Cinnamon—known as an insulin sensitizer—is also a strong lipolytic . . .

Is Cinnamon
Better Than Statin
for Improving Lipids?

In a comparative study, cinnamon extract
was found to work better than a popular statin
By Will Block

F or lowering bad cholesterol, statins have garnered a lot of attention in recent years … so much so that some doctors have argued that statins should be taken by a significantly larger portion of the population, and perhaps even used preemptively. This may not be sound advice. Generally well-tolerated, statins have two major side effects: they raise liver enzymes and cause skeletal muscle pain and/or damage. But there are others: myalgias, muscle cramps, and gastrointestinal symptoms are also reported. Then there are scattered reports linking statins with changes in memory, concentration, and mood, and one Danish study in 2002 suggested a relation between long term statin use and increased risk of nerve damage or polyneuropathy.1


Serious statin reactions include
myositis and myopathy, with
the potential for rhabdomyolysis
(the pathological breakdown of
skeletal muscle) leading to
acute renal failure.


Statin Use May Have Serious Consequences

Serious statin reactions include myositis and myopathy, with the potential for rhabdomyolysis (the pathological breakdown of skeletal muscle) leading to acute renal failure. The statin Baycol® (cervistatin) was withdrawn because during its short lived life on the American market, there were over 100 deaths associated with its use in this country2 and many more worldwide. Indeed, there have been deaths associated with other statins, here and abroad.

Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) levels are decreased with statin use, and despite the efforts of a citizen’s petition to include a warning message on statin labels, the FDA has turned down this possibility. Furthermore, the FDA has forbidden the use of the statement on nutritional supplements that CoQ10 is essential for people taking cholesterol medication. That’s quite unfortunate, because CoQ10 supplements are sometimes used to treat statin-associated myopathy, and may help to alleviate other side effects too. CoQ10 is truly important for health.


Cinnamon may be as helpful as
atorvastatin (Lipitor
®) for lowering
bad cholesterol (LDL) and
triglycerides, while increasing good
cholesterol. It may even be better!


Altogether, there are enough negative consequences that a person might pause before taking a statin, especially if there is another way to gain the benefits without the liabilities. The good news is that a paper has been published indicating that cinnamon may be as helpful as atorvastatin (Lipitor®) for lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, while increasing good cholesterol.3 It may even be better!

Testing Statin and Cinnamon

Using 48 male albino rats, researchers divided the lab animals into 2 groups: one consisting of 12 rats receiving a normal diet of basal rat chow diet and a second group of 36 rats fed a high cholesterol diet (HCD), with 1% cholesterol-enrichment. (Too much cholesterol is more likely to impoverish, than “enrich.”) This diet went on for 15 days, at the end of which the HCD group produced hypercholesterolemia in the rats. At this point, the HCD group was further divided into 3 subgroups (12 in each) and given either atorvastatin or cinnamon extract or nothing for 6 weeks. The amounts administered were 0.2 mg/kg of body weight of atorvastatin and 20 mg of cinnamon extract per day/rat. Since the rats weighed 130–190 g, the amount given was in the range of 105–154 mg/kg of body-weight/day. The human equivalent would be 790–1,154 mg/day for a 75 kg person (165 lb).

What is Known About Cinnamon

Readers of Life Enhancement already know that cinnamon may have a direct role in lipid metabolism. Studies have shown that cinnamon bark at different doses (1, 3, and 6 g/day) prevents HC and hypertriglyceridemia and lowers the free fatty acids and TG levels of type 2 diabetic subjects by virtue of its strong lipolytic activity.4 Readers have also learned that a phenolic compound found in cinnamon, cinnamate, can lower cholesterol levels in high fat-fed rats by inhibiting hepatic HMG-CoA reductase activity when compared to lovastatin, another statin.5 This is not to mention all the positive effects of cinnamon on insulin sensitivity and other aspects of blood-sugar metabolism (see “More Evidence for Cinnamon’s Effect on Blood Sugar” in the August 2008 issue, “Can Cinnamon Compounds Help Prevent AGE?” in the May 2008 issue, “Cinnamon and Chromium Counteract the Metabolic Syndrome” in the April 2008 issue, “Cinnamon Improves Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity” in the January 2008 issue, “Cinnamon Improves Insulin Sensitivity” in the October 2007 issue, “Cinnamon Reduces Blood Sugar in Diabetic Patients” and “Insulin Sensitivity May Be a Key to Longevity” both in the July 2006 issue).


Cinnamon has been found to have
many positive effects including
enhanced sensitivity.


Also, as we have previously reported, cinnamon in its water extract form has been found to activate PPARgamma and PPARalpha, resulting in improved insulin resistance, reduced bad cholesterol (LDL-c), and lowered liver enzyme (AST) levels in high-caloric diet-induced obesity mice. By so doing, cinnamon can help manage obesity-related diabetes and hyperlipidemia. (See “The Antidiabetes Trigger” in the March 2009 issue.)

Benefits from the Statin and Cinnamon

Back to the study, at the 3 and 6 week marks, the following were measured: serum triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol (TC), low density lipoprotein (LDL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), liver enzyme measurements (ALT and AST), nitric oxide (NO), homocysteine (Hcy), hepatic reduced glutathione (GSH), malondialdehyde (MDA) and the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase activity.


The surprise was that
cinnamon did as well or even better
than atorvastatin for improving
all lipid, antioxidant, and enzyme
categories.


As expected, the HCD program elevated TG, TC, LDL-C, ALT, AST, Hcy and hepatic MDA, while lowering antioxidant enzyme activities and NO levels. All increases and decreases were significant and detrimental to health.

Also, as expected, atorvastatin significantly decreased TG, TC, LDL-C, ALT, AST, Hcy, and hepatic MDA while increasing HDL-C, NO and antioxidant activity. Also, serum TG, TC, LDL-C, ALT, AST and hepatic MDA levels were significantly lowered. And all enzyme activities were also increased. Some of these were restored to normal diet levels; other significantly improved compared to the untreated group (HCD).

Cinnamon Comes Out Ahead

The surprise was that cinnamon did as well or even better in all categories than atorvastatin, with HDL, NO values, and hepatic antioxidant activities found to be significantly higher compared to the untreated group (HCD), or even the normal diet group that did not receive cholesterol-enrichment.


Cinnamon may be a
superior replacement for statins,
with less potential
negative consequences along
with greater benefits, and then some.


These results indicate that lipid abnormalities, oxidative injury, and hyperhomocysteinemia, induced by HCD, could be successfully treated by either atorvastatine or cinnamon, thus providing protection against the lipemic-oxidative disorder, and acting as hypocholesterolemic, hepatoprotective agents, while improving cardiovascular function through modulation of oxidative stress, NO and Hcy.

Cinnamon may be a superior replacement for statins, with less potential negative consequences along with greater benefits, and then some (see sidebar, “Greater Glycemic Control with Cinnamon.”)

Greater Glycemic Control with Cinnamon

At the Institute of Plant Science in Zurich, Switzerland, a new study reports that cinnamon and vinegar (acetic acid) help reduce the postprandial (after eating) blood glucose response. We already know this from our reading about the glycemic index and glycemic load.1–6

The Swiss researchers hypothesized that the combination of these substances might result in an additive effect. So they determined the 2-hour postprandial blood glucose and satiety response to a milk/rice meal supplemented with either cinnamon or acetic acid on their own or in combination. Twenty-seven subjects consumed the relatively high glycemic index meal on 4 occasions by itself (the control) or with 4 g cinnamon, 28 mmol acetic acid, or the combination of cinnamon + acetic acid.

They first assessed blood glucose and satiety before eating and then at 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 minutes postprandially. At 15 minutes, the combination of cinnamon + acetic acid resulted in a significantly reduced blood glucose concentration compared with the control meal. Nevertheless, the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve over 120 minutes did not differ between the trials. Yet the satiety score of the cinnamon + acetic acid trial was significantly higher than that in the control trial at 15 and 30 minutes, although the incremental area under the curve of the satiety response did not differ between the trials.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the significant effect of the combination of cinnamon and acetic acid on blood glucose and satiety immediately after meal intake indicated an additive effect of the 2 substances. More information is needed to know whether larger doses of the two materials might result in yet greater substantial additive effect on blood glucose or satiety both. But in the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to try to use more vinegar with your meals, with which you take your cinnamon supplements.

  1. Liljeberg H, Björck I (May 1998). “Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar”. Eur J Clin Nutr 52 (5): 368–71.
  2. Leeman M, Ostman E, Björck I. Vinegar dressing and cold storage of potatoes lowers postprandial glycaemic and insulinaemic responses in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr 2005;59 (11): 1266–71.
  3. Johnston CS, Kim CM, Buller AJ. Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabees. Diabetes Care 2004;27 (1):281–2.
  4. Sugiyama M, Tang AC, Wakaki Y, Koyama W. Glycemic index of single and mixed meal foods among common Japanese foods with white rice as a reference food. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003; 57(6):743–52.
  5. Ostman EM, Liljeberg Elmståhl HG, Björck IM. Inconsistency between glycemic and insulinemic responses to regular and fermented milk products. Amer J Clin Nutr 2001;74(1): 96–100.
  6. Ostman E, Granfeldt Y, Persson L, Björck I. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr 2005;59(9):983–8.

References

  1. Gaist D, Jeppesen U, Andersen M, García Rodríguez LA, Hallas J, Sindrup SH. Statins and risk of polyneuropathy: a case-control study. Neurology 2002 May 14;58(9):1333-7.
  2. Staffa JA, Chang J, Green L. Cerivastatin and reports of fatal rhabdomyolysis [letter]. N Engl J Med 2002;346:539-540.
  3. Amin KA, Abd El-Twab TM. Oxidative markers, nitric oxide and homocysteine alteration in hypercholesterolimic rats: role of atorvastatine and cinnamon. Int J Clin Exp Med 2009 Oct 5;2(3):254-65.
  4. Khan A, Safdar M, Khan MA, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003; 26:3215-8.
  5. Lee JS, Jeon SM, Park EM, Huh TL, Kwon OS, Lee MK, Choi MS. Cinnamate supplementation enhances hepatic lipid metabolism and anti-oxidant defense systems in high cholesterol-fed rats. J Med Food 2003; 6(3): 183-91.


Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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