Let Food Be Thy Medicine: Cinnamon and Alzheimer’s
There’s an old saying. A prescription for health, you might say. “Let food be thy medicine. Let medicine be thy food.” It’s attributed to the father of medicine; the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates.
It’s almost as if he knew, thousands of years ago, what scientists are rediscovering every day in labs and centers of learning around the world: Food can be powerful medicine. I was reminded of this recently, when I read about research that shows that cinnamon probably helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s robs the mind of memory, decision making capacity, and eventually, perhaps even the ability to recognize loved ones. It’s an awful disease, caused by changes in certain proteins in the brain. A protein called “tau” plays a key role in maintaining the architecture of nerve cells For reasons that are not entirely clear, in some people this protein undergoes abnormal chemical changes, which ultimately causes tau to become entangled like overgrown weeds and vines. This causes nerve cells to break down.
Two chemicals naturally present in the culinary spice, cinnamon, interfere with the formation of these disease-causing tangles. In the lab, they’ve even allowed tangles to relax and untangle. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have shown that chemicals in cinnamon protect tau protein from the changes that usually lead to Alzheimer’s. All of which shows, once again, that food can be powerful medicine.
Are you a fan of cinnamon? I’d love to hear about your favorite uses for this lovely, healthful spice.
George RC, Lew J, Graves DJ. Interaction of cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin with tau: implications of beneficial effects in modulating Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis. J Alzheimers Dis. 2013 Jan 1;36(1):21-40. doi: 10.3233/JAD-122113.