Why Cinnamon is Sweet for Your Body and Brain

by on July 25, 2016

cinnamon rolls

The long-loved spice of cinnamon is rapidly moving into the ranks of superfoods, thanks to its ability to help with everything from reducing negative emotions while driving to preventing against Alzheimer’s disease. One of the most recent studies showed cinnamon can significantly increase learning abilities, adding one more health benefit to the savory spice.

The Learning Boost Study

The recent study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, found that cinnamon significantly boosted the learning power of mice, and researchers are hoping the same effects will hold true on humans.

The study involved dividing mice into two groups based on their performance in maze tests: the poor learners and the good learners. The poor learners made more wrong turns and took more time to find food than their more adept counterparts.

After cinnamon was provided to the poor learners for one month, they showed significant improvements. Before their cinnamon treatment, the poor learners initially took approximately two and one-half minutes to find the correct hole in the maze. After the treatment, they were able to find the correct hole in about one minute.

The learning boost appears to be caused by the chemical sodium benzoate, which is produced as cinnamon is broken down in the body. The sodium benzoate is first metabolized in the liver, and then travels to the brain to stimulate activity in the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is known as the brain’s memory center, and the changes made in this area seem to be responsible for the benefits provided by cinnamon and sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate was shown to fortify the brain cells’ structural integrity, including neurons used for communicating with other cells.

It was additionally noted poor learners and good learners had differences in two brain proteins, yet the differences were no longer discernable after the cinnamon treatment.

Other Cinnamon Benefits

Numerous other studies have been done on cinnamon, with results showing the spice may have the power to:

  • Protect the body: Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which help prevent oxidative damage to the body from free radicals while reducing inflammation.
  • Reduce risk of heart disease: Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood pressure and levels of bad cholesterol.
  • Prevent age-related neurological disorders: The sodium benzoate may enhance brain function enough to help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Fight fungal and bacterial infections
  • Alleviate depression, irritability: A study specifically showed cinnamon’s benefits for reducing driver irritability, which may contribute to the reduction of driving fears, driving anxiety and driving phobias.

‘True’ Cinnamon 

Two types of cinnamon are on the market, and you want to be sure to choose the right one. The Cassia or Chinese variety of cinnamon contains the compound coumarin, which can be toxic in high doses. Sri Lanka or Ceylon cinnamon, also called “true” cinnamon, contains no coumarin. Although it would take massive amounts of coumarin to have a toxic effect, you’re safer choosing the true type of Ceylon cinnamon.

You can add more cinnamon to your daily diet by using it in recipes, sprinkling it on a variety of dishes or taking a nightly supplement of honey mixed with one teaspoon of true cinnamon powder.

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Photo Credit: Julie, Dave & Family via Compfight cc

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