Cinnamon might be the latest food ingredient to be enlisted in fighting obesity.
Previous research has found that cinnamaldehyde, the essential oil responsible for giving cinnamon its flavor, shows promise protecting mice against hyperglycemia and obesity. The exact mechanisms underlying this effect is not understood well. However, researchers are interested in better understanding cinnamaldehyde and if it can offer protective benefit for humans as well.
In a study published in the journal Metabolism, Jun Wu and colleagues were able to show that cinnamaldehyde can improve metabolic health by directly acting on adipocytes or fat cells and inducing thermogenesis, the process through which energy is burned in the body.
To observe cinnamaldehyde's actions, the researchers gathered fat cells from volunteers ranging in body mass indices, ethnicities, and ages. When the adipocytes were treated with cinnamaldehyde, it resulted in increased expression of several enzymes and genes that have a hand in boosting lipid metabolism. There was also an increase in the levels of Fgf21 and Ucp1, two metabolic regulatory proteins important to thermogenesis.
The study received funding support from the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Foundation, and the Human Frontier Science Program.
Fat-Burning In The Body
Typically, adipocytes store energy as lipids, an action that resulted in long-term storage beneficial to human ancestors who needed to store fat and didn't have access to high-fat food. This is because stored fat can be used when food is scarce or the temperature's cold, where fat cells can convert energy stored into heat.
"It's only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem," said Wu, who is also a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute.
Rather, energy efficiency was a problem that plagued humans throughout evolution, so bodily processes that consume energy are turned off the instance they are no longer needed.
The Future Of Cinnamon As A Fat And Weight Loss Aid
With obesity still a widespread problem, researchers like Wu and colleagues are looking for more ways to induce thermogenesis and optimize weight loss processes. They believe cinnamaldehyde holds promise as an activation method for fat cells.
Cinnamon is a widely used ingredient in the food industry so the researchers are optimistic that it will be easier to convince people to adhere to a cinnamaldehyde-based regimen than a traditional one that utilizes drugs. However, they warn that further studies will have to be carried out to determine how cinnamon's metabolic benefits can be best harnessed without severe side effects.