Wednesday, October 6, 2010

0 Consumer Health Watch: Cinnamon Consumption Advisory

Pin It

I've decided to create a new series called "Consumer Health Watch," which will provide important information, updates, & advisories about food composition and quality. As the food industry and FDA frankly aren't currently doing an adequate job of policing the food production situation on their own, I'm starting this article series to help create more awareness about the products manufactured by the food industry. This way, you can be armed with the proper information to protect yourself and your family, and to make sure you're fully aware of what you're feeding your family and putting into your body. As they say, the body is a temple, and I hope that the knowledge provided in these "Consumer Health Watch" articles will help you to be a healthier & more informed consumer.

While it's true that this blog already contains a number of nutrition tips and provides lots of information about the health value & benefits of various foods, this blog's new "Consumer Health Watch" series clearly serves an entirely different purpose.

I got the idea when I was researching cinnamon bark & other spices for an upcoming recipe. I was browsing product reviews on in order to find the best quality spices for a recent order placement and noticed that a customer had written a note about cinnamon & vanillin in her product review. She mentioned that she'd been disappointed in a particular product because the specific type of cinnamon hadn't been advertised properly, or rather, it hadn't been mentioned at all. She'd (wrongly!) assumed that the ground cinnamon she'd ordered was Ceylon cinnamon, the only "true" form of cinnamon. However, when she received her order in the mail, she found out, to her dismay, that it was imitation cinnamon.

Then, she proceeded to give a mini-primer on the health concerns surrounding imitation cinnamon. I thought to myself, "Geez, I wonder how many people are aware of this information? Maybe I should send out an email to my friends & family to let them know about it." And then, I thought, "While I'm at it, why not write a blog post about it to inform even more people of these concerns?!" So, that's how the whole idea got started.

Anyhow, let's get down to the details of this advisory: As you may or may not be aware, there are actually four types of "cinnamon." Of the four primary sources of "cinnamon" used in cooking, Ceylon cinnamon is the only "true" form of cinnamon. Unlike the Saigon, Cassia, & Burmannii varieties -- all of which contain high amounts of coumarin (i.e., up to 1200 times the amount contained in Ceylon cinnamon), a toxic compound that negatively affects the nervous system, respiratory system, digestive tract, liver, and kidneys -- Ceylon cinnamon is not toxic.

If consumed in large amounts over time, coumarin can potentially cause internal hemorrhage and death. The truly frightening thing about coumarin is that this is the same ingredient found in commercial grade rat poison!  Do you really want to put that in your body?! I know I sure don't. :)

To give you an idea of how much coumarin there is in various types of "cinnamon," here's an example: 1 kg of (cassia) cinnamon powder contains approximately 2100 to 4400 mg of coumarin. To break that amount into smaller, more practical portion sizes, this means that 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin, a level that may be considered to be above the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for smaller individuals. According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, an individual's TDI for coumarin is 0.1 mg of coumarin per 1 kg. body weight. So, to convert that to US measurements, that would mean, for instance, that a person weighing 135 lbs shouldn't exceed a 6.1 mg coumarin intake on a daily basis. However, they also advise that there is no health threat if this level is exceeded for only a short time. 

So, how can you tell if your ground cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon? Well, obviously the first step is to check the label. But what if the product doesn't have a label, or, as I've done, the product has now been transferred to a large jar and you forgot to label it with the exact type of cinnamon? ;) (I don't know about you, but labelling the jar with such specific, detailed information isn't exactly something that's always at the forefront of my mind. Usually, the word "cinnamon" suffices, so it's typically about all I write on the label.) The way you can tell is by tasting it: If your cinnamon is bitter and not sweet, it isn't Ceylon cinnamon. So, just because a cinnamon product might be labelled as "organic" does not guarantee that it's true Ceylon cinnamon, nor does it mean that it's good for you.

Despite the ban of coumarin as a food additive in numerous countries (including the United States, since 1978) since the mid-20th century, vanillin, the compound used in imitation vanilla, as well as chamomile (an ingredient found in many herbal teas) and many tobacco products also contain high levels of coumarin. Also, the FDA still permits some natural additives containing coumarin "in alcoholic beverages only." So, be careful about monitoring your consumption of these products as well.

When you buy vanilla, be sure to look for the words, "pure vanilla extract." Also, please be aware that some products labelled as "vanilla" actually contain a mixture of vanilla extract AND vanillin.

Of course, it's always a good idea, in general, to read the labels of any food products you buy.

I hope that you've found this article to be informative and useful!


No comments:

Post a Comment

I may or may not know you, but love reading your comments!

Have you tried this recipe? If so, please leave a comment or post your reaction to let me know what you think.

If you like this post, then please consider subscribing to my RSS feed. You can also subscribe by email and have new posts sent directly to your inbox.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...