Cinnamon and its bioactive compounds support brain function, a new systematic review has found. According to the researchers, this benefit likely includes slowing the cognitive impairment associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
The new cinnamon research, a systematic review of 40 earlier published studies, was published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience in January 2023.
The research was conducted at the Medical Toxicology and Drug Abuse Research Center at Birjand University of Medical Sciences, Birjand, Iran.
The Iranian researchers also noted the evidence points to cinnamon providing “neural maintenance and insulin signaling improvement.”
“This systematic review revealed that cinnamon and its components (eugenol, cinnamic acid, cinnamaldehyde, etc.) could affect memory and learning by decreasing amyloid plaque in the hippocampus and phosphorylation of tau-protein,” the researchers wrote in the study summary.
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in a wide variety of cuisines. The aroma and flavour of cinnamon derive from its essential oil and principal component, cinnamaldehyde, as well as numerous other constituents including eugenol.
These same constituents have been used in herbal-traditional medicine systems for thousands of years.
China, India and Persia (Iran) all record historic medicinal uses for cinnamon—including respiratory, digestive and menstruation issues.
As a nutritional supplement today, it is also used to support an healthy glycemic response and blood pressure.
Though cautioning that “more work needs to be done,” WebMD notes that cinnamon is also being studied for its ability to boost metabolism and encourage weight loss; for skin cleansing benefits; and for cancer fighting and anti-bacterial properties.
In addition, cinnamon contains a small amount of choline, an essential nutrient for the brain that produces the acetylcholine neurotransmitters, which in turn play a critical role in regulating memory, mood, muscle control and other functions.
To conduct the research, the team compiled 1,605 cinnamon studies collected from the Web of Science, Google scholar, PubMed and Scopus databases. All the studies were conducted between 2011 and 2021.
The team then narrowed the analysis down to 40 studies that were deemed most reliable. This included five in vitro studies and 33 in vivo studies in rats, mice and the common fruit fly, and two clinical trials in adolescents and pre-diabetic older adults.
As with all research that includes a review of numerous studies, results varied among the studies. However, researchers concluded that the preponderance of evidence in the wide majority of the studies pointed to great potential for cinnamon in supporting cognitive function.
“Cinnamon is proven to have antioxidant properties and reduce inflammation through different pathways, such as the NF-kB pathway and reducing reactive oxygen species,” the researchers wrote in the study findings.
Among the in vitro and in vivo studies, 16 used the cinnamon extract/cinnamon powder, while others administered a variety of cinnamon bioactives. The researchers concluded that the main outcome of most studies proved that cinnamon significantly improves cognitive function i.e. memory and learning.
The researchers deemed their review to be preliminary, but promising. While acknowledging the limitations of using a cross section of varied studies, the researchers called for larger studies and more clinical trials to evaluate the effects in humans.
As research mounts, one day cinnamon may reclaim the lofty status it held in ancient times. Perhaps then it will be in position to help lower the skyrocketing rates of neurodegenerative diseases that plague the world today.
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