A man lights an oil lamp while offering a part of the cinnamon crop to pagan gods at a temple in Hikkaduwa, December 22, 2007. Reuters/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi

A new study has stated that having cinnamon turns poor learners into good ones. Although the study is mice-based one, researchers believe the findings will hold true for humans too. Thus, failing students will have to study hard and eat their cinnamon.

Dr. Kalipada Pahan, researcher at Rush University and the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in Chicago, said that the improvement in poor-learning mice was significant after they underwent the cinnamon treatment.

He explained how poor-learning mice that were taking 150 seconds to find the right hole in the Barnes maze test, found it within 60 seconds after one month of cinnamon treatment. As per the study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, the effect of cinnamon appears to be mainly due to a chemical, sodium benzoate, that is produced when cinnamon is broken down inside the body.

“Little is known about the changes that occur in the brains of poor learners. We saw increases in GABRA5 and a decrease in CREB in the hippocampus of poor learners. Interestingly, these particular changes were reversed by one month of cinnamon treatment,” Pahan said in a statement.

Researchers said different compounds within cinnamon are “metabolized into sodium benzoate in the liver. Sodium benzoate then becomes the active compound, which readily enters the brain and stimulates hippocampal plasticity.”

The team first tested mice in mazes to separate the poor learners from the fast ones. The fast learners took fewer wrong turns and less time to find food. Pahan and his team found differences in two brain proteins while analysing baseline disparities between the good and poor learners. Post cinnamon treatment, the gap was all but erased.

Sodium benzoate enhanced the structural integrity of the cells. Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Hence, Pahan believes that cinnamon has a range of health benefits.

“Besides general memory improvement, cinnamon may target Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment [a precursor to Alzheimer's], and Parkinson's disease as well,” Pahan explained.

He recommends the Sri Lanka-type cinnamons and not the Chinese variety. The former is coumarin-free. Coumarin can be toxic for the liver when taken in high amounts.