Does cinnamon increase metabolism?

Cinnamon is a popular spice that has been used for centuries in cooking and medicine. In recent years, cinnamon has gained popularity as a weight loss aid and metabolism booster. Proponents claim that cinnamon can increase resting metabolism, burn fat, and promote weight loss. But what does the science say? Here we review the evidence on whether cinnamon has any meaningful effects on metabolism and weight loss.

What is cinnamon and how is it thought to work?

Cinnamon is a spice derived from the inner bark of tropical tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. The two main types of cinnamon used today are:

  • Cassia cinnamon – Originating from southern China, this is the more common variety today. It has a very strong flavor and is usually less expensive.
  • Ceylon cinnamon – Originating from Sri Lanka, this is considered true cinnamon and has a more delicate, sweet flavor. It is more expensive than cassia cinnamon.

The distinct flavor and fragrance of cinnamon come from its essential oil which contains active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol. In terms of metabolism, cinnamon is thought to work in a few different ways:

  • Insulin sensitivity – Cinnamon may help improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing insulin resistance. This could lead to better blood sugar control and help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects – Chronic inflammation is linked to obesity and metabolic disorders. The antioxidants in cinnamon may help reduce inflammation.
  • Thermogenic properties – Compounds in cinnamon may stimulate thermogenesis, or heat production, in the body. This could help boost metabolism and fat burning.

By improving these metabolic processes, proponents claim cinnamon can increase resting metabolic rate, enhance fat burning, and reduce body weight.

Does cinnamon increase resting metabolic rate?

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a measure of the number of calories your body burns at rest to perform basic biological functions. A higher RMR means you burn more calories 24/7, not just when exercising. Some research suggests cinnamon may enhance RMR:

  • In one study, researchers found that consuming 3 grams per day of cinnamon for 4 weeks increased RMR in women by 0.56 kcal/kg/hr compared to a placebo group.
  • Another study showed adding 6 grams per day of cinnamon to rice pudding increased resting metabolism in healthy adults compared to eating rice pudding alone.

However, other studies found no significant difference in RMR between cinnamon and placebo groups:

  • One trial supplementing 79 overweight adults with 1 gram per day of cinnamon for 12 weeks showed no improvement in resting metabolism compared to placebo.
  • Similarly, several other studies found no changes in RMR in people consuming between 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day for 4-18 weeks compared to control groups.

Overall, the effects of cinnamon on RMR appear inconsistent and may depend on the amount consumed, length of treatment, and characteristics of the population studied. More research is still needed to determine if cinnamon can provide meaningful boosts to resting metabolism.

Does cinnamon help burn fat or boost weight loss?

Due to its potential thermogenic and insulin-sensitizing properties, cinnamon is also often marketed as a fat burner and weight loss aid. But does consuming cinnamon translate to actual reductions in body fat or weight?

  • In a study in 18 people with excess body fat, supplementing with 3 grams of cinnamon for 12 weeks led to greater reductions in body fat mass compared to placebo group.
  • One study found that consuming 500 mg/day of a specific water-soluble cinnamon extract for 12 weeks resulted in significantly more weight loss (5% reduction in body weight) compared to placebo in overweight individuals.
  • However, other trials have shown no improvements in body composition or weight loss in subjects taking cinnamon supplements for 4-18 weeks compared to those taking a placebo.

The bottom line is that evidence for cinnamon as a magic bullet for fat loss is lacking. While cinnamon shows potential to enhance weight loss on top of a healthy diet and exercise regime, the effects appear small. More research is needed to determine its efficacy.

What is the optimal cinnamon dosage for metabolism?

There is no established optimal dosage for cinnamon related to metabolism and weight loss. Doses used in studies range from as little as 120 mg per day to as high as 6 grams per day.

One review concluded that doses in the range of 1-6 grams per day may provide health benefits without major safety concerns. Other experts recommend limiting cinnamon intake to no more than 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) per day.

Exceeding this amount may potentially cause side effects like mouth sores, low blood sugar, liver damage, and worsen symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Are there downsides or risks to using cinnamon?

Cinnamon is considered safe for most people when used in normal food amounts. But taking concentrated cinnamon extracts, powders or oils in supplemental doses may cause side effects like:

  • Mouth sores
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Liver damage
  • Irritation of mouth, esophagus, and stomach

There is also some concern that cassia cinnamon (the most common type sold) may contain coumarin, a natural plant compound that can be toxic in high amounts. Intakes above the tolerable upper limit of 0.05 mg per pound (0.1 mg/kg) of body weight per day should be avoided.

Cinnamon may also interact with certain medications including antibiotics, diabetes drugs, and blood thinners. If you currently take any medications, consult your doctor before adding large amounts of cinnamon to your diet.

Should you take cinnamon supplements?

It’s better to meet your cinnamon needs through foods rather than supplements. By eating cinnamon-packed foods, you will reach your goal of getting more cinnamon into your diet while also benefitting from the many nutrients found in whole foods.

Foods that commonly contain notable amounts of cinnamon include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Coffee
  • Chai tea
  • Applesauce
  • Bananas

If you do opt for a supplement, consult your healthcare provider to determine an appropriate dose and look for reputable third-party testing and certification.

Should you combine cinnamon with other metabolism boosters?

Some people take cinnamon alongside other natural compounds believed to boost metabolism like green tea, coffee, capsaicin from hot peppers, and carnitine. However, there is no robust evidence showing that combining cinnamon with other supplements will lead to any added metabolic benefits.

Certain combinations may even have detrimental health effects. For example, combining stimulant herbs like ephedra, green tea extract, guarana, or bitter orange may compound the risk of adverse cardiovascular effects. Herb-drug interactions are also possible.

For optimal safety and efficacy, it’s best to focus first on getting more cinnamon through whole food sources rather than mixing multiple supplements.

What lifestyle changes boost metabolism more than cinnamon?

While the metabolism-boosting potential of cinnamon is debatable, there are several tried-and-true lifestyle strategies that can make a big difference:

  • Exercise – Especially HIIT (high intensity interval training) and strength training, can boost RMR for up to 48 hours after a workout.
  • Increase protein intake – Eating more protein increases metabolic rate and helps retain muscle during weight loss.
  • Drink coffee and green tea – Caffeine has known thermogenic effects and metabolism benefits.
  • Reduce stress – High cortisol from chronic stress is linked to weight gain and slowed metabolism.
  • Prioritize sleep – Not getting enough sleep can decrease metabolic rate. Aim for 7-9 hours per night.

Making lifestyle changes like these can have much more powerful effects on your metabolism than relying on cinnamon alone.

The bottom line

Based on the current evidence, here are some key conclusions on cinnamon and metabolism:

  • The impacts of cinnamon on metabolism appear small and inconsistent. Benefits like increased resting metabolism have been minimal and mostly observed at higher doses.
  • Some studies suggest modest improvements in body composition and weight loss when cinnamon is paired with a healthy diet and exercise. But effects are not miraculous.
  • Food sources of cinnamon provide antioxidants and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. But concentrated supplements carry a higher risk of adverse effects.
  • Lifestyle strategies like exercise, sleep, stress management, and a high-protein diet have much greater metabolism-enhancing effects.

Overall, cinnamon is unlikely to lead to major changes in metabolism or body weight. But it remains a tasty addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle aimed at reaching your health goals.

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