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Cinnamon: The PCOS Wonder Spice

Posted by Allie on 5th September 2015

Versatile and sweet, cinnamon may also improve insulin sensitivity.
Photo: Positive PCOS

Versatile and sweet, it's hard not to love the warming taste and scent of cinnamon. Not only can it can be added to lots of different foods, it also appears to improve insulin sensitivity which may have real benefits for women with PCOS.

There are many varieties of cinnamon. Two of the most popular are ceylon, which is considered to be 'true' cinnamon and produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, and cassia or chinese cinnamon which is less expensive and from Indonesia, China and Vietnam and Indonesia.

Cassia cinnamon has garnered some attention over the past few years due to a naturally occurring phytochemical found in it called coumarin. Excessive consumption of coumarin has been linked to liver problems and, as a result, the European Food Safety Authority set a recommended Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.1 milligrams per kilogram bodyweight per day (1). In the UK, the Foods Standard Agency found that the average amount of coumarin consumed by people was less than the TDI recommended. When consumed in normal amounts, cinnamon shouldn't pose a health risk and there is very little to no coumarin in ceylon cinnamon so you can choose this type if preferred.

Despite the potential liver issues found in the excessive consumption of cassia, cinnamon has numerous potential health benefits when eaten in normal amounts. It is a known anti-inflammatory and a good source of calcium and fibre. Cinnamon contains water-soluble, insulin-potentiating compounds which are believed to reduce blood glucose levels and help with balancing sugar levels.

Cinnamon has also been shown to benefit women with PCOS by increasing insulin sensitivity. You can read more about insulin resistance here in PCOS and Nutrition. A research study gave 15 women with PCOS either daily oral cinnamon or a placebo and found that those who consumed the cinnamon had significantly reduced levels of insulin resistance (2). The researchers recommended that a larger study needs to be completed to confirm these findings. Other studies haven't found any significant benefits of cinnamon on insulin sensitivity but didn't identify any adverse effects either. The potential benefit of cinnamon on insulin sensitivity is important for women with PCOS considering as many as 50-70% are insulin resistant and have resultant high levels of insulin in their blood (3).

There are a multitude of delicious and easy ways to enjoy this fragrant spice in powder form or sticks. Cinnamon is so readily available and easy to incorporate into your diet! It can be added to tea, curries, baked goods or sprinkled over cereal, porridge or yoghurt. Get creative and enjoy the healthy benefits of adding cinnamon to your food!

References & Information Resources

Note that referenced or mentioned authors, websites and organisations are not affiliated with, nor endorsing, the content published on Positive PCOS.

1: Coumarin in flavourings and other food ingredients with flavouring properties. Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC)(Question No EFSA-Q-2008-677). European Food Safety Authority. 2008 (793): 1-15

2: Wang et al. 2007. The effect of cinnamon extract on insulin resistance parameters in polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study. 88 (1): 240-3

3: Qin et al. 2010. Cinnamon: Potential Role in the Prevention of Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. 4 (3): 685-693

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