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Cinnamon: a tasty way to keep your New Year’s resolution

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New Studies Show Health Benefits from Ancient Spice

Are you one of the millions of Americans promising 2014 will be different? The New Year is a traditional time to commit to life-improving changes, and a healthier diet often tops the list. It’s an ambitious goal, which relatively few achieve.

However, new research shows that adding a little bit of spice to your meals, including cinnamon could make a positive difference.

A report on NPR this week highlights the results of several cinnamon studies combined into what’s called a meta-analysis.

The research was published in The Journal of Medicinal Food and suggests that cinnamon can reduce sugar in the blood, or fasting blood glucose, between three to five percent.

Too much blood glucose puts people at high risk for getting diabetes. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 Americans fall into this pre-diabetic category.

Another meta-analysis indicates cinnamon helps control bad cholesterol. While the new studies are encouraging, they aren’t surprising to those who believe in the power of herbal remedies. Integrated with modern medicine, traditional treatments are increasingly used to treat a wide variety of conditions effectively and with few side effects.

In 2010, scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore in a federally funded study looked at two Chinese herbal preparations—which include cinnamon-- used to combat pain and enhance wellness. The research was conducted on a type of roundworm with a short life span but some genetic similarities to humans. The result was that cinnamon along with one other ingredient had an anti-aging effect almost doubling the worms’ lifespan.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health, cinnamon is traditionally used to treat bronchitis, gastrointestinal problems as well as controlling diabetes.

Derived from tree bark found in China, India and Southeast Asia, cinnamon takes many forms including powders, capsules and liquid extracts.

There are some caveats: cassia cinnamon, the most common form in the US, contains coumarin, which may inhibit blood clotting. Additional high-quality studies are needed to determine the risks and benefits of cinnamon in people. A dose of 6 grams a days for 6 weeks is considered safe. People should always consult their doctor before making any significant change in diet.

Meanwhile, other botanicals like ginger, turmeric, rosemary and Holy Basil are not only among our most valued spices but also highly regarded as anti-inflammatories that can reduce pain.

There’s no shortage of recipes combining ingredients that taste good and promote good health. While you’re making resolutions to turn your life around in 2014, try taking small steps that will add spice to your diet and put you on the road to renewed vitality. What better way to get the New Year off to a good start?

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