Does Consuming Cinnamon Really Bad for the Liver if taken on a Regular Basis?
Cinnamon is a delicious addition to many dishes and has numerous health benefits as well. Cassia cinnamon is often called cinnamon, though it is actually not pure cinnamon. Its uses, flavor, aroma and benefits are also similar.
However, cassia cinnamon contains one thing that pure Ceylon cinnamon does not. That is coumarin. This is a chemical compound that, in large quantities, is linked to liver damage.
Cassia Cinnamon is used in Small Quantities
You may well feel that cinnamon is used in an extremely small quantity in various food items. How can such a small amount be harmful to health?
You are wrong.
Did you know that many countries in Europe have specified a maximum daily intake of coumarin that is safe? And some countries have actually banned the use of cassia cinnamon. The maximum advised dosage of courmarin is 0.1 mg per kilo of your weight. And this is for healthy individuals who do not have existing liver disease or any predisposition to get it.
A teaspoon of cassia cinnamon will hold around 2.6 grams of this spice. That contains between 7 and 18 mg of coumarin. Break this down: if you were to have a whole teaspoon of cassia cinnamon powder, in different foods, and you weigh 60 kg., you are already taking too much, even if the cassia cinnamon has coumarin on the lower end of the scale.
For children, the figures would be much smaller, depending on their weight. In fact, cassia cinnamon is best avoided in children, even if it is added to baked goods.
Cassia cinnamon also contains cinnmaldehyde, a substance that gives the spice its characteristic taste and aroma. In excess, this can lead to liver and kidney damage.
While both coumarin and cinnamaldehyde are bad for the liver, coumarin may also lead to cancerous tumors.
Whether you use cinnamon for its many health benefits or its wonderful smell and taste, what can you do? Fortunately, there is a workaround this. Ceylon cinnamon or pure cinnamon, that has a lighter taste and a sweeter flavor, can be used instead of cassia cinnamon. It barely contains any coumarin.
And since the use of both spices is similar, you can simply buy Ceylon cinnamon. It is a lot more expensive than cassia cinnamon, but it has all the health benefits of cinnamon, without the toxic effects and risk of liver damage.
How to tell the Difference Between the Two?
If you buy labeled products, it should be clearly stated that what you are buying is pure cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon. In fact, it is best not to buy unlabeled cinnamon powder because you will not know what you are getting — you may not be able to tell them apart.
When you buy whole cinnamon, know that Ceylon cinnamon has thin layers that are visible whereas cassia does not have layers and looks solid, whether thin or thick.
Why is Liver Damage of Concern?
If you already have any kind of liver damage or have a genetic risk of liver problems, then it is best to avoid cassia cinnamon. Many people suffer from fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In the initial stages, these may be difficult to diagnose and you may well have no symptoms as it takes years to manifest.
According to statistics by the American Liver Foundation in 2016, as much as 25% Americans (including children) have the disease. So if you are at any risk of developing liver problems, avoid cassia cinnamon.
At the same time, research shows that cinnamon may actually benefit who have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The research was carried out using high dose cinnamon supplements and not the natural cinnamon because under normal circumstances, no one takes that amount of cinnamon in its natural form. This may be confusing, but at the same time, the side effects of high intake of coumarin are not disputed.
What should you Do?
There are many dishes that use cinnamon, whether you use cinnamon with apple pie or other desserts, with rice pudding, in cereals and doughnuts or breads. If you feel you simply cannot do without cinnamon, you should use pure Ceylon cinnamon, which has negligible levels of coumarin.
In normal, healthy individuals, who don’t have any per-existing liver problems, or a genetic risk or family history of the disease, the use of cassia cinnamon in average quantities should not cause problems. In case of any existing liver problems, do not take cassia cinnamon. Opt for Ceylon cinnamon where required.
It is always best to buy pure and organic spices from a reputed source, so that you are not at risk of buying cassia cinnamon instead of Ceylon cinnamon. When you are buying powdered spices, this is all the more important as it is difficult for a lay person to differentiate between the two.
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