A recent study found that mice that ate more cinnamon got better and faster at learning. In the study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology in 2016, separated mice into good learners and poor learners based on how easily they navigated a maze to find food. After the poor learners were fed cinnamon for a month, they could find the food more than twice as quickly as before.
The benefits of cinnamon come from sodium benzoate, a chemical produced as the body breaks down the cinnamon. Sodium benzoate enters the brain and allows the hippocampus to create new neurons.
Feeding cinnamon to the poor learning mice normalized their levels of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA, closing the gap with good learners. Sodium benzoate also improved the structural integrity of some brain cells. Cinnamon also can help sensitize insulin receptors.
Doctors hope these findings may eventually contribute to treatment research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Cinnamon should be consumed in moderate quantities because the Chinese variety most commonly found in North American supermarkets has high levels of coumarin, a compound that can be toxic to the liver when consumed in large quantities. Ceylon (Sri Lankan) cinnamon has lower levels of coumarin.
Cinnamon has multiple positive effects that were affirmed in a meta-analysis by Robert W. Allen et al. in Annals of Family Medicine in 2013. Cinnamon lowered blood sugar, insulin levels, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing high-density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol). Cinnamon did not lower hemoglobin A1C, a global measure of glucose dysregulation, but that result could be explained by the short durations of some of the studies included in the meta-analysis.
Editor’s Note: Cinnamon’s role in the fight against type II diabetes remains to be determined, but a little bit may help those with diabetes or at risk for it. The researchers who produced the meta-analysis could not make a recommendation about how much cinnamon to add to one’s diet because the studies included in the meta-analysis had explored a wide range of doses.