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Just say no to 'cinnamon challenge'

A trending teen challenge spreading across the internet and involving swallowing cinnamon powder has triggered controversy.

Reuters, Monday 22 Apr 2013
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Pediatricians today cautioned young people against participating in a popular dare known as the cinnamon challenge, which involves trying to swallow a tablespoon of ground cinnamon in a minute without drinking water.

Health risks tied to the game - such as breathing problems, lung inflammation and asthma attacks - are relatively rare, they said, but are "unnecessary and avoidable."

"What we were discovering was that it wasn't just that this was a dare prompted by peer pressure, but in fact there were acute health issues associated with it and there might be some real concerns for more chronic health issues," said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, a co-author on the study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

 
 

When a person tries to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon without water, it almost always results in choking, Lipshultz told Reuters Health. Then, if the user takes another breath in, cinnamon powder can coat the airways and get stuck in the lungs.

Cinnamon powder is mostly cellulose, which doesn't degrade in the lungs and has been shown to cause permanent tissue changes that can reduce lung function, according to the authors.

They also called the powder caustic and said it "triggers a severe gag reflex" in response to a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.

Attempts at the cinnamon challenge have increased dramatically in recent years, researchers said, in part as a result of popular Internet videos. 

Cinnamon may be deceiving because it's so commonly used as a cereal topper or gum flavor, Lipshultz said.

But, he added, "Just because it's on your spice rack, if you take half a bottle of cinnamon at once in your mouth, it may not be so benign."

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