Recent research findings show that popular spice, cinnamon, could help to fight obesity. The findings are based on a study by the University of Michigan’s Life Sciences Institute, and the news was published in the medical journal Metabolism. The research could see cinnamon being used alongside other treatments to prevent or control weight problems.
Cinnamon has been used in food for thousands of years. People love it for the distinct flavor it introduces to food when used in cooking. According to the research outcome, the essential oil found in the spice, known as cinnamaldehyde, is the ingredient that seems to break down fat. The essential oil acts directly on adipocytes (fat cells), in a way not observed before.
Researchers were aiming to find out whether and how cinnamon helps to burn body fat, and if it could be included in the already existing measures to fight obesity. The research was carried out in Jun Wu’s lab, an assistant professor in both the Life Sciences Institute of the University of Michigan and the U-M Medical School. Wu says they studied the effects of cinnamon in mice as well as humans.
According to Wu, results indicated that cinnamaldehyde increased the rate of metabolism in fat cells, making them burn more fat for energy. The process is called thermogenesis, and it’s been proved to play an important role in loosing weight.
In the study that involved volunteers from different backgrounds, fat cells were injected with the substance being tested, cinnamaldehyde. The result was high levels of UCP1 and FGF21, vital proteins that regulate metabolism. There was also a marked increase in the expression of genes and enzymes known to quicken the rate of metabolism.
Evolutionary, adipocytes store energy in the form of fat that can be used when food becomes scarce, or when temperatures drop considerably. Famines and extreme cold were common in the past, but not anymore. The modern man can plan for food availability, and can also shield better from cold. So, stored fat has become more of a problem than an advantage.
Wu’s research confirms that the essential oil found in cinnamon can break fat down, which is good news for people struggling with obesity. But the researchers say more studies need to be done to understand better how the whole process works, and in what form cinnamaldehyde could be used. Possible side effects are not known either, so it could take time before an effective weight-loss medication based on cinnamaldehyde is developed and approved.