Cinnamon and Weight Loss

Is it really possible that eating apple pie could help dieters lose weight?

One of the bolder claims for cinnamon supplements made by manufacturers and herb aficionados is that cinnamon not only lowers blood sugar levels, it also helps dieters, especially diabetic dieters, lose weight while eating their favorite foods. The claim that cinnamon can help weight-loss dieters take off the pounds is not entirely false, but the most sensational claims leave out a critical detail.

Every kind of cinnamon does not work for weight loss

There is not just one kind of cinnamon. There are at least four kinds of cinnamon in the international herb and spice trade. They come from different species of the plant. They look different, taste different, smell different, and they have different effects on the human body.

What the "apple pie" cinnamon can do for weight loss

The red, zesty, sweet-smelling spice used to make cinnamon rolls and apple pie is a kind of cinnamon known as Cinnamomum verum. This kind of cinnamon slows the passage of food through the stomach and small intestine. In diabetics who still have minimal insulin production, it can lower blood sugar levels by giving the pancreas time to "catch up" with the release of glucose from digested food, but it will have little or no effect on weight loss. This well-known form of cinnamon also is of limited use in controlling blood sugars for diabetics who follow their low-carbohydrate diet plans.

What the anti-diabetic cinnamon can do for weight loss

The variety of cinnamon sold in capsules for controlling blood sugar levels is a dull, gray, bitter, and not especially aromatic form of cinnamon known as Cinnamomum cassia. This is not the kind of cinnamon used to make cinnamon rolls and apple pie. This kind of cinnamon is used in curry powder. In diabetics who simply cannot afford to buy high-protein foods, Cinnamomum cassia also slows down digestion enough to make a big difference in blood sugar control, but without any effect on weight loss.

The cinnamon that really works for weight loss, and how it has to be activated

The recent claims by natural health reporters that eating apple pie can lower blood sugars and help dieters lose weight are based on studies of a third form of cinnamon known as Cinnamomum burmannii. In the spice trade, this species of cinnamon is known as "the cheap stuff." It releases some compounds that accelerate weight loss when it is boiled, either in water or, in the case of apple pie, in the juices released by the baking apples. This kind of cinnamon also releases the useful compounds when it is used to make diet drinks.

The weight loss effect of this form of cinnamon is real, but not enough to compensate for the extra carbohydrates and fat used to make the pie.

An illegal herb that would also help take off the pounds.

The kind of cinnamon that activates fat cells to burn their fat stores is a fourth form of the spice known as Cinnamomum parthenoxylum, also called saffrole laurel. Since saffrole can be used to make the drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, it's not legal to buy this form of cinnamon in United States or Canada.

Cinnamon makes sugary foods taste better. If there is room in your diet for the carbohydrates and fats contained in the luscious desserts spiced with cinnamon, by all means, enjoy! But don't count on cinnamon's health benefits to help you lose weight, and especially do not try to lose weight by eating apple pie.


Jia Q, Liu X, Wu X, Wang R, Hu X, Li Y, Huang C. Hypoglycemic activity of a polyphenolic oligomer-rich extract of Cinnamomum parthenoxylon bark in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Phytomedicine.

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