Sweet and spicy, cinnamon sounds like a delicious way to speed up your metabolism and to lose weight. Although a small amount of evidence exists that cinnamon may help with weight loss, its mechanism of action is not known. When it comes to increasing your metabolism, rather than adding cinnamon to everything you eat, you may be better off building muscle. Consult your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of adding cinnamon to your diet.
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What's So Great About Metabolism?
The food you eat supplies your body with a number of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and energy. The energy in food is referred to as calories. Your metabolism is the system that burns calories. Your body's metabolism is based on three things: basal metabolic rate -- or BMR -- your physical activity and the thermic effect of food. Your BMR makes up the majority of your daily calorie needs, and represents the amount of energy required to maintain basic bodily functions such as brain activity, heartbeat and breathing. The physical activity part of your metabolism includes exercise and all your activities, such as the energy you need to shower, get dressed and walk to your car. Eating burns calories, which is also known as the thermic effect of food, because your body uses energy to digest food -- digesting food uses 10 calories for every 100 calories you eat, according to the McKinley Health Center.
Glucose is your body's preferred, primary source of energy. While cinnamon may play a role in controlling blood sugar by helping to get glucose into your cells, there's no direct connection between the spice and your body's ability to burn calories.
Cinnamon and Weight
One reason you may be looking to increase your metabolism is to help with weight loss. Although it's not known if cinnamon can help increase your metabolism, some evidence exists that it might be helpful for those who are trying to lose weight. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine investigated the effects of cinnamon in people with type 2 diabetes. One group took cinnamon supplements every day, while the other group took a placebo. After eight weeks, the cinnamon group lost more weight and body fat than the group taking the placebo, even though the cinnamon group did not make any changes to their usual eating habits. While these results make it seem as if cinnamon may help promote weight loss, this was a small study, and larger clinical trials are necessary before claims can be made.
Using Cinnamon in Your Diet
Although cinnamon is probably not a magic bullet for your metabolism, it makes a healthy addition to any weight loss diet. Cinnamon is full of flavor and has few calories, with only 6 calories per teaspoon. Use cinnamon to flavor your hot cereal, yogurt or fruit smoothie, or sprinkle it on apple or pear slices for a guilt-free dessert. Cinnamon also adds flavor to savory foods such as rice, quinoa, chili and butternut squash soup.
Potential Problems With Cinnamon
Although sprinkling a little cinnamon on your oatmeal is probably OK for most people, because it also has some medicinal effects, taking cinnamon supplements is not safe for everyone. If you are on blood thinners, have diabetes or are taking a medication to reduce your blood sugar, you shouldn't take cinnamon extracts, warns the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Cinnamon also has estrogenic properties, so if you have a hormone-sensitive illness, such as thyroid disease or breast cancer, speak with your doctor before adding too much cinnamon to your diet. As with any food, there's also a risk of an allergic reaction. If you have a reaction to the spice, stop adding it to your food and seek medical attention.
Building Muscle to Increase Metabolism
If you want to speed up your metabolism, you have to work for it. Adding muscle to your frame with strength training, using free weights, resistance bands or body resistance exercises, may give your metabolism the boost you want -- because muscle burns more calories than fat -- even at rest. At a minimum, the American College of Sports Medicine says you should do strength-training exercises two nonconsecutive days a week, consisting of eight to 10 exercises of eight to 12 reps each, hitting all the major muscle groups.
Other Potential Health Benefits From Cinnamon
In addition to having few calories, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, and may offer some other health benefits. A 2003 study published in Diabetes Care reports that cinnamon helps improve blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people who have diabetes. And according to Authority Nutrition, cinnamon may help reduce inflammation and may offer protection against cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.