New York, Nov 22 (IANS) Looking for ways to shed those extra kilos? Cinnamon, a common household spice, may help you lose weight as well as improve metabolism by making the fat cells burn energy, a study has found.
The findings showed that cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil that gives cinnamon its flavour, improves metabolic health by acting directly on fat cells, or adipocytes, inducing them to start burning energy through a process called thermogenesis.
"Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it," said Jun Wu, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.
"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," Wu said.
And because it is already used widely in the food industry, it might be easier to convince patients to stick to a cinnamon-based treatment than to a traditional drug regimen, Wu noted.
In the study, appearing in the journal Metabolism, when human cells were treated with cinnamaldehyde, there was a spike in expression of several genes and enzymes that enhance lipid metabolism.
An increase in Ucp1 and Fgf21 -- important metabolic regulatory proteins involved in thermogenesis -- was also observed, the researchers said.
Adipocytes normally store energy in the form of lipids, which could then be used by the body in times of scarcity or in cold temperatures, to induce adipocytes to convert stored energy into heat -- a process used by our distant ancestors, who had much less access to high-fat foods and thus a much greater need to store fat.
However, with the rising obesity epidemic, researchers have been looking for ways to prompt fat cells to activate thermogenesis, turning those fat-burning processes back on.
"Cinnamaldehyde may offer one such activation method," Wu said.