Just a spoon full of cinnamon helps put your health in check… sort of

Whether used by the ancient Egyptians to preserve bodies, medieval physicians to remedy colds or your grandmother as a key ingredient in her famous cinnamon rolls, cinnamon has been a central spice for thousands of years.

Cinnamon is a key part of my life too, and I use it everyday, usually sprinkled over my oatmeal or mixed into my breakfast shake. Other times, I might dust it over the whipped cream of my frappucino, mix it into my favorite cookies or light my favorite cinnamon scented candle.

Because I use it so often, I decided to take a further look into what cinnamon might actually do for my health and found that there may be more to this staple spice than meets the eye.

*Cinnamon is a good source of antioxidants: TRUE (if you eat enough)*

Many health conscious people try to eat foods rich in antioxidants, an important component of a healthy diet. Whether focusing on your skin, heart, hair or something else, including antioxidants in meals can be beneficial to your overall health.

Many of you have probably heard of antioxidants, but don’t know what they are. Well, they’re substances, such as nutrients or enzymes, that help to keep oxidized molecules more stable, said Rebecca Roach, associate professor in FSHN. Antioxidants fight against free radicals, or molecules that can cause a number of physiological problems like skin aging, cancer or Alzheimer’s.

Think of antioxidants as the cops and free radicals as the robbers.

“Nutrition wise, cinnamon is fairly high in manganese, and it’s fairly high in calcium, but we eat such small amounts of it that in order to get any appreciable amount of either of those nutrients you’d have to eat so much,” Roach said.

That means you need to eat about a teaspoon or more a day for it to be good source of antioxidants.

*Cinnamon helps control blood sugar levels: TRUE (if you eat enough)*

Although blood sugar may be a crucial concern only to those with diabetes, it’s still helpful to keep it in check regardless of your health, and cinnamon is one way to do this.

Researchers do not fully understand why or how, but cinnamon helps manage blood sugar, keeping levels from spiking too high, Roach said.

“What is found is that 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon per day helped to lower fasting glucose levels, blood triglycerides and LDL and total cholesterol in patients with Type 2 DM (diabetes),” said Justine Karduck, registered dietician at McKinley.

Again, however, you must eat a certain amount of cinnamon to achieve these benefits, said Roach.

“Putting half a teaspoon full of it on your cereal in the morning is what they were looking at as a therapeutic amount if you’re trying to help to control blood sugars, and it doesn’t do it all by itself,” she said. “You can’t decide you’re going to start eating cinnamon and stop taking your diabetes drugs. It doesn’t work like that. It’s just kind of an added thing you can put into your therapy and see if it helps at all.”

*Cinnamon helps with weight loss: FALSE*

Advertisers would have us believe all our dreams have come true: all we need to do is eat cinnamon and bam — we will lose weight.

According to Roach, this is not the case.

“There’s no science behind the fact that it’s actually beneficial in weight loss,” Roach said. “They’ve extrapolated this idea that it helps to control blood sugars, because when your blood sugars are not so controlled you do tend to gain weight … That’s probably what the bogus science on the weight loss stuff is.”

Karduck agreed that cinnamon itself does not aid in weight loss, but it might have another effect.

“There is no scientific evidence (that cinnamon aids in weight loss),” Karduck said. “It may however provide the same benefit as nearly any other spice: a feeling of satisfaction due to flavor without being completely full.”

*Smelling cinnamon can increase alertness and brain function: FALSE*

“Although it’s an easily identified or recognizable smell and it’s used in testing brain activity in traumatic brain injuries, it does not stimulate alertness or enhance function in normally functioning brains,” Karduck said.

*Cinnamon can help to fight bad breath: TRUE*

Cinnamaldehyde, a cinnamon extract, can be used as an antimicrobial, or something to kill bacteria, said Suzanne Trupin, MD at Hada Cosmetic Medicine.

“Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that cinnamaldehyde, when used in Big Red, prevented oral bacterial growth by more than 50 percent,” Trupin said. “It is especially effective against bacteria living at the back of the tongue, reducing anaerobic bacteria populations by about 43 percent.”

According to Roach, however, this is only a temporary fix.

“Cinnamon gum and things like that (could be used) for a temporary fix but if you have a physiological reason that you have bad breath then cinnamon’s not going to do anything,” Roach said.

*It is impossible to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon: FALSE*

Yes, it’s possible, but only if you’re extremely talented and extremely bored.

“When you try to mix cinnamon up when your cooking with it, it doesn’t incorporate very well with the fluids in your recipe,” Roach said. “So, I suspect it would be very, very difficult to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon, if anybody ever did want to.”

Although it may be difficult, many have tried and some have uncomfortably succeeded. If you don’t believe me, look it up on Youtube, you’ll get some good laughs out of that one.

_Julia is a sophomore in Media._