More Medicine in Your Pantry
This week I’ve reported that compounds in foods as diverse as chocolate and avocados show promise for preventing serious illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Perhaps we should add the fragrant spice, cinnamon, to the list of medicinal foods. New research on an animal model of human colorectal cancer suggests that a compound in cinnamon may help prevent the disease.
Of course, cinnamon is a familiar and beloved staple in most cooks’ pantries. According to the authors of the present research, it’s the third most consumed spice in the world. Powdered cinnamon consists of the ground bark of Cinnamomum aromaticum (cassia cinnamon) and Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon cinnamon). A compound called cinnamaldehyde, which gives cinnamon much of its characteristic scent and flavor, has been shown to act as a “potent inhibitor” of colorectal cancer.
Of course, there’s often a difference between laboratory findings based on animal research and actual results in human subjects. But the research, conducted by investigators at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and the UA Cancer Center, demonstrates precisely how cinnamaldehyde thwarts the dreaded cancer. And the process should work similarly in both mice and humans. Exposure to the spice compound in the diet resulted in changes in the rodents’ colorectal cells, enabling them to protect themselves against exposure to a cancer-causing compound through enhanced detoxification and cellular repair.
“This is a significant finding,” said researcher, Donna Zhang, Ph.D. “Because colorectal cancer is aggressive and associated with poor prognoses, there is an urgent need to develop more effective strategies against this disease.” Co-investigator, Georg Wondrak, Ph.D., added, “…There’s relatively little research on its potential health benefits. If we can ascertain the positive effects of cinnamon, we would like to leverage this opportunity to potentially improve the health of people around the globe.”
Now that’s a cinnamon challenge I can get behind. How about you? Are you getting cinnamon in your diet? If not, now might be a good time to start. It’s not just for calorie-laden treats. Cinnamon is great in savory dishes, too. Bon appetit!
M. Long, S. Tao, M. Rojo de la Vega, T. Jiang, Q. Wen, S. L. Park, D. D. Zhang, G. T. Wondrak. Nrf2-Dependent Suppression of Azoxymethane/Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colon Carcinogenesis by the Cinnamon-Derived Dietary Factor Cinnamaldehyde. Cancer Prevention Research, 2015; 8 (5): 444 DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0359