By Adebukola Aluko
Do you know that high consumption of cinnamon is very dangerous to health?
Cinnamon is a popular spice derived from the bark of several species of cinnamon trees including cinnamomum verum or ceylon cinnamon and cinnamomum aromaticum or cassia cinnamon.
It has a warm, subtly spicy flavor and is commonly added to baked goods such as pies, cookies, and cakes as well as savory dishes and drinks like cider.
In addition to its culinary uses, cinnamon can be taken as a supplement.
Cinnamon contains various medicinal compounds that may benefit those with health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Maximizing the benefits of this popular spice could be beneficial, however, consumption in large quantity or overdose could pose grave danger to our health.
A quick glimpse of the cinnamon nutrition will shed more light on the possible side effects of taking cinnamon powder in large quantity or even consuming it in dry or powdery form.
You may not have ever thought about the nutritional content of cinnamon.
It’s true that cinnamon contains almost no protein or fat, but a teaspoon of ground cinnamon does include many vitamins and other nutrients:
About 6 calories
About 0.1 gram of protein
About 0.03 grams of fat
About 2 grams of carbohydrates
About 1 gram of fiber
About 26 milligrams of calcium
About 11 milligrams of potassium
About 3 mcg (micrograms) of beta carotene
About 8 IU (International Units) of vitamin A
Can You Take Too Much Cinnamon?
The amount of cinnamon found in food is generally safe. However, taking high doses of cassia cinnamon supplements could negatively impact health due to its high levels of coumarin.
One teaspoon of cassia cinnamon may contain 7 to 18 mg of coumarin.
The tolerable daily intake for coumarin is 0.1 mg per kilogram per day, which equates to about 7 mg for a 150-pound person.
Ingesting more than 50 mg of coumarin daily can lead to hepatotoxicity, or injury to the liver.
While it’s unlikely you would ingest this much coumarin through cinnamon, it’s best to avoid consuming very high amounts of cassia cinnamon.
People with conditions relating to the liver may be more sensitive to smaller amounts.
Side Effects of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is generally well-tolerated and has little reported side effects. However, consuming high doses of cinnamon including high-dose cinnamon supplements could lead to side effects such as headache, heartburn, bloating, abdominal discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, allergic reactions.
If you experience any side effects including one or more of the symptoms listed above after taking cinnamon supplements, stop taking the supplement and contact your healthcare provider.
Note that too much intake of cinnamon, may lead to excessive sweating, heavy breathing, and a rapid heart beat. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience these symptoms after taking a cinnamon supplement.
The two main types of Cinnamon are
Cassia: Also called “regular” cinnamon, this is the most commonly used type.
Ceylon: Known as “true” cinnamon, Ceylon has a lighter and less bitter taste.
While Cassia cinnamon is safe to eat in small to moderate amounts, eating too much may cause health problems because it contains high amounts of a compound called coumarin.
Research has found that eating too much coumarin may harm your liver and increase the risk of cancer
Furthermore, eating too much Cassia cinnamon has been linked to many other side effects.
Here are 6 possible side effects of eating too much Cassia Cinnamon:
- May Cause Liver Damage
Cassia (or regular) cinnamon is a rich source of coumarin.
The coumarin content of ground Cassia cinnamon may range from 7 to 18 milligrams per teaspoon (2.6 grams), while Ceylon cinnamon only contains trace amounts of coumarin.
The tolerable daily intake of coumarin is approximately 0.05 mg/pound (0.1 mg/kg) of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a 130-pound (59-kg) person. This means that just 1 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon could put you over the daily limit .
Unfortunately, several studies have found that eating too much coumarin may cause liver toxicity and damage.
- May Increase the Risk of Cancer
Animal studies have shown that eating too much coumarin, which is abundant in Cassia cinnamon, may increase the risk of certain cancers.
For example, studies in rodents have found that eating too much coumarin can cause cancerous tumors to develop in the lungs, liver, and kidneys.
The way in which coumarin may cause tumors is unclear.
However, some scientists believe that coumarin causes DNA damage over time, increasing the risk of cancer .
Most research on the cancerous effects of coumarin has been performed on animals. More human-based research is needed to see if the same link between cancer and coumarin applies to humans.
- May Cause Mouth Sores
Some people have experienced mouth sores from eating products that contain cinnamon flavoring agents
Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound that may trigger an allergic reaction when consumed in large amounts. Small amounts of the spice don’t seem to cause this reaction, as saliva prevents chemicals from staying in contact with the mouth for too long.
In addition to mouth sores, other symptoms of a cinnamaldehyde allergy include tongue or gum swelling, burning or itching sensation, white patches in the mouth
While these symptoms aren’t necessarily serious, they can cause discomfort .
However, it’s important to note that cinnamaldehyde will only cause mouth sores if you’re allergic to it. You can get tested for this type of allergy with a skin patch test
Also, mouth sores seem to mostly affect those who use too much cinnamon oil and cinnamon-flavored chewing gums, as these products can contain more cinnamaldehyde.
- May Cause Low Blood Sugar
Having chronic high blood sugar is a health problem. If left untreated, it may lead to diabetes, heart disease, and many other health problems.
Cinnamon is well-known for its ability to lower blood sugar. Studies have found that the spice can mimic the effects of insulin, a hormone that helps remove sugar from the blood .
While eating a bit of cinnamon may help lower your blood sugar, eating too much may cause it to fall too low. This is called hypoglycemia. It can lead to tiredness, dizziness, and possibly fainting .
People who are most at risk of experiencing low blood sugar are those taking medications for diabetes. This is because cinnamon may enhance the effects of these medications and cause your blood sugar to fall too low.
- May Cause Breathing Problems
Eating too much ground cinnamon in a single sitting may cause breathing problems.
This is because the spice has a fine texture that can make it easy to inhale. Accidentally inhaling it can cause, coughing, gagging difficulty when trying to catch your breath
Also, the cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon is a throat irritant. It may cause further breathing problems.
People with asthma or other medical conditions that affect breathing need to be especially careful of accidentally inhaling cinnamon, as they are more likely to experience trouble breathing.
- May Interact with Certain Medications
Cinnamon is safe to eat in small to moderate amounts with most medications.
However, taking too much may be an issue if you’re taking medication for diabetes, heart disease, or liver disease. This is because cinnamon may interact with those medications, either enhancing their effects or intensifying their side effects.
For example, Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of coumarin, which can cause liver toxicity and damage if consumed in high amounts.
If you’re taking medications that may affect your liver such as paracetamol, acetaminophen, and statins, excessive intake of cinnamon may increase the chance of liver damage.
Also, cinnamon may help lower your blood sugar, so if you’re taking medications for diabetes, the spice may enhance their effects and cause your blood sugar to fall too low.
Risks of Eating Dry Cinnamon
Since the “cinnamon challenge” has become wildly popular, many have attempted to eat large amounts of dry cinnamon.
This challenge involves eating a tablespoon of dry ground cinnamon in under a minute without drinking water.
While it may sound harmless, the challenge can be very dangerous.
Eating dry cinnamon can irritate your throat and lungs as well as make you gag or choke. It can also permanently damage your lungs.
This is because the lungs cannot break down the fibers in the spice. It may accumulate in the lungs and cause lung inflammation known as aspiration pneumonia.
If aspiration pneumonia is left untreated, the lungs may become permanently scarred and possibly collapse.
Very high doses of cinnamon may lead to hepatotoxicity.