THE BLOG
08/06/2014 11:26 am ET | Updated Oct 06, 2014

Cinnamon Has a Whole New Reason to Be Dubbed a 'Superfood'

Arco Images / Larssen Gitta via Getty Images

A recent study suggests that cinnamon may be good for a lot more than sticky buns. For the first time, the dietary addition of cinnamon powder has been shown to be effective at slowing or even halting the progression of a neurodegenerative disease. In the study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, scientists at Rush University Medical Center used cinnamon to treat mice affected by a model of Parkinson's Disease.

The key lies in sodium benzoate, or NaB, a metabolite (or derivative) of cinnamon. NaB is a common food additive and is naturally produced in the body following the consumption of cinnamon. Several medical benefits of NaB have been known for years. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and has even shown promise in treating diseases like multiple sclerosis. What makes this recent study unique though is that NaB was not administered directly. Instead, the researchers orally administered Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamonum verum) and allowed nature to do the rest.

Administration of cinnamon reduced or halted Parkinson's at the cellular level by preventing the loss of two proteins (Parkin and DJ-1) that are usually reduced in brain tissue affected by the disease. Improvements weren't just seen cellularly either. Cinnamon treatment improved physical and anatomical symptoms as well, resulting in improved motor function. This sort of treatment, one which both protects against the disease's advancement and reduces functional impairment, holds a lot of promise for individuals suffering from this disease.

The next step will of course be to test this method's effectiveness in human trials. Millions of people are affected by Parkinson's worldwide, and currently treatments can be extremely expensive. Studies like this one, which focus first on understanding how the disease works and then look for simple ways to halt that progression, will hopefully lead to improvements in treatment efficacy and a reduction in treatment costs.