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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects as many as 1/5 women worldwide, and is linked to hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance and a range of symptoms including excess hair growth. While there is no cure for PCOS, a combination of medical, dietary and lifestyle strategies may help with managing PCOS. One such remedy gaining attention is cinnamon. Best known for its distinctive flavour in sweet and savoury dishes, cinnamon has also been linked to improving insulin sensitivity and other symptoms associated with PCOS. But how good is the evidence for cinnamon and PCOS? In this article, we will delve into the potential benefits of cinnamon as a management tool for polycystic ovary syndrome and discuss the science behind its effectiveness.
Cinnamon, derived from the inner bark of trees belonging to the Cinnamomum genus, has been used for centuries both as a spice and for its medicinal properties. It contains several active compounds such as cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid which are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Cinnamon is often recommended as a dietary supplement for managing blood glucose levels, something that is often a focus in PCOS management.
There is also research indicating that cinnamon may have other benefits specific to PCOS
One of the key characteristics for many people with PCOS is insulin resistance, which is associated with an increased risk of conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. As a result, higher levels of insulin are produced in an attempt to compensate for the reduced responsiveness. This can lead to difficulties in managing glucose levels.
Cinnamon has been found to enhance the action of insulin. Research suggests that cinnamon extracts can significantly improve glucose uptake by cells, helping to lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
One small study found that supplementing cinnamon for 8 weeks significantly reduced insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
Compounds found in cinnamon have been found to activate key enzymes involved in insulin signalling pathways. This means that cells respond better to insulin, and are more ready to take in glucose. By improving insulin sensitivity, cinnamon helps prevent excess glucose build-up in the bloodstream.
Cinnamon may also slow down gastric emptying -where food moves from the stomach to the small intestine -which slows down the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream.
One of the key symptoms of PCOS is irregular menstrual cycles. This is often in the form of infrequent, unpredictable or absent periods. There’s now emerging evidence suggests that cinnamon may support menstrual cycle regularity.
A double-blinded control trial found that cinnamon supplements significantly improved menstrual cycle regularity over a 6-month period in people with PCOS. Participants taking the cinnamon supplement averaged close to four menstrual periods over the study duration. In comparison, the placebo group had an average of 2.2 periods in the placebo group. However, this study was small and measures of insulin resistance or serum androgen levels did not change for either group.
High cholesterol levels can be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. It occurs when there is an excessive amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol circulating in the blood. However, research suggests that incorporating cinnamon into your diet may help in reducing LDL cholesterol levels.
A meta-analysis (a study of data from several other studies) found that supplementing cinnamon lead to a significant reduction of LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels compared to a placebo.
PCOS can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, and so cinnamon may help to reduce that risk.
Although there is some evidence to suggest cinnamon may support PCOS management, the research is not conclusive, and often studies have been small. Most studies used cinnamon supplements, and so ground cinnamon may have a weaker effect.
However, using ground cinnamon in cooking is a low-risk, low-cost addition. Including cinnamon alongside other medical or lifestyle changes may support overall PCOS management.
While there is some evidence to suggest that cinnamon may have potential benefits in managing PCOS symptoms, more rigorous research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and safety. However, cinnamon is a relatively low-cost and low-risk addition to your PCOS management strategies and current studies show promising results. Cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, regulate menstrual cycles, and reduce inflammation in women with PCOS.
Cinnamon should not be seen as a standalone treatment for PCOS but rather as a complementary approach alongside other recommended lifestyle changes and medical interventions.
Incorporating cinnamon into a balanced diet may be a simple way to support PCOS management. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet or treatment plan. With further investigation, cinnamon may prove to be a valuable tool in the management of PCOS.
Book in for 1:1 tailored PCOS and diet support with the Enlivening Elle clinic here.
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