Biomedical Updates

Whole Cinnamon May
Be a Health Concern

Coumarin is a naturally occurring flavoring substance in cinnamon and many other plants. However, too much coumarin can cause liver toxicity in several species, and it is considered a non-genotoxic carcinogen in rodents. In a new study, Norwegian researchers used a benchmark dose approach to re-assessed coumarin toxicity and established a new Tolerable Dietary Intake (TDI) for coumarin of 0.07mg/kg of body weight per day.1 Oral intake of coumarin is related to consumption of cinnamon-containing foods and food supplements. In Norway, cinnamon is widely used, for example, as a topping on oatmeal porridge.

Based on analyses of the typical amount of cinnamon in the Norwegian diet, consumption calculations for both children and adults were computed, from which a risk assessment of the amount of coumarin was performed. The data shows that small children eating oatmeal porridge sprinkled with cinnamon several times a week could have a coumarin intake of 1.63mg/kg of body weight per day, an amount greater than the TDI by several multiples. Adults, while not eating as much of the cinnamon-sprinkled porridge, but by drinking cinnamon-based tea and consuming cinnamon supplements were also found to exceed TDI. It came as a surprise that, in some instances, adult coumarin intake could exceed the TDI by 7- to 20-multiples. This is troublesome. Even if these levels of intake were maintained for only a limited time period, say 1–2 weeks, that dose could lead to adverse health effects. So if you wish to take cinnamon for improving insulin-resistance and fasting blood glucose levels, please take the water extract form, which does not contain fat-soluble coumarin.


  1. Fotland TO, Paulsen JE, Sanner T, Alexander J, Husøy T. Risk assessment of coumarin using the bench mark dose (BMD) approach: Children in Norway which regularly eat oatmeal porridge with cinnamon may exceed the TDI for coumarin with several folds. Food Chem Toxicol 2011 Dec 9. [Epub ahead of print]

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