By Larissa Long
While not a commonly discussed condition, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most prevalent cause of hepatic (liver) injury. Shockingly, it affects up to 25 percent of the U.S. population—an estimated 90 million Americans!1
NAFLD is the buildup of extra fat in the liver cells of people who drink little or no alcohol. (Heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time is notorious for severely damaging the liver, causing not only fatty liver but cirrhosis, fibrosis and alcoholic hepatitis.)
The liver normally contains some fat, but when more than 10 percent of the weight of your liver is fat, you’re more prone to some serious health complications, including inflammation and scarring in the liver. Severe cases of NAFLD can even trigger liver failure.
While a small minority of people who develop NAFLD do not have any known risk factors, most sufferers are overweight or obese and/or have insulin resistance,2 which is defined as the presence of at least three of the following five traits:
- Waist measurements of 40 inches or more for men, and 35 inches or more for women
- High triglyceride levels (150 mg/dL or higher)
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol (below 40 mg/dL for men or 50 mg/dL for women)
- High blood pressure (above 130/85 mmHg)
- Elevated fasting blood glucose levels (100 mg/dL or higher)
Sensational Cinnamon to the Rescue
Protecting the health of your liver is of the utmost importance. This often- underappreciated organ has many critical functions, including converting the nutrients from our food into substances the body can use, and collecting toxins and removing them from the body.
The conventional strategy for dealing with NAFLD entails weight loss and gaining control over insulin resistance. For the majority of people, this means using pharmaceuticals designed to control blood sugar, including thiazolidinediones, pioglitazone and metformin, as well as statins to lower cholesterol.3
Of course, the dreadful side effects of these drug therapies have been widely reported for years, spearheading a slew of research looking into safer, more natural remedies. And fortunately, investigators have made much progress in this realm.
One very promising treatment involves a tasty spice found in practically everyone’s kitchen—cinnamon.
Cinnamon has displayed favorable results in diabetes treatment in various in vitro and animal studies.4 And one meta-analysis that reviewed 10 trials (a total of 543 patients) found that cinnamon doses of 120 mg per day to 6 g per day for four to 18 weeks significantly reduced fasting glucose, total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raised HDL cholesterol levels.5
Considering its effects on blood sugar and cholesterol, it only makes sense to hypothesize that cinnamon could also serve as an alternative therapy for insulin resistance and resultant NAFLD. A team of researchers in Iran tested out this theory.
In their double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 50 patients with NAFLD were randomized to receive either two 750-mg capsules of cinnamon or two placebo pills daily for 12 weeks.6
In addition to the supplement regimen, all participants were also advised how to implement a balanced diet and exercise into their daily routines.
At the end of the treatment period, the researchers noted that the intervention group experienced significant reductions in fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides and C-reactive protein. Additionally, levels of three enzymes used to measure for liver damage or disease—alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and gamma glutamine transpeptidase (GGT)—dropped dramatically. HDL cholesterol remained unchanged, while LDL cholesterol diminished in both groups.
The study concluded, “Taking 1,500 mg cinnamon daily may be effective in improving NAFLD characteristics.”
Interestingly, according to a study highlighted on Fox News on August 22, 2013, caffeine may also help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Take a listen:
Using Cinnamon Is Simple
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like the sweet, tangy taste of cinnamon. For this reason, adding it to all—or at least most—of your dishes can be an extremely easy way to boost your intake of this marvelous spice. Consider sprinkling it on yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, cereal, sweet potatoes and other vegetables, and including it in all of your baking.
For higher therapeutic dosages, cinnamon supplements are also readily available. For the purposes of liver health and NAFLD treatment, 1,500 mg was used in this study. But doses of 3-6 grams have been utilized in studies for diabetes modulation. Discuss with your doctor a dosage that would be appropriate for your own situation.
- Rector RS, et al. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 14;14(2):185-92.
- Utzschneider KM, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Dec;91(12):4753-61.
- Tolman KG and Dalpiaz AS. Ther Clin Risk Manag. Dec 2007;3(6):1153-63.
- Allen RW, et al. Am Fam Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):452-9.
- Ranasinghe P, et al. Diabet Med. 2012 Dec;29(12):1480-92.
- Askari F, et al. Nutr Res. 2014 Feb;34(2):143-8.