Biomedical Fast Takes

Cinnamon for Brains

Growing evidence indicates that the buildup of β-amyloid (Aβ) polypeptide plays a key role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A specific type of plaque has been shown to correlate with impaired cognitive function in AD model mice. In fact, several reports document the inhibition of Aβ*56 oligomer—the amount of which correlates with cognitive impairment—formation by compounds from natural sources. Nonetheless, evidence for the ability of common foods to modulate Aβ oligomerization have remained an unmet challenge. Until now.

In a recent study, conducted at the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel, scientists identified a natural substance, based a water extract of cinnamon,* which significantly inhibited the formation of toxic Aβ oligomers such as Aβ*56 and prevented the toxicity of Aβ on neuronal PC12 cells. PC12 is a type of cell that is a useful model system for neuronal differentiation. When administered to an AD fly model, the cinnamon extract reversed their reduced longevity, fully recovered their locomotion defects and totally abolished a specific species of Aβ in their brain.

* Cinnamon is, perhaps, one of the oldest herbal medicines, having been mentioned in the Bible (Exodus, Proverbs and Song of Songs) and in Chinese texts as long as 4,000 years ago. Cinnamon has unique medicinal abilities such as blood sugar control, anti-oxidant, anti inflammatory and antimicrobial activities. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that cinnamon has an inhibitory effect on Tau aggregation related to AD, as well as pharmacological properties in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, when the cinnamon extract was given to an aggressive AD transgenic mice model, the result led to marked decrease in Ab*56 oligomers, reduction of plaques, and improvement in cognitive behavior. These results show that there is a novel prophylactic approach to inhibit toxic oligomeric Ab species formation in AD through the utilization of a compound currently in use in the human diet, cinnamon.


  1. 1. Frydman-Marom A, Levin A, Farfara D, Benromano T, Scherzer-Attali R, Peled S, Vassar R, Segal D, Gazit E, Frenkel D, Ovadia M. Orally administrated cinnamon extract reduces β-amyloid oligomerization and corrects cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease animal models. PLoS One 2011 Jan 28;6(1):e16564.

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