NO, not all cinnamon is good for you!
It’s come to our attention recently that there is a common misconception surrounding the use of the spice Cinnamon, and a large number of consumers aren’t aware of the different varieties.
Sri Lankan Cinnamon Verum vs Cinnamon Cassia
Most of the cinnamon found in our foods and purchased from supermarkets is known as Cinnamon Cassia (Cinnamomum Cassia). It is by far the most commonly used cinnamon. This is not “true” cinnamon, but a noticably cheaper imitation and not from the same plant as Cinnamon Verum.
Sri Lankan Cinnamon Verum (Cinnamomum zeylanicum / Cinnamomum Verum) is often referred to as “True Cinnamon”. It tastes more mild and subtle, and a little sweeter than cassia.
There is a naturally occurring flavour substance in cinnamon called coumarin. The levels of coumarin in cassia are naturally occurring in far greater levels than the levels found in cinnamon verum.
Is This A Big Deal?
Let’s take a look at this information taken from a report undertaken by the Federal Institute of Risk Assessment in Germany, 2012. (1)
Coumarin is a flavouring substance which is found in relatively high concentrations in certain types of cinnamon collectively known as Cassia cinnamon. From use of coumarin as pharmaceutical it is known that even relatively small doses can lead to liver damage in sensitive persons. The value of the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) was established on the basis of the pure substance, i.e. of isolated coumarin. By conducting studies on the bioavailability of coumarin in the human organism, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has demonstrated that coumarin contained in the plant matrix of cinnamon is absorbed by the body to a similar degree as isolated coumarin. The TDI therefore also applies to coumarin in cinnamon.
But Wait – I Thought Cinnamon Was Good For You?
Cinnamon IS good for you and DOES have many known health benefits, but clearly it’s important to understand that not ALL cinnamon is the same.
The levels of coumarin in cinnamon verum (true Sri Lankan cinnamon) are negligable. Not the same can be said for cassia. Cassia contains roughly 63 times more coumarin than cinnamon verum. In case you need any more convincing regarding which cinnamon to buy, let’s have a look at this extract from a Risk Assessment of Coumarin using the bench mark dose (BMD) approach, conducted in Norway: (2)
Coumarin is a naturally occurring flavouring substance in cinnamon and many other plants. It is known that coumarin can cause liver toxicity in several species, and it is considered a non-genotoxic carcinogen in rodents. By using the bench mark dose approach we re-assessed coumarin toxicity and established a new TDI for coumarin of 0.07 mg/kg bw/day. Oral intake of coumarin is related to consumption of cinnamon-containing foods and food supplements. Cinnamon is a widely used spice in Norway, and can be used as topping on oatmeal porridge. Based on analyses of coumarin in Norwegian foods, intake calculations for children and adults were conducted, and a risk assessment of coumarin in the Norwegian population was performed. Intake estimates of coumarin show that small children eating oatmeal porridge several times a week sprinkled with cinnamon could have a coumarin intake of 1.63 mg/kg bw/day and may exceeding the TDI with several folds.
Don’t Give Up On Cinnamon!
There are so many health benefits derived from cinnamon, it’s just a matter of making sure you choose the right cinnamon! Some of the health benefits are:
- Has anti-inflammatory properties
- Packed with antioxidants
- Good for heart health
- May assist in lowering blood sugar levels (assisting diabetics)
- Helps fight bacterial / fungal infections
Read your labels to ensure you’re not purchasing cassia, look for Sri Lanka / Ceylon to be the source, and always use a reputable supplier.