Category Archives: cinnamon

Turmeric and Cinnamon – Spices for a Healthy Heart

Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals.  A new study has tested the effects of culinary spices on markers of conditions such as heart disease.

Turmeric & Cinnamon For Heart Health
Eating a diet rich in spices can reduce the body’s response to high fat meals. (2)

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, tested the effects of a spicy meal on levels of insulin, triglycerides and antioxidant defences.

Professor Sheila West and her colleagues prepared meals on two separate days for six men between the ages of 30 and 65 who were overweight, but otherwise healthy.  The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit.  The spice mix used was a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika.

The second ‘control’ meal was identical, except that spices were not included.

After each meal, the team drew blood from the participants every 30 minutes for three hours, measuring the effects of each meal on the body.

Compared with the unseasoned meal group, the spicy meal increased antioxidant activity in the blood by 13 percent and decreased insulin response by 21 percent.  Blood triglycerides also decreased by 30 percent compared with the unseasoned meal group.

“Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood,” explains West.  “If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased.  We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.”

This was a small, preliminary study, and further studies using a larger test group would help to clarify the results.  West intends to conduct further research to find if smaller doses of spices exert similar benefits.

In the meantime, for those who enjoy cooking, adding culinary spices is a simple way to add ‘kick’ to your dishes, and may offer health benefits too. The active components of ingredients such as garlic and turmeric are available in supplement form, which can be a convenient option. Those who enjoy spicy foods can try adding fresh, grated ginger to stir frys.  Turmeric goes well with chicken, rice and vegetable dishes, while its vibrant colour really helps to lift a dish.  Rosemary and oregano are great in Italian dishes, in stews or with roasted vegetables. Finally cinnamon can be added to your morning oatmeal for a sweet and healthy way to start your day.

Written by Nadia Mason

Reference

1.   A. C. Skulas-Ray, P. M. Kris-Etherton, D. L. Teeter, C.-Y. O. Chen, J. P. Vanden Heuvel, S. G. West. A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Men. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 141 (8): 1451 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.138966.

2.  Image courtesy of  Michelle Meiklejohn.

 

 

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More evidence suggests that cinnamon may reduce risk factors associated with diabetes

Last year I wrote a post about cinnamon and how it can impact blood sugar balance.  A recent study (1) suggests that a water soluble cinnamon extract, with antioxidant capacity, might be useful in reducing certain risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The study (1) lasted 12 weeks and involved 22 obese individuals with a condition often known as ‘prediabetes’ where blood glucose levels are impaired.  Prediabetes occurs when cells are resistant to the higher-than-normal levels of insulin produced by the pancreas (in an attempt to help remove elevated glucose levels from blood).  Individuals were given either an inactive placebo or 250mg of a dried water-soluble cinnamon extract twice a day.  Their diets were not changed.  Blood was sampled after an overnight fast at the beginning of the study, after six weeks, and after 12 weeks to measure the changes in blood glucose and antioxidants (1,2).

Results showed that the cinnamon extract improved antioxidant status in the individuals taking it and that this improved antioxidant status was correlated with a reduction in fasting glucose levels (1).  Although the results are interesting further research is needed before cinnamon can be recommended as a way to control blood glucose levels.  Until larger trials are conducted the main factor in preventing type 2 diabetes in overweight and obese individuals is achieving weight loss. 

A review paper (3) written about cinnamon mentions the fact that human studies involving subjects with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and polycystic ovary syndrome all show beneficial effects of whole cinnamon and/or aqueous extracts of cinnamon on glucose, insulin, insulin sensitivity, lipids [fats], antioxidant status, blood pressure, lean body mass, and gastric emptying.  The authors of this paper stress the fact that the type and amount of cinnamon that is most useful needs further investigation.

As mentioned in my previous post Cinnamon appears to work by helping the body with the way it deals with sugar in the blood via various mechanisms.  Cinnamon supplements are available (but always check with your medical doctor prior to taking any supplements) and you can use cinnamon as a natural sweetener on morning oats/porridge and in baking and cooking.  However, the best way to balance blood sugar levels is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet with a low glycaemic load.  Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help to prevent blood glucose imbalance in the body.  A diet that is high in minimally process foods, vegetables, fruits, unrefined whole grains, beans/pulses, nuts/seeds, lean protein, oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout) will go far in reducing the post-meal increases in glucose, triglycerides (blood fats) and other markers of disease compared to a typical western diet that is processed and full of high GI carbohydrates.

(1)Anne-Marie Roussel, Isabelle Hininger, Rachida Benaraba, Tim N. Ziegenfuss, and Richard A. Anderson. Antioxidant Effects of a Cinnamon Extract in People with Impaired Fasting Glucose That Are Overweight or Obese. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2009 28: 16-21

(2)USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2010, August 24). Cinnamon extracts may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/08/100824103637.htm

(3) Qin B et al.  2010.  Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. J Diabetes Sci Technol.  4(3):685-93.

 

Written by Ani Kowal

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