Put an extra dash of cinnamon in your pie recipe this holiday season.
A property in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, has the power to help reduce obesity by burning energy in our fat cells, according toresearchers from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute.
Scientists already knew that cinnamon had the ability to burn fat from lab tests with mice, but the new research showed that it could be effective in humans as well.
In the tests, the scientists, led by Jun Wu, took human fat cells, called adipocytes, from volunteers from different ages, ethnicities and body mass indexes. When the cells were treated with cinnamaldehyde, the cells went through a process called thermogenesis, which is when the cells start to burn energy.
Cinnamaldehyde is the organic compound that gives cinnamon its flavor and odor. It makes up about half of cinnamon oil and is used to flavor chewing gum, ice cream, candy and beverages, as well as perfumes. Cinnamaldehyde is also used as a natural fungicide and an insecticide.
As the researchers explained in a companion article in Michigan News, the storing of fat in the adipocytes was useful to our ancestors who had less access to high-fat foods and therefore a greater need to store fat in the body for winter or food scarcities.
“It’s only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem,” Wu said to Michigan News. “Throughout evolution, the opposite — energy deficiency — has been the problem. So any energy-consuming process usually turns off the moment the body doesn’t need it.”
Wu says cinnamaldehyde could be a natural trigger for this fat burning process in lieu of traditional drug regimens. She also says more study needs to be done about the benefits and side effects before people start using the Cinnamon Challenge to lose weight.