Why you should care

Because — who knew? — 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a day could help keep the doctor away.

Not everything we should know about food shows up in the nutrition table. Like, say, baby carrots are made from regular-size carrots. Honey is nature’s best face mask. Mentos + Diet Coke = mini-geysers (in a glass, not your stomach).

Or this: the many wondrous benefits of a powder everyone stores in their spice rack — cinnamon. Sure, it’s able to transform a sugar cookie into a Snickerdoodle with a single shake, but cinnamon has even greater powers: Like countering some of the effects of Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research coming out over the last decade has found that, at the cellular level, cinnamon affects how our bodies handle glucose, the simple sugar that circulates through our bloodstream and feeds our cells.

Last year, a study found that cinnamon helps inhibit the aggregation of tau proteins, common in Alzheimer’s patients.

A little basic human biology: Ideally our blood-sugar levels should stay even, never drastically spiking or falling, which results in energetic highs and lows. The hormone insulin regulates levels by entering the bloodstream after we eat, and keeping our glucose concentration in check.

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body ceases to respond to its own insulin, resulting in too much glucose coursing through the bloodstream and blood-sugar levels reaching toxic levels. Cinnamon, however, stimulates insulin receptors and inhibits an enzyme that inactivates insulin receptors and increases the ability of cells to metabolize glucose.

Cinnamon powder.

Cinnamon powder.

Source Stepan Popov/Getty

A study published by the American Diabetes Association in 2003 found that even one gram (approximately a quarter-teaspoon) of cinnamon per day significantly reduced blood-sugar levels in men and women with the disease. It’s not a cure, but in some cases it can really help.

Alzheimer’s is often associated with a reduced expression of insulin receptors in the brain. A study last year found that cinnamon’s ability to improve insulin sensitivity extends to the brain by helping feed and protect its neurons. And a different study from earlier last year found that cinnamon also helps inhibit the aggregation of tau proteins, common in Alzheimer’s patients, which destabilizes neurons and speeds up degeneration.

Muscle spasms, arthritis, vomiting, diarrhea, colds, loss of appetite, erectile dysfunction — it turns out that homeopathically, cinnamon is used to help treat these as well.

So the next time your energy is flagging in the late afternoon, skip the espresso and try a spoonful of cinnamon instead — or at least dust your latte with a teaspoon of the fragrant spice. Sprinkle on high-carb foods like toast or oatmeal. Use it as an excuse to have a slice of pie.

Or you could buy it in capsule vitamin form — but that wouldn’t taste nearly as good.

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