Doctors Warn Against the 'Cinnamon Challenge'

Accidentally inhaling the spice could lead to serious lung issues

Eating a spoonful of cinnamon can have some disastrous side effects.

There’s no shortage of food-related "challenges." Most of them are harmless, if stupid: eating Saltines without water, drinking a spoonful of super-spicy hot sauce, etc. But one challenge that’s been gaining popularity, the cinnamon challenge, could have some nasty side effects, and doctors are warning against doing it, according to the The Huffington Post.

The premise is pretty simple: eat a spoonful of ground cinnamon, straight-up. Invariably, whomever is doing it ends up coughing before it can be swallowed and hacking up a giant red cloud of the spice. It’s certainly good for a laugh, as segments on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 have proven, and some notable people have been filmed doing it, including chef Duff Goldman (pictured) and Game of ThronesMaisie Williams. A YouTube search for "cinnamon challenge" turns up about 772,000 results.

Taking the challenge can have some unexpected results, though. Cinnamon is caustic (and needs water to be digested), so it forces the person eating it to cough, and when it’s in the air it can easily be breathed back in. Once in the lungs, the particles are so tiny that it can do some major damage, including causing scarring and a collapsed lung (that’s exactly what happened to Ypsilanti, Mich., teen Dejah Reed, who started a website to spread the word about how dangerous it can be.

According to a report published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, eating a spoonful of cinnamon without water can also lead the throat irritation, choking, and breathing trouble. Thirty teens nationwide needed medical attention last year after taking the challenge, and according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 222 challenge-related calls came in last year, as compared to 51 in 2011.


It was always clear that the cinnamon challenge is an incredibly stupid thing to do, but now science backs it up. Don’t do it!