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Cinnamon, Coffee and Male Fertility Updates

September 21, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Medical studies often yield three different types of information. Firstly, findings that either confirm or dispute prior research. Performing multiple experiments helps scientists to form a consensus about the efficacy of any given treatment. A second category of evidence assists researchers to better understand how and why a therapy is effective. This knowledge allows for a more specific application of the test substance. Lastly, the third side on this medical triangle has to do with the discovery of new applications for already known medications and procedures. These observations take place in both allopathic and natural medicine.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant that is commonly used as an “antidote for acetaminopen (Tylenol) overdose”. It’s also known to support the health of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to potentially shorten the duration of influenza and even to protect against kidney damage caused by diagnostic procedures such as coronary angiography. Two recent trials describe a new application for NAC, improving male fertility. The first study involved 120 men who were diagnosed with idopathic infertility. 60 of the patients were given 600 mg of NAC per day for 3 months. The remainder received an inactive placebo for the same duration of time. Those receiving the NAC demonstrated improvements in sperm motility, viscosity and volume. In addition, the antioxidant levels in the blood increased, while oxidative stress decreased. Another trial from 2009 found that adding 200 mcg of selenium (a trace mineral) to 600 mg of NAC resulted in positive hormonal changes and improved semen parameters. The authors of that experiment concluded that, “These results indicate that supplemental selenium and N-acetyl-cysteine improve semen quality. We advocate their use for male infertility”. (1,2,3)

Uncontrolled blood sugar can endanger the health of diabetics or those with a tendency toward blood irregularities (“pre-diabetics”). A new paper published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine describes one simple way to improve long term blood glucose levels. A group of 109 type 2 diabetics were randomly given either 1 gram of cinnamon daily or a placebo for 90 days. All of the participants began and continued to receive conventional treatment in addition to the cinnamon or placebo. The researchers tested the patients’ hemoglobin A1C levels at the beginning and end of the trial. HbA1C is a test that reveals long term (3-4 months) blood sugar management. The men and women receiving the cinnamon showed a drop in HbA1C of .83%. It’s important to note that the change found in the cinnamon users could bring dramatic improvements to the overall health of diabetics. The lead author of the study concluded that, “According to the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, a drop of HbA1C from 7.9% to 7% lowers the risk of macrovascular disease 16%, retinopathy 17% to 21%, and nephropathy 24% to 33%; thus, a 0.83% drop in HbA1C levels in patients might be expected to yield similar reductions in morbidity.” There may even be applications for cinnamon in the population at large. Recent research from Baylor University proposes that cinnamon may help attenuate insulin resistance caused by a lack of sleep. (4,5,6)

Many view coffee as an unhealthy indulgence. But the truth is that most of the scientific research emerging about Coffea arabica is decidedly positive. A trial published in the September edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is the latest example. The researchers of this study looked at the connection between coffee consumption and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in a group of 344 “healthy sedentary, overweight/obese postmenopausal women”. CRP is a marker used to characterize chronic inflammation. It is often elevated in overweight and obese individuals and has been implicated in a variety of health conditions, including cancer and heart disease. The findings of the research were that: a) higher CRP was associated with excess weight; and b) “coffee consumption appears to attenuate the association between BMI (body mass index) and CRP”. Two other studies from September 2009 also promote coffee as a potent way to increase antioxidant capacity in the body and as a means of supporting brain function, specifically “reaction time and accuracy” and “psychomotor performance”. (7,8,9)

Cinnulin is a Patented Cinnamon Extract

FBG = Fasting Blood Glucose   SBP = Systolic Blood Pressure

Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2006, 3:45-53 (link)

Not all of the news on the natural health front has been positive lately. A study conducted at Georgetown University recently tested the effects of kefir (a fermented milk drink) in the prevention of “antibiotic-associated diarrhea” (AAD). 125 children (aged 1-5) were either given a kefir drink with “live cultures” (living, beneficial bacteria) or the exact same product that had been heated to kill the bacteria (used as a placebo). The measure of success was the degree and prevalence of diarrhea present at a 14-day follow-up evaluation. The benefits found in the “living” kefir were negligible (18%) when compared to the placebo drink (22%). Part of the reason for the lack of efficacy may be due to the strains of bacteria present in the fermented drink. A recent Brazilian study points out the importance of better understanding the role of various healthy bacterium. As examples, the microbiologists in the Bralian experiment discovered that certain strains of probiotics (B. animalis and L. casei) helped to combat harmful (pathogenic) bacteria. On the other hand, a different strain, known as S. boulardii, was more effective in promoting a healthy immune response. These findings illustrate the importance of identifying exactly which healthy strains of bacteria to use under various circumstances. (10,11)

Some people think that science and technology are at odds with traditional healing techniques. I disagree. In my opinion, science is an extremely valuable tool that can be used to further the cause of natural medicine. Even though we may not always agree with how it’s applied to promote conventional care, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. One of the necessary steps to broaden the reach of holistic healing is to legitimately prove that it’s worth expanding. I believe that this can only be done by providing consumers and physicians with objective proof that it’s worthy of such consideration.

Be well!

JP

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8 Comments to “Cinnamon, Coffee and Male Fertility Updates”

  1. liverock Says:

    Cinnamon is a very strong antifungal and is useful for treating candida. The fact that it is also useful for diabetes and cancer helps to confirm that these may well be diseases that have a strong fungus connection.

  2. JP Says:

    Liverock,

    I know that some natural health figures certainly subscribe to that theory. I believe Doug Kaufmann has also mentioned that anti-fungal activity may be partially responsible for the cholesterol lowering effects of statin medications. *If* that theory is accurate, then that may explain why some studies have also demonstrated lipid lowering activity in some of those using cinnamon.

    http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/12/3215.long

    Thanks for sharing your observations.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. anne h Says:

    JP
    Nystatin was named after being discovered in New York, as an anti-fungal.
    Fun trivia to know and love.

  4. JP Says:

    I didn’t know that! Cool piece of trivia!

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Ben Says:

    Hi,
    I was looking into cinnamon a while ago, and most of the cinnamon sold, even organic, is the type of cinnamon that contains a substance that builds up in the liver and is toxic. There is a certain type of cinnamon that doesn’t have this substance and is alot safer. But generally, the cinnamon powders sold widely are the from the type of cinnamon that has the toxic substance in it. My Doctor told me about this, and I then found the info on the internet which confirmed this, so google for more info. His method (part of his diabetes protocol) is to simply use any type of cinnamon bark/sticks and boil a 1-2cm piece in water for 2 minutes. You then take the piece of cinnamon out (which is reusable many times) and drink the cinnamon water, which actually tastes quite nice. The dangerous substance isn’t water soluble so it stays in the bark. If you get the powdered cinnamon, the dangerous substance is in the powder unless you have the specific type of cinnamon that doesn’t have this dangerous substance.
    Ben.

  6. JP Says:

    Ben,

    Thank you for sharing that. I’m aware of that concern but I don’t think there’s a present danger in humans using a typical dosage of cinnamon. I’m unaware of any (human) evidence to the contrary – only some theoretical concerns based on laboratory studies.

    Cinnulin, the extract described in the graph above, is a purified water extract. They use that extraction process, in part, for the reasons you mentioned.

    http://www.cinnulin.com/more_info.html

    A few good summaries:

    http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400384/Can-Cinnamon-Be-Toxic-For-Toddlers.html

    http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2007/244.html

    http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:2lAlNCT-JC4J:www.herbalsafety.utep.edu/pdf.asp%3FID%3D5+cinnamon+toxicity&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AFQjCNF6USUTHFFqrUjTI13_ZoYNCjCldg

    Having said all that, your cinnamon steeping method sounds like a good strategy for avoiding this potential danger. Thanks for explaining it! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  7. PJ Says:

    Hello JP et al,
    I am a cinnamon grower. In fact I am enjoying a glass of cinnamon tea right now. My (secondary) research generally confirms what Ben is saying. Recent european(double blind/placebo based) experimental research suggests that ingesting ‘large’ (sorry, ill defined – you can look it up) quantities of ‘cassia’ variety cinnamon can be detrimental to renal health.
    -PJ

    ps from Wiki: Cinnamon “Cassia” and “Verum” barks “when whole are easily distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also quite distinct. “Verum” sticks (or quills) have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder whereas cassia sticks are much harder, made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. It is a bit harder to tell powdered cinnamon from powdered cassia. When powdered bark is treated with tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect is visible in the case of pure cinnamon of good quality, but when cassia is present a deep-blue tint is produced, the intensity of the coloration depending on the proportion of cassia.

  8. JP Says:

    Hi PJ,

    Thank you for the comments. I’d appreciate it if you would post a link to the research you’re referring to. A preliminary search on my part failed to turn up any data about renal complications.

    Be well!

    JP

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