The latest upset in our food supply is the traditional spice, cinnamon. Citing possible damage to the liver, the Danish Food Administration is contemplating banning cinnamon rolls and treats. In the European Union of countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the delicious cinnamon rolls have been a staple of bakeries and restaurants for centuries. Goodies such as kanelsnegle and kanenbullar are chock full of the fragrant spice, which officials say could be harmful to some people’s health.
The culprit in cinnamon, found to be toxic in large quantities, is the natural chemical compound coumarin. Ingesting too much coumarin can lead to liver damage, as recent studies on rodents have revealed. The chemical is most commonly found in cassia cinnamon, which is the type generally used in food and fragrances. Cassia cinnamon is less expensive than the safer Ceylon cinnamon, but contains much more of the chemical to be concerned about.
Cinnamon has been a natural remedy used for treating such ailments as high blood pressure, indigestion and chest pain. Each person reacts differently to cinnamon, so results seem to vary. Just as each person’s system is different, ingesting too much cinnamon may or may not cause liver damage. But for now, to play it safe, the famous Danish cinnamon rolls are becoming a thing of the past.
Cassia cinnamon is a bark that is steamed and ground into powder to be used as a spice. It most always is mixed with sugar in baking to dilute the potent flavor and coarseness. The magic ingredient coumarin is also used as a food enhancer, used in some pipe tobaccos and can even be found in fabric softeners. Now deemed harmful, moderation is key to avoid possible damaging effects to the liver when ingested.
Cinnamon is not something one would simply just eat raw. The bizarre cinnamon challenge going around social media is a risky and dangerous stunt that first was made famous by strange people on the show Big Brother UK. Somehow, through pure boredom or mischievous actions, the crazy stunt took on a life of its own. The challenge is to eat a teaspoon of cinnamon without drinking any water and post a video of accomplished feat. The challenge, done to impress friends, can have extreme effects including coughing, gagging, vomiting, and possibly inhaling the cinnamon into the lungs, leading to more serious troubles. Irritation of the throat and nostrils is common as well as getting a clump of dry cinnamon stuck in the windpipe.
Cinnamon is found in everything from chewing gum and mouthwashes to cereals and granola bars. The amount ingested in one day should not exceed a total of one teaspoon overall and certainly not straight as in the challenge.
The sweet, spicy flavor of cinnamon is a welcome taste of home when it comes to candles and air fresheners as well.
Cinnamon seems to only be harmful in mass quantities. Opting for less cinnamon or using the safer more expensive Ceylon cinnamon could be the answer. It’s a trade-off between running the risk of consuming rolls, buns and pastries with too much cinnamon or paying the extra dollar. Cinnamon rolls are not really healthy to begin with, but eliminating further risks from the coumarin could be worth paying a little more.
By: Roanne H. FitzGibbon