University of Michigan research finds an essential oil in cinnamon attacks fat cells and could be used as a treatment to fight obesity.
The research found the oil cinnamaldehyde boosts metabolic health by prodding fat cells to start burning energy — a process called thermogenesis.
"Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it," said Jun Wu, a research assistant professor at UM's Life Sciences Institute. "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."
Cinnamaldehyde gives cinnamon its flavor.
The research builds off cinnamaldehyde studies in mice, where the oil protected against obesity.
The new study, published in the December issue of the journal Metabolism, tested whether a similar effect would happen in humans.
Using fat cells from volunteers, researchers treated the cells — called adipocytes — with cinnamaldehyde. The results found an "increased expression" of genes and enzymes that boost metabolism while increasing proteins beneficial to thermogenesis.
Wu suggests cinnamaldehyde could be used to fight obesity by way of activating thermogenesis. But she held off on endorsing cinnamon as a weight-loss treatment until further study is done.
More research is needed to discover cinnamaldehyde's benefits and side effects.