Cinnamon may help reduce the damaging effects that a high-fat diet can cause, according to new research. The American Heart Association (AHA) released findings this month that indicate the popular spice can help lessen the risk of heart disease or cardiovascular damage, which are often linked to eating a high-fat diet.

Cinnamon can activate the body’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems, and it slows the fat-storing process, according to researchers who fed rats cinnamon supplements for 12 weeks along with a high-fat diet. At the end of the 12 weeks, the rats weighed less and had less belly fat, as well as healthier levels of sugar, insulin and fat in their blood. Rats fed cinnamon also had fewer molecules involved in the body’s fat-storing process and more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules that protect the body from the damage of stress.

Previous studies, including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicate that antioxidant-rich cinnamon also can help reduce risk factors associated with diabetes. Cinnamon can prevent tissue damage and inflammation caused by high blood sugar.

Another study from Wheeling Jesuit University suggests consuming cinnamon can also boost brain function and healing.