The commonly used spice cinnamon could lower blood pressure in hypertensive people, researchers report for the first time, results that have been heralded by industry.
Cinnamon role in improving the control of blood sugar levels has been reported by several studies, but this is the first time that researchers have reportedly shown a beneficial effect on blood pressure.
"Research on cinnamon has pointed to its efficacy in maintaining favorable blood glucose levels and reducing serum cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes," explained lead researcher Dr. Richard Anderson from the US Department of Agriculture.
"This is the first time we have seen the positive effects of cinnamon on blood pressure levels, a common co-factor to diabetes and one of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease," he said.
In the US, seven percent of the population lives with diabetes, while 34.2 percent of Americans suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002, according to the American Heart Association.
The new placebo-controlled, double-blind study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (Vol. 25, pp. 144-150), supplemented the sucrose and non-sucrose containing diets of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) with whole cinnamon, a cinnamon extract, or chromium.
After three to four weeks of the experiment, the researchers found that the presence of whole cinnamon or cinnamon extract in the diet reduced the systolic blood pressure of the rats.
"Addition to diets of cinnamon (eight percent w/w) reduced the systolic blood pressure of rats eating sucrose containing diets to virtually the same levels as SHR consuming non sucrose containing (only starch) diets," wrote lead author Dr. Harry Preuss from Georgetown University Medical Center.
Interestingly, the both whole cinnamon and the cinnamon extract also reduced the blood pressure of the non-sucrose diet group, "suggesting that cinnamon reduces more than just sucrose-induced systolic blood pressure elevations," said Preuss.
The effects of cinnamon were dose-dependent, said the researchers, and the extract group also decreased levels of fructosamine, a marker of plasma glucose concentrations.
While the spice did not reduce blood glucose levels, it is reported to have lowered circulating glucose levels.
A previous study by Dr. Anderson reported in 2003 (Diabetes Care, Vol. 26, pp. 3215-3218) that just 1g of the spice per day reduced blood glucose levels, as well as triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in a small group of people with type 2 diabetes.
There have been toxicity concerns over consistent consumption or high doses of whole cinnamon or fat-soluble extracts.
Tim Romero, vice president, Integrity Nutraceuticals International, marketer of Cinnulin PF, welcomed the results: "Cinnulin PF can potentially help the nearly 62m individuals in the U.S. suffering from high blood pressure, as well as those with pre- and type 2 diabetes," he said.
Romero said that Integrity Nutraceuticals would continue to invest in additional clinical studies to further validate the safety and efficacy of Cinnulin PF.
According to Integrity, Cinnulin PF contains standardized quantities of the active components of cinnamon, two trimers and one tetramer classified as double-linked type-A polymers, but not the potentially harmful compounds.
Cinnulin PF is claimed to be the only cinnamon extract standardized for these compounds.