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From Natural Health Insiders
Could a simple spice found in most kitchens hold the key to defeating Alzheimer's disease?
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, believe it might. They have found natural chemicals in a popular spice that appear to slow or completely stop the damaging processes that destroy memory when you get Alzheimer's disease.
The spice that garnered all this attention is cinnamon. You may be familiar with cinnamon's ability to reverse high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes - it's received a lot of publicity. Now it looks like cinnamon may be an answer to dementia, too. Here are the facts. . .
According to the Santa Barbara studies,i two chemicals in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin may prevent the formation of the tangled filaments that clog the brains of Alzheimer's victims.
When you develop Alzheimer's disease, a protein known as tau, which normally plays a key role in building neurons and enabling them to function normally, becomes dysfunctional and starts accumulating in clumps and tangles.
"The problem with tau in Alzheimer's is that it starts aggregating," says researcher Roshni George.
When this protein fails to properly interact with the microtubules that form neuronal structures, it starts to clump together in an unruly mass inside the neurons. As you get older, your brain becomes more vulnerable to developing these sticky masses. And if you develop Alzheimer's, this clumping, entangling phenomenon overwhelms the brain's neurons.
But the California scientists have found that cinnamaldehyde -- the compound that gives cinnamon its unforgettable sweet, bright smell -- can prevent the formation of tau knots. Apparently, cinnamaldehyde's antioxidant properties stop tau's aggregation (or, in plain English, clumping).
On a molecular scale, cinnamaldehyde forms bonds with two amino acid residues called cysteines that are found on tau protein. By shielding the cysteines, cinnamaldehyde, an oil, prevents the chemical mayhem that promotes Alzheimer's.
Benefit from Antioxidant Protection
"Take, for example, sunburn, a form of oxidative damage," says researcher Donald Graves. "If you wore a hat, you could protect your face and head from the oxidation. In a sense this cinnamaldehyde is like a cap."
Although cinnamaldehyde can shield the tau protein by linking to its cysteine residues, it can also disengage, Graves says, allowing the correct functions of the protein to proceed.
The natural substance epicatechin, found not only in cinnamon but also in other foods like chocolate, blueberries and red wine, is a powerful antioxidant. Along with preventing cellular damage from those destructive molecules called free radicals, epicatechin is activated by the oxidation process. That enables this chemical to react with the cysteines on the tau protein in a parallel manner to what takes place with cinnamaldehyde.
"Cell membranes that are oxidized also produce reactive derivatives, such as acrolein, that can damage the cysteines," says George. "Epicatechin also sequesters those byproducts."
If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, you encounter an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. It is believed that the high blood sugar associated with diabetes results in a large increase in free radicals which are also known as reactive oxygen species. That causes extra oxidative stress. Fortunately, cinnamon can also help in controlling blood sugar.
"Since tau is vulnerable to oxidative stress, this study then asks whether Alzheimer's disease could benefit from cinnamon, especially looking at the potential of small compounds," says George.
The researchers add that there is still a great deal to learn about cinnamon and its effects on the brain. They warn against taking in large amounts of the substance though they say that using it in the normal way in cooking is no problem. Our research indicates that one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon per day is safe to consume.
If eating that much cinnamon every day is a challenge, you can also take highly potent cinnamon extracts. If you'd like to know more about the best recommended forms of cinnamon - and all about natural ways to beat diabetes - you might want to check out our 241-page book Defeat High Blood Sugar Naturally!
"Wouldn't it be interesting if a small molecule from a spice could help?" asks Graves, "perhaps prevent it, or slow down the progression."
It would be a lot more than interesting. It could be a lifesaver. And a brain saver.
And from Dr Mercola
Cinnamon for Diabetes? A Half Teaspoon A Day Could Help Control Cholesterol
Researchers have been investigating a number of powerful natural agents that can help you stabilize your blood sugar, and once again, cinnamon has proven itself as a viable contender in the fight against diabetes, as the study in Diabetic Medicine reveals.(1)
One of cinnamon's most impressive health benefits is its ability to improve blood glucose control.
For example, just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day has previously been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. (2)
The more you can make use of natural therapies such as nutrition and exercise, the better your health will be.
However, as helpful as supplements like cinnamon can be, they should not be misconstrued as cures. They are not substitutes for proper diet and lifestyle choices. You cannot properly address your diabetes if you still maintain a sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary choices -- cinnamon supplementation or not!
How Cinnamon Can Benefit Diabetics - five known ways cinnamon can be helpful to your metabolism:
- Cinnamon can increase your glucose metabolism about 20-fold, which significantly improves blood sugar regulation. (3)
- Cinnamon has been found to have "insulin-like effects" due to a bioactive compound, qualifying it as a candidate for an insulin substitute.
- Cinnamon slows the emptying of your stomach to reduce sharp rises in blood sugar following meals, and improves the effectiveness, or sensitivity, of insulin.
- Cinnamon actually enhances your antioxidant defenses. A study published in 2009 stated, "Polyphenols from cinnamon could be of special interest in people who are overweight with impaired fasting glucose since they might act as both insulin sensitizers and antioxidants."
- A bioflavonoid found in cinnamon called proanthocyanidin may alter the insulin-signaling activity in your fat cells.
Other health benefits of cinnamon include:
- Supporting digestive function
- Relieving congestion
- Relieving pain and stiffness of muscles and joints
- Reducing inflammation and symptoms of arthritis
- Helping to prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease
- Relieving menstrual discomfort
- Stimulating circulation with blood-thinning compounds
Clearly, adding ample amounts of cinnamon to your diet is incredibly safe and inexpensive. Just remember, unless you are adding it to a proper diet -- high in vegetables and extremely low in fructose and grains -- it is unlikely you will experience any benefit whatsoever.