Obesity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.1 By technical definition, obesity can be obtained by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters, or more commonly known as body mass index or BMI.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, obesity is now considered a global epidemic with its prevalence doubling in 73 countries around the world, and steadily increasing in the past 20 years.2 Currently, there are 2 billion people worldwide who suffer from obesity and its complications.
Aside from BMI, important determinants of obesity include waist circumference, body weight, and fat mass percentage, or body fat and its pattern of distribution. The National Institutes of Health states that the type of fat distribution can also determine the risk to one’s health, specifically cardiovascular disease or CVD.
Although CVD is most often associated with obesity, diabetes and cancer do not fall far behind. Adipose or fat produce certain cells known as adipokines which are associated with several pathologies such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Certain factors found in obese individuals increase one’s risk of cancer. Obese people often have chronic inflammation which can lead to conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder, ulcerative colitis, and hepatitis. All of these can lead to cell damage resulting to esophageal, gallbladder, colon, and liver cancers respectively.3,4
Fat tissues also produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with increased risks of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Currently, there are a number of cancers associated with obesity. (see diagram)
Being obese has also been associated with sleep apnea, chronic hypoxia, hypercapnia, and degenerative joint disease and has been identified as an independent risk factor for death from coronary heart disease. Needless to say, obesity predisposes an individual to almost all types of illnesses that can affect one’s body.5
Despite these complications, obesity can easily be prevented and addressed. WHO stresses the role of lifestyle and habits, including healthy food choices and regular physical activity as being the most accessible, available, and relatively affordable option in preventing obesity. However, some of these more traditional techniques have proven to be ineffective for most who have been battling weight issues.
More organic and newer techniques and approaches are currently being studied, one of which is the beneficial effect of herbal supplementation on body weight, with one of the most studied herb or spice being cinnamon.
Cinnamon has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-tumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects dating back to as far as the third millenium BC in the age of Ancient China, India, and Medieval Europe. It was known to demonstrate properties similar to those found in insulin which helps stimulate glucose metabolism.6
More specifically, cinnamon was linked to blood glucose regulation in type 2 diabetes and obesity. This is attributable to the flavonols, procyanids, and cinnamaldehyde found in this particular spice. These substances have been shown to extensively improve the health of diabetics by addressing factors which can lead to improved sugar and fat metabolism that may ultimately prevent obesity.
Obesity and its complications have long been a concern in the field of health. With the increasing number of obese and overweight individuals all over the world, controlling one’s weight has become a challenge for most people.
Research reveals that conventional methods of losing weight such as diet restriction or lifestyle modification have not been effective hence, a new approach in the form of herbal remedies and supplements have become an option in providing easier and more successful methods for weight loss.
The 2019 study by Mousavi et al aims to assess the effects of cinnamon supplementation on obesity, specifically how it positively influences one’s body weight, body mass index, waist circumference and fat mass percentage in adults.
The review by Mousavi et al included randomized placebo-controlled studies that were performed on individuals 18 years of age and above, with baseline and final measures of any or combinations of body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and fat mass percentage in both study and control groups.
The quality of the tests was also assessed using a reliable scoring system, while sources of varying results were identified such as cinnamon dosage, duration of supplementation, mean age, gender, baseline BMI and health status of subjects. Health issues observed in the trials were limited to type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, overweight women, and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS.
Cinnamon Supplementation, Body Weight and Body Mass Index
After cinnamon supplementation, body weight was significantly reduced and was observed to have a greater reduction in those 50 years old and below, compared to the older subjects. There was also a marked decrease in BMI for those who were in the obese classification compared to those who were simply overweight. Body weight was also noticeably decreased in subjects with PCOS compared to those with type 2 diabetes.
As for cinnamon effects on BMI of individuals with and without health concerns, more than 90% of the subjects reported a positive effect on their BMI. Those with type 2 diabetes and apparently healthy individuals had a more significant reduction in their BMI.
Waist Circumference and Fat Mass Percentage Reduction
Similarly, cinnamon supplementation resulted to a smaller waist circumference in the subjects compared to the placebo, while significant decrease in fat mass percentage was also noted, more specifically in those taking more than 2g of cinnamon daily in studies conducted 12 weeks or longer. This was particularly observed in obese individuals less than 50 years of age.
Healthy Spice for the Human Body
Cinnamon has long been associated with a wide range of health benefits. Aside from its positive effect on body weight, it has also been shown to improve weight-related disorders including high lipid or cholesterol levels as well as fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c levels. Because of its insulin-like properties, it has also been associated with weight loss and helps increase body metabolism.
Decreased cholesterol and glucose absorption have also led to a reduction in the synthesis and storage of fat and improvement in weight loss parameters such as waist circumference and fat distribution.
Cinnamon supplementation can significantly reduce body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, and fat mass percentage especially when administered to young adults ages 50 and below, with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 and higher or in the obese, and at higher dosages for a longer duration of 12 weeks or more, with additional health benefits previously stated.
- Obesity and overweight. (16 February 2018). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
- Friedrich MJ. Global obesity epidemic worsening. Journal of American Medical Association 2017:318(7):603. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10693.
- Cancer associated with overweight and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/overweight-cancers-infographic
- Obesity and cancer. (17 January 2017). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet
- Segula D. Complications of obesity in adults: a short review of literature. Malawi Medical Journal 2014;26(1):20-24. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4062780/
- Gruenwald J, Freder J, Armbruester N. Cinnamon and health. Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2010;50(9):822-834. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408390902773052