Can Cinnamon Help You Lose Weight?

Pile of cinnamon in a bowl.
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For the best weight-loss results, you can't rely on cinnamon alone. You'll need to eat fewer calories and exercise more to accomplish any significant amount of weight loss. Some research, however, indicates that cinnamon may have a small effect on weight-loss benefits. Check with your doctor before taking more cinnamon than is typically used in cooking, as this isn't safe for everyone.

Cinnamon and Weight Loss

Cinnamon may help limit increases in blood sugar and slow down the emptying of the stomach, according to a review article published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in May 2010. Both of these effects can help people who are trying to lose weight. The longer your food stays in your stomach, the longer it takes for you to begin to feel hungry again. This may help you eat less and create the necessary calorie deficit to lose weight. For each pound of weight loss per week, you'll need to eliminate about 500 calories per day.

Blood Sugar Levels and Weight Loss

Foods that cause a large increase in your blood sugar levels after you eat them often then cause your body to release a lot of insulin, which can cause your blood sugar levels to suddenly drop. This drop can make you feel hungry again. Consuming cinnamon even 12 hours before eating a food with the potential to raise blood sugar levels may help limit the increase in blood sugar after the meal, according to a review article published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology in 2010.

That effect of stabilizing blood sugar might help you lose weight. Diets low on the glycemic index -- ones that stabilize your blood sugar rather than cause spikes and crashes -- may be even better for weight loss than low-fat diets, according to a review article published in The Cochrane Library in 2007. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 found that low-GI, high-protein diets were best for weight loss. The high-protein diet had about 25 percent of calories from protein and 25 to 30 percent of calories from fat.

Cinnamon and Body Composition

A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2006 found that a cinnamon extract was helpful for improving body composition by increasing lean mass and decreasing body fat. An animal study published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics in September 2010 found similar results and indicated potential mechanisms -- adding cinnamon to a high-sugar, high-fat diet helped limit insulin resistance and fat deposits, thus improving body composition. Further research is necessary to see whether using the spice cinnamon will have the same effect and how much would be necessary to achieve improved body composition in people.

Cinnamon as Part of a Healthy Diet

Cinnamon can help you limit the amount of sugar you add to sweet dishes, such as breads, puddings and cookies, as it enhances the sweet flavor. Consider adding a small amount to your oatmeal or smoothie at breakfast or including it in a sweet potato or butternut squash soup at lunch. It also goes well in savory dishes containing winter squash, pork or sweet potatoes.

Avoid taking very large doses of cinnamon without first checking with your doctor, however, as this may not be safe. Cinnamon can interact with any medication or herb than may lower blood sugar or harm the liver. In addition, taking cinnamon isn't safe for people with liver damage.