Sound too good to be true? Can we really avoid the 2-7 pounds of weight gained through the holidays from Halloween to New Year’s? There may be one spice this season to help save our waistlines and many of us already have some in our pantry.
Recent studies have touted the benefits of cinnamon from warding off weight gain to stabilizing blood sugar levels. One study (1) found that rats paired high-fat foods with cinnamon lost weight and had less abdominal fat than those that weren’t fed the cinnamon supplements. The factor responsible for this is cinnamaldehyde, the essential oil which gives cinnamon its wonderful flavor, as well as its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. But humans aren’t rats – how do we know if it works for us?
Let’s look at a human study performed at the University of Michigan Life Sciences (2). Researchers looked at human fat cells samples taken from donors of various ages and Body Mass Index and treated them with cinnamaldehyde. Findings showed an increase in metabolism-boosting genes and enzymes, prompting the fat cells to burn fat rather storing it. This is an intriguing concept with some scientists considering a role for cinnamaldehyde in the fight against one of our country’s biggest epidemics – obesity! One of the limitations in the study was that the fat cells were treated in a petri dish – not inside the human body. How our bodies respond to cinnamaldehyde metabolized through our digestive tracts may have a different effect than was seen in this study. Much research still left to be done!
As we sprinkle cinnamon on our lattes and eggnog, choose your indulgences wisely. While using a little cinnamon spice to taste, it won’t make up for the empty calories and high fat content in some of our holiday treats.
Yes, we can enjoy the holidays while being mindful of what we eat. Moderation is always key - and adding a dash of cinnamon definitely can’t hurt!