I’ve been happily generous with cinnamon on my breakfast ever since the first hints came out that cinnamon might help protect against Alzheimer’s (it’s not like it’s an ordeal to add cinnamon!). Now a new study has revealed why. Two compounds found in cinnamon —cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin —appear to help prevent tau tangles (one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s).
Cinnamaldehyde protects tau from oxidative stress, by binding to two residues of an amino acid called cysteine on the tau protein. This protects the cysteine residues from changing in ways that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.
Epicatechin is a powerful antioxidant that I have mentioned before. Found in a number of foods, including blueberries, chocolate, and red wine, it similarly responds to oxidation by sequestering reactive byproducts such as the cysteine residues.
The findings also help explain previous research showing cinnamon’s beneficial effects in managing blood glucose and other problems associated with diabetes. Higher glucose levels lead to oxidative stress.
Given the early stage of the research, the researchers do caution against eating more than typical amounts of cinnamon – but there’s surely no harm in including it in your daily diet, and it may well do some good!
 . Interaction of Cinnamaldehyde and Epicatechin with Tau: Implications of Beneficial Effects in Modulating Alzheimer's Disease Pathogenesis. Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD. 2013 .