Cinnamon can activate your sirtuin genes.
Cinnamon appears in the Sirtfood Diet as a top 40 Sirtfood, with the most unequivocal research showing maximum benefit comes from combining Sirtfoods together. Sirtfoods are so named because they contain substances that activate Sirtuin or ‘skinny’ genes, the same genes as exercise and fasting.
While always known that cinnamon lowers blood sugar we didn’t for sure know why. Now brand new research presented just this month at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology showed it is by activating Sirt-1.
And with it acting at a genetic level researchers say benefits go beyond blood sugar making it a metabolic powerhouse with anti-aging properties.
Scientists have long suspected that cinnamon can help prevent blood-sugar spikes and protect against insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. But how, exactly, has remained a mystery—and while some studies have suggested a strong effect, others have been inconclusive.
Amy Stockert, associate professor of biochemistry at Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy, has been studying cinnamon for years. In 2015, her research showed that type 2 diabetics who took daily cinnamon supplements saw greater reductions in blood sugar than those who took a placebo.
Some of these effects lasted even after participants stopped taking the supplements, says Stockert, which suggested that lasting changes had been triggered at the cellular level. “We started to suspect that one of the proteins involved in gene expression was being influenced by cinnamon,” she says.
Her new research focuses on Sirtuin-1 (also called Sirt-1)—a protein that’s active in insulin regulation. “We know that Sirt-1 acts on another protein that affects how glucose is transported,” says, “so it made sense that it might be the key player.”
Scientists know that Sirt-1 is activated by resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine that’s been touted for its anti-aging and cholesterol-lowering properties. Cinnamon contains similar compounds, known as phenols, which Stockert thought might also bind to Sirt-1 molecules in the same way. She and her colleagues used a computer model to test this hypothesis and discovered that the cinnamon phenols had similar, sometimes even stronger interactions with the protein.
This suggests that the phenols in cinnamon also activate Sirt-1, providing a possible explanation for their beneficial properties. “If that’s true, it means cinnamon is doing more than just lowering blood sugar,” says Stockert. “It’s acting on a protein that affects lipid metabolism, cell growth changes, and the expression of a variety of genes.”
Stockert’s previous research found that people who consumed 1 gram a day of cinnamon saw blood sugar reductions comparable to what would be expected from prescription drugs. But she believes that even smaller quantities—like those used in cooking and seasoning—could also have benefits.
“If cinnamon interacts with this enzyme in the way our model suggests, it could possibly be linked to anti-aging, antioxidant control, a lot of really important health benefits,” she says. “And it shouldn’t take one gram a day to see those effects.”
Stockert recommends buying cinnamon—whole or ground—from reputable spice companies. Her team is now studying the effects of cinnamon on fat cells and hope to expand their research to muscle and liver cells, as well.
You can add cinnamon to oatmeal, toast, butternut squash, chili and more. It is also recommended that it be added to other Sirtfood-based meals.
This isn’t the first time cinnamon’s been touted for its health benefits beyond blood sugar control—and it’s certainly not the final word. But given the low risk and reported benefits, it seems a worthwhile addition to your diet, if you like the taste.