Cinnamon can be effective in the fight against obesity as the essential oil that gives cinnamon its flavor, induces fat cell-autonomous thermogenesis and metabolic reprogramming, as per a new research conducted by a team from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute. Previous research has linked cinnamaldehyde (essential oil found in cinnamon) with a change in thermogenic and metabolic responses, which helps in dealing with obesity. Researchers found the benefit of cinnamaldehyde in lab mice.
While earlier research established a connection between cinnamon consumption and lower level of obesity among lab mice, the reason and cinnamaldehyde’s action wasn’t evaluated in detail. The current study aimed to check the impact of cinnamaldehyde consumption on human subjects.
Jun Wu, research assistant professor at Life Sciences Institute led the current research. Wu added, “Scientists were finding that this compound affected metabolism. So we wanted to figure out how—what pathway might be involved, what it looked like in mice and what it looked like in human cells.”
The research team found that cinnamaldehyde acts directly on fat cells or adipocytes. It induces fat cells to burn energy through a process called thermogenesis. Researchers added that cinnamaldehyde improves metabolic health. As the research team treated fat cells from study subjects with cinnamaldehyde, the noticed increased expression of several genes and enzymes that enhance lipid metabolism. They also observed an increase in Ucp1 and Fgf21, which are important metabolic regulatory proteins involved in thermogenesis.
The research paper informed, “CA activates thermogenic and metabolic responses in mouse and human primary subcutaneous adipocytes in a cell-autonomous manner, giving a mechanistic explanation for the anti-obesity effects of CA observed previously and further supporting its potential metabolic benefits on humans. Given the wide usage of cinnamon in the food industry, the notion that this popular food additive, instead of a drug, may activate thermogenesis, could ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies against obesity that are much better adhered to by participants.”
"Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it," Wu said. "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."
"It's only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem," Wu said. "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."
Adipocytes normally store energy in the form of lipids. This long-term storage was beneficial to our distant ancestors, who had much less access to high-fat foods and thus a much greater need to store fat. That fat could then be used by the body in times of scarcity or in cold temperatures, which induce adipocytes to convert stored energy into heat.
Cinnamon is mainly grown in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and South India. Both countries export majority of their cinnamon production but till date, the spice has been mainly used in bakery products or for flavoring. However, there is a slight difference between cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka (also called as Ceylon Cinnamon) and cinnamon grown in India (termed as Cassia). Indonesia and China contribute 76% of the world's production of cinnamon. Cinnamon and cassia have a massive difference in price.
The research was supported by the Human Frontier Science Program, Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Foundation, National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association. Findings of the current study have been published in December edition of the journal Metabolism.
Brian P. McDonough, MD, FAAFPPeer
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