year, many people are looking to discover the reasons why. In many cases, the reason comes down to one main culprit; diet. Too many processed foods with too much refined sugar and other high glycemic index carbohydrates. Thankfully, there are some common dietary items that can actually seem able to help weight loss and improves overall health. One diet ingredient that’s been receiving some attention lately is common cinnamon.
What is Cinnamon, Anyway?
Cinnamon is probably best known as that dark, brown substance that makes Cinnabons so damn addictive. It has been used for many centururies as a spice to enhance the taste of food, and also for it’s supposed medicinal properties. Like many other natural substances that have been used for medicine since before the western world took notice, cinnamon does seem to have some positive attributes.
Not All Cinnamons Are Created Equal
One of the primary benefits attributed to cinnamon is it’s ability to help lower blood glucose levels and is a powerful antioxidant. What many people are unaware of is that there are several main kinds of cinnamon, and over two hundred specific subtypes, each with different properties. There is one type, Cassia, which is typically referred to as cinnamon in the United States. It has different properties than “true” cinnamon, including the containing blood thinning agent coumarin, that has led to Cassia being banned in Germany.
Cassia is also called Chinese (C. cassia ), Saigon, or Vietnamese cinnamon (C. loureirii ). It is differentiated from the “true” cinnamon by it’s lighter color and the cross sectional shape of the sticks. Cassia sticks are shaped with a double roll, like an ancient parchment writing scroll, while “true” or Ceylon cinnamon sticks are rolled more like you’d roll up a newspaper. Ceylon sticks are much more brittle and easy to crumble than their Chinese or Vietnamese counterparts.
Do They Work Differently?
Now that you can tell them apart, is there a difference from a weight loss and blood sugar regulating standpoint? Does eating Cassia help you lose weight any better than “true” cinnamon, for instance? If it does, how much of either should you eat? Much of this started in 2003 when a study by the USDA’s Richard Anderson (PhD) came to light, revealing that cinnamon increased glucose metabolism and insulin’s effectiveness. According to Dr. Anderson, all varieties of cinnamon worked “similarly”.
How does this favorite of desert lovers everywhere help you lose weight? It is all in how it increases insulin’s effectiveness and moderates blood sugar levels. When blood glucose levels rise suddenly it triggers a massive insulin response from the body. Unfortunately this rise in blood sugar and insulin also makes it possible for your body to pack on the pounds in the form of fat. Now, you don’t want insulin to not enter your bloodstream because you’d then experience the dangerous long term effects suffered by many diabetics.
What happens is that your body is using sugar in the cells as fuel to make things happen. Insulin is the body’s response to a condition where you have more sugar in your blood than you need. The insulin helps your body get the sugar into the cells, where it can be stored for later use. Just how is it stored for later use? A small amount is stored as glycogen, which provides fuel for the muscles to do work when it is needed. That accounts for only a very small amount of the total stored sugar however. The rest is stored as your enemy, body fat. Cinnamon helps to keep blood glucose levels more controlled and lower, preventing so much insulin from being released and so much fat from being stored.
How Much Cinnamon Should I Take to Lose Weight?
Well, you have to overhaul your entire diet in order to increase your overall health and lose weight, but adding some cinnamon to it is only going to help. You have to only take the recommended amount however, which is less than 2 teaspoons per day, according to the much publicized USDA study. Most people will see positive results from half that amount, or even less. Start with ½ teaspoon per day for a while. Excessive cinnamon can bring with it problems, such as blood thinning and liver enzyme imbalance. Stick with the lower amounts and you should be just fine. In fact, in the USDA study the lower doses took longer to take effect, but they had a much longer lasting effect on lowering blood glucose levels than taking higher doses.
You can take cinnamon as a tea, and discard the solid portions. It will work the same way. Because the active glucose moderating compound in cinnamon is methylhydroxychalcone polymer, which happens to be water soluble, you can get its benefits form drinking the tea and not the solid portions. Your chances of having any side effects are lower this way.
Cinnamon can be taken as a supplement or just off the shelf from the grocery store. Try some out for a while ans see if it helps you lose weight. It probably couldn’t hurt.