Past studies have hinted at the potential beneficial effects of cinnamon on health. A new study has now suggested that it might help against cancer. One of its compounds known as cinnamaldehyde which confers on the spice its characteristic flavour has demonstrated colorectal cancer-inhibiting ability in mice. The findings have been published in Cancer Prevention Research.
The researchers of the new study included cinnamaldehyde in the diet of mice. Their observations showed that the mice were protected against colorectal cancer. It seems that the compound has shielded the cells of the mice from exposure to a carcinogen by detoxifying and repairing them.
“This is a significant finding,” says Donna Zhang, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at University of Arizona. “Because colorectal cancer is aggressive and associated with poor prognoses, there is an urgent need to develop more effective strategies against this disease.”
Georg Wondrak, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and co-author of the study, also commented on their study:-
“Given cinnamon’s important status as the third most consumed spice in the world, 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.”
The two researchers focus their efforts on investigating the Nrf2 pathway which plays a role in strengthening cells from stressors like carcinogens. Their aim is to identify molecules participating in this protective process.
“We look for compounds that can activate the Nrf2 pathway,” Wondrak says, “—synthetic ones, or preferably things we already eat, because we know they are not toxic. I’m the person who brings in the molecules, the molecular agents that might modulate this pathway.”
Their experiments ultimately showed that cinnamaldehyde is an Nrf2 inducer.
After discovering this aspect of the compound, they studied its effects on the pathway and on cancer outcomes. They then concluded that cinnamaldehyde might protect cells from other types of chemical carcinogens.
More studies have to be done to establish the pertinence of their findings.
One of the next steps will be to test whether cinnamon itself can prevent cancer.
“We are not preaching at this point, ‘You have to eat a lot of cinnamon,’” says Wondrak. “We are just saying that cinnamaldehyde has interesting properties that are consistent with protecting cells through activation of the Nrf2 pathway.”
“Can cinnamon do it, now that we know pure cinnamaldehyde can?,” Wondrak says. “And can we use cinnamaldehyde or cinnamon as a weapon to go after other major diseases, such as inflammatory dysregulation and diabetes? These are big questions to which we might be able to provide encouraging answers using a very common spice.”