A new research paper claims that cinnamon is much more than just a tasty addition to breakfast or dessert. Consuming cinnamon it regularly, it says, can significantly improve your learning skills.
A study by Rush University and The Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center fed laboratory mice ground cinnamon for a month. Subsequently, their bodies turned the cinnamon into sodium benzoate, usually used as a drug treatment for brain damage. In order to evaluate the learning skills of the mice, the scientists used a Barnes maze consisting of 20 holes. They trained the mice for two days to find the target hole, and after a month of feeding with cinnamon, the researchers tested them again.
They found out that after having a regular intake of cinnamon, the poorer learning mice improved memory and learning abilities significantly to the level of mice that had tested better, noted Science Daily. The poorer-learning mice that initially were taking 150 seconds to find the right hole in the maze test found it within a minute after one month of cinnamon intake.
However, as News Medical wrote, the cinnamon did not affect the strong learners' abilities.
Dr. Pahan, a researcher at Rush University, explained that some of us are born good learners, some work hard to become strong learners, and others find it difficult to learn new things without significant effort. The scientists admitted that they do not have sufficient information about the changes that occur in the brains of poor learners.
A small part of the brain called the hippocampus generates, organizes, and stores memory. According to the neuroscientists, the poor learners possess less CREB, a protein related to memory and learning, and more GABRA5, a protein that causes tonic inhibitory conductance in the brain. The sodium benzoate released by the cinnamon increased the CREB- and decreased the GABRA5 levels.
Dr. Pahan commented:
"Understanding brain mechanisms that lead to poor learning is important to developing effective strategies to improve memory and learning abilities."
As Ritwik Roy of International Business Times writes, the cinnamon not only improves memory, but it may also targets Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, and Parkinson's disease as well.
Although the sodium benzoate is found in all types of cinnamon, the research team strongly recommends the consumption of Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka, writes Brittany A. Roston of the Slash Gear. Dr. Pahan warned that Chinese cinnamon contains coumarin which can be toxic to the liver if taken in high amounts.
On the other hand, the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health argued the research findings. It said that in general, there was no high-quality clinical evidence to prove the positive effect of cinnamon on any medical condition. Until now, researchers have focused on the possible effects of the spice on blood sugar for patients with diabetes. Clinical research studies on the cinnamon's brain-boosting properties are limited.
The National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Alzheimer's Association sponsored the study of the relation between cinnamon and learning skills.
Dr. Kalipada Patal and his team published the findings in the July issue of The Journal of Neuroimmune Psychology.