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Cinnamon is the focus of a new study led by the scientists from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute.The scientists already found the ability of cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil that gives flavor to cinnamon, to protect mice from hyperglycemia and obesity.But they do not know how exactly the essential oil works inside the mice's bodies.
"Scientists were finding that this compound affected metabolism.So we wanted to figure out what pathway might be involved, what it looked like in mice and what it looked like in human cells," said Jun Wu, a research assistant professor at the LSI.
In their new study, the scientists discovered that the food compound directly influences adipocytes or fat cells.Cinnamaldehyde triggers the fat cells to initiate thermogenesis, the process of burning fat and heat production.They tested human fat cells from volunteers ranging from various ages, ethnicities, and body mass indices.
When the human fat cells were treated with the food compound, several genes and enzymes increased in expression thus enhancing lipid metabolism.The scientists also found an increased amount of two important metabolic proteins involved in thermogenesis, Ucp1 and Fgf21.
* Ucp1 or uncoupling protein 1 thermogenin is involved in energy balance, energy regulation, and metabolism.It is found in the mitochondria, the power plants of cells, of brown adipose tissue.
* Fgf21 or fibroblast growth factor 21 is a protein found in mammals.It influences blood sugar and metabolism of lipids.
Humans have three different types of fat cells.The white fat cells serve as heat insulation, the body's mechanical cushion, and a source of energy.They also produce a hormone called adiponectin that makes the liver and muscles sensitive to insulin, protecting the body from diabetes and heart disease.
The brown fat cells are the type of fat among overweight and obese people.If these cells are stimulated through thermogenesis, they burn calories and release energy to the body.Brown fat cells keep our body warm in cold temperature.
The marrow fat cells are found in the bone marrow and have a direct connection with the bone.It is currently under research and of interest as a therapeutic target.According to the Bone Marrow Adiposity 2017, preventing fat cells to form in the bone marrow helps blood flow, improving the recovery of patients from chemotherapy.
All of these fat cells store energy as lipids.Our body will stimulate the release of energy from lipids during times of scarcity or when facing cold temperature.Early humans did not have access to high-fat foods that made their body demand more fat to store.Today, we have access to many food products with high-fat content.Most people do not have the time to burn fat and their bodies simply store them, leading to overweight or obesity.
"It's only been relatively recently that energy surplus has become a problem.Throughout evolution, the opposite, energy deficiency, has been the problem.So any energy-consuming process usually turns off the moment the body doesn't need it," said Wu.
The food compound in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, may be a key to activate stored fat in the growing crisis of obesity.The researchers found the potential in the food compound because most people like cinnamon and it can be a better choice than a drug regimen.However, Wu cautioned people that the findings require further studies to determine the proper way to use the health benefits of cinnamaldehyde.Future studies will also need to find any adverse effects of the metabolic power of the food compound in humans.
Cinnamaldehyde is an organic compound that gives flavor and odor to cinnamon.It can also be obtained from the bark of cinnamon trees.The essential oil of a cinnamon bark can have 90 percent cinnamaldehyde.The compound is used in many applications, such as a food additive; a flavoring agent and a spice; an agricultural material to repel insects; an industrial agent for light-sensitive chemicals; a consumer product component in adhesives and sealants, paints and coatings, and personal care; and a product for water treatment.
The Ceylon cinnamon tree is believed to be the true cinnamon, a native tree in Sri Lanka that does not contain coumarin, a blood-thinning compound that can damage the liver in high amounts.According to Healthline, cinnamon and cinnamaldehyde have several health benefits:
- Antioxidants, such as polyphenols, that protect the body from free radicals.
- Anti-inflammatory properties due to the amounts of antioxidants.Anti-inflammatory properties reduce the risk of developing certain diseases.
- Lowers the risk of heart disease since cinnamon reduces the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
- Reduces insulin resistance of the body, a sign of metabolic health conditions like type 2 diabetes.
- Helps protect neurons and regulates normal levels of neurotransmitter in the brain.
- May slow down the growth of cancer cells.
- Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties by inhibiting the growth of pathogens like salmonella.