Iranian researchers find that cinnamon is good for the brain

Cinnamon is an excellent spice for cooking, baking, and drinks. However, it turns out that it also able to strengthen the brain and improve academic abilities.

 Illustrative image of cinnamon. (photo credit: FLICKR)
Illustrative image of cinnamon.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

Not many studies have been conducted on cinnamon's benefit on the brain. In the past, there have been many attempts to investigate if or how cinnamon impacts memory and learning abilities, but nothing substantial has come from these experiments. Researchers from Iran's University of Birjand's School of Medical Sciences took a closer look at different studies that examined the effects of cinnamon on the brain and its cognitive functions.

According to research originally published in the Nutritional Neuroscience Journal, the study's team wanted to systematically review studies on the relationship between the widely-know spice, and memory and learning functions. After sorting through 2,605 studies on cinnamon from various databases, including PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar and Web of Science, the team found 40 studies that met the criteria for their meta-analysis.

During the analysis of the data from the studies, they found that the components of eugenol, cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid - a natural compound found in many plants - positively changed cognitive function. Some studies also reported that the components of the spice prevented and reduced impairment of cognitive function.

One such study focused on teenagers and revealed that chewing cinnamon gum improved memory function and even reduced anxiety. But overall, the findings highlighted cinnamon's potential value in preventing memory and learning impairments.

"This study was designed to systematically review studies on the relationship between cinnamon and its key components in memory and learning. 2,605 studies were collected from various databases in September 2021 and entered for review. 40 studies met our criteria and were included in this systematic review," wrote Samana Nakai, Alireza Koshki, and their colleagues in their review.

Double rum cinnamon cocktail (credit: SHAI EZRI)Double rum cinnamon cocktail (credit: SHAI EZRI)

The team said they hope the findings can inspire other scientists to further examine cinnamon's positive effects on the brain so that the spice can be recommended for use in preserving brain function and slowing cognitive impairment.

Full of benefits, full of flavor

Researchers from the University of Michigan examined the effect of cinnamaldehyde, a primary molecule in cinnamon that gives it its signature scent, on fat cells taken from mice, as well as on fat cells taken from four humans. They found that exposure to cinnamon oil activated the mouse and human cells and started burning calories in a process known as thermogenesis. The oil actually increased the activity of several genes, enzymes and proteins known to increase metabolism.

Another study found that cinnamon slows the rate of stomach emptying after meals, and reduces the rise in blood sugar after eating. In addition, cinnamon was able to improve the sensitivity of the cells to insulin in type 2 diabetes patients and helped them reach balanced sugar levels.