Doctors Warn the 'Cinnamon Challenge' Is Dangerous

Yes, cinnamon can be dangerous (Photo by ThinkStock)The infamous “Cinnamon Challenge”, a YouTube fad in which teens compete to swallow one tablespoon of cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking water, is under fire for its serious health risks, according to the results of a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

More on Yahoo! Shine: Spoonful of Crazy: The Risks of the Cinnamon Challenge Craze
Study author Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., Director of the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute at the University of Miami, and his team found that the stunt has led to an increase in calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. According to the university press release, in the first half of 2012, the center received 178 challenge-related calls—that’s more than triple the 51 calls it received the entire previous year. Of those 178 calls, 122 (69 percent) were classified as intentional misuse or abuse consistent with the “Cinnamon Challenge” and about 30 (17 percent) required medical attention.
More on Yahoo! Experts warn against viral 'Cinnamon Challenge'
Study authors say cinnamon is composed of cellulose fibers that don’t dissolve or biodegrade and animal studies have shown that swallowing so much of it leads to lesions, scarring, and inflammation of the airways and lungs. Other effects may include a chronic lung disease called progressive pulmonary fibrosis and doctors are especially concerned about the effects on kids with asthma, pulmonary cystic fibrosis, chronic lung disease or a hypersensitivity to the spice. 

“Although we cannot make a strong statement on documented pulmonary sequelae in humans, it is prudent to warn that the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’ has a high likelihood to be damaging to the lungs,” the authors said. “These discussions can also help children learn to weigh the risks and rewards of yielding to peer pressure when considering senseless and risky behaviors.”

Lipshultz wrote, “Given the allure of social media, peer pressure and a trendy new fad, pediatricians and parents have a ‘challenge’ of their own in counseling tweens and teens regarding the sensibilities of the choices they make and the potential health risks of this dare.”
According to a story published Monday in The New York Times, The Cinnamon Challenge has been around since 2001 but really took off about four years ago. Google recorded 2.4 million hits for the challenge in 2012, an increase from 200,000 in 2009. A current search yields almost 29 million results.
It’s not the first time the challenge has been criticized for its health dangers. According to a 2012 story on Yahoo! Shine, kids can experience severe coughing fits, choking, or catch pneumonia from the game. That same year, USA Today reported that partaking produces a gagging fit, causing the person to cough out clouds of cinnamon dust while gasping for air. One freshman high school girl spent four days in the hospital with an infection and a collapsed lung after attempting the challenge.
Even the creators of the website the “Cinnamon Challenge”, where people can view failed attempts at conquering the game, warn that the body can’t produce enough saliva to make swallowing the stuff easy. “The Cinnamon Challenge can be dangerous and shouldn't be taken lightly. You never want to purposely or mistakenly inhale any substances such as cinnamon. It's going to burn, you are going to cough, and regret you tried. There are over 40,000 Cinnamon Challenge videos on”
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