Cinnamon’s many health benefits

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, January 15, 2015

In today’s column, I’d like to share with you some benefits of another one of my favorite spices –
First, spices have been used by many civilizations for centuries to promote health and well being,
and cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It’s mentioned in the Bible, and was imported to
Egypt as far back as 2,000 B.C. Cinnamon was so highly treasured at one time, that it was more
valuable than gold. It was also used in Chinese botanical medicine dating back to around 2,700
Cinnamon is actually the dried bark of the cinnamon tree, and is available in dried tubular form
known as quills or as ground powder. What gives cinnamon its nutritional punch is the essential
oils found in its bark. These oils contain active components called cinnamyl acetate,
cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamyl alcohol.
Here are a few of the health benefits of cinnamon.
Lowers cholesterol and triglycerides levels. In one study, when 30 women and men added a
sprinkle of cinnamon to their meals, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels fell 12 to 30 percent.
(Cholesterol and triglycerides are heart damaging blood fats.)
Anti-clotting action. The mechanism of blood clotting is very complicated, and part of this
process involves platelets. Platelets are one of many components of blood. They are produced in
bone marrow and constantly flow throughout the blood stream. Under emergency circumstances,
like injury, these platelets, through a series of chemical reactions, become activated or “sticky,”
and they rush to the wound and clump together in an attempt to stop excess bleeding.
The problem is, under normal circumstances platelets can sometimes clump together too much.
This could lead to heart disease or stroke. The substance cinnamaldehyde found in cinnamon
helps prevent unwanted blood clots by inhibiting the release of the fatty acid called arachidonic
acid from platelet membranes. Simply put, this keeps the platelets from working too well when
you don’t need them to.
Blood sugar control. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. After food is digested it’s
broken down into glucose, the body’s main source of energy. It’s often referred to as blood
sugar. Once insulin attaches to cells, other receptors are activated, which then allows cells to use
glucose. Some people become diabetic because their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, but others
are insulin resistant. This is because even though they produce insulin, their muscle and liver
cells don’t respond properly to it. As a result, their body needs more insulin, which in turn over
works their pancreas. This can trigger the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon helps normalize blood sugar levels by making muscle and liver cells more sensitive to
signals from insulin. This improves the cells’ ability to absorb glucose from the blood. By the
way, this action was found to be effective in animals as well.
Protection from heart disease and improved colon health. The essential oils in cinnamon are
beneficial for health, but the calcium and dietary fiber (two teaspoons contain 12 calories and
about five grams of fiber) found in cinnamon can be helpful in the prevention of different health
conditions. Bile salts are chemicals produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. They help
digest fats, but some research shows a link between too much bile salt production and colon
cancer. The calcium and fiber found in cinnamon can bind to these bile salts, and remove them
from the body. Also, when bile is removed, the body has to break down cholesterol to make
more. This helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum
has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of
the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USCSpartanburg
baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, and lead trainer L.H. Fields
modeling agency. He served as a water safety consultant for the United States Marine Corps, and
taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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