A recent study published by the Metabolism and Clinical Experimental Journal suggests that cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil found in cinnamon that gives it its flavor, could potentially burn fat cells. Therefore, instead of storing fat, the cinnamon substance induced adipocytes to start burning energy in a process called thermogenesis. These adipose stem cells would have turned into fat cells had they stayed inside a human body.
But researchers say more studies are needed to get a full perspective of its benefits.
Once more valuable than gold, cinnamon - a popular ingredient in pumpkin spice lattes, mulled wine and egg-nog over the festive season - has been linked to reducing the risk of diabetes, lowering cholesterol, relieving symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and staving off heart disease and cancer.
But, don't count on a Cinnabon diet in the near future! When the adipocytes were treated with cinnamaldehyde, it resulted in increased expression in several enzymes and genes that have a hand in boosting lipid metabolism.
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During the test, the research team led by study assistant professor at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, Jun Wu examined human fats cells, which is called as adipocytes using the samples from volunteers of different ages, body mass indexes and ethnicities. There was also an increase in the levels of Fgf21 and Ucp1, two metabolic regulatory proteins important to thermogenesis.
Wu said cinnamon is already used widely in food so it might be easier to convince patients to stick to a cinnamon-based treatment than to a traditional medicine.
Adipocytes typically store energy in the form of lipids.
Cinnamaldehyde takes direct action on fat cells known as adipocytes, causing them to burn energy through thermogenesis.
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Lead author Jun Wu says his team wanted to further examine the effect cinnamon has on the body.
"It's only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem", Wu said. Throughout the evolution of the problem was the opposite - energy malnutrition. "So if it can help protect against obesity, too, it may offer an approach to metabolic health that is easier for patients to adhere to", Wu said.
With obesity becoming an increasingly problematic issue worldwide, researchers have been looking at improving fat-burning processes in humans, and cinnamaldehyde could be the first step towards achieving this. "Cinnamaldehyde may offer one such activation method", Wu noted.
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