Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an imbalance of the hormones in females that causes a lack of regular menstrual cycles and ovulation, excessive body hair, weight gain, insulin resistance and ovarian cysts. Affecting approximately one in ten women in the United States, this condition begins during teenage years and has no known cure. However, recent studies have shown that cinnamon appears to help balance insulin levels in order to regulate blood sugar and control weight gain.
Women suffering from PCOS have problems with using insulin, which helps convert sugars into energy. This resistance to insulin increases production of the male hormones called androgens, which triggers excessive hair growth, as well as weight gain in the abdominal area. Besides abdominal weight gain, women with PCOS can develop type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and heart disease.
New evidence now suggests that cinnamon can be helpful for women suffering from PCOS. A pilot study conducted at Columbia University in 2007 showed that consuming cinnamon reduced insulin resistance in 15 women with PCOS. The women were divided into two groups; one taking cinnamon extract and the other taking a placebo. The study lasted for eight weeks, after which the group taking cinnamon extract showed a significant reduction in insulin resistance, while those taking a placebo did not. While the authors of the study agree that a larger trial is needed in order to confirm these findings, they do concur that these results are encouraging for women suffering with PCOS.
The spice cinnamon comes from the bark of a small evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka and South India. According to the 2003 publication of the journal Diabetes Care, this fragrant spice offers huge promise as a natural way to reduce blood sugar, increase insulin levels, and help with weight loss. Additionally, cinnamon can have positive effects on memory and brain function, soothes the stomach, suppresses bacteria and reduces cholesterol level.
Like other herbal remedies, a number of varieties of cinnamon exist, all with different chemical components, so it is important to speak with a doctor before using cinnamon in large quantities.
Staying Healthy with PCOS
While cinnamon is certainly an encouraging supplement for those with polycystic ovary syndrome, adding health habits to your lifestyle is still the best way to keep weight gain under control. This includes eating a high fiber, low sugar diet, eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoiding processed, fatty foods, exercising daily, quitting smoking, and eating four to six small meals a day, rather than three large ones, in order to help control blood sugar levels.
For those wishing to start supplementing cinnamon into their diet, it is recommended to speak with a physician first, as the chemical properties in the various types of cinnamon can interact with current medications. However, the general consensus is about one to six grams of powdered cinnamon can be taken daily for 40 days, or 200 to 300 milligrams of cinnamon extract.
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