The Cinnamon Challenged

Back in the day (he says in his best “get off my lawn” voice), the best attempt-to-choke-yourself dare we could come up with was attempting to stuff a handful of saltines down your throat in a minute without the aid of water. Rank amateurs. Little did we know, one cabinet over was the really cool stuff, in the form of a spicy brown powder that went particularly well with apples.

Grated Cinnamon

Image: Grant Cochrane /

It’s called the Cinnamon Challenge, and its goal is simple: to swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds, again without the help of water. While it’s been around since 2001, it has really taken off over the past few years and has finally become a huge viral phenom on YouTube. Everyone from governors to NBA players has tried it, and most attempts end in brown clouds of failure and coughing. I know: fun, right?

Not to be a buzz kill, but here’s the bad:

  • For starters, cinnamon is great at drying out your mouth, making it difficult to swallow.
  • While it’s in your mouth and throat, it can burn, which could lead to a swelling of tissues that could block your air tubes.
  • Cinnamon contains the toxic compound coumarin, which can effect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and cause or worsen liver disease.
  • The compound that gives cinnamon its distinct flavor, cinnamaldehyde, is used as a pesticide and fungicide.

Hell, you don’t even need facts… just do a YouTube search for “cinnamon challenge fail” and you tell me how bad this thing is.

Yes, technically it hasn’t killed anyone yet (that I’m aware of), but it has led to collapsed lungs and extended hospital stays. Why has this become viral and the latest must-do taunting of Darwin? My guess is the first part of the question probably answers the second. I’d suggest that anyone wanting to ingest cinnamon should probably do it pie form, but I realize it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. A whole lot safer though (caloric considerations aside).

The video below is a montage of Loreto College students taking the challenge.

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