Frito Lays’ Flamin’ Hot Cheetos motto is “dangerously cheesy”, which seems to be a fitting warning for children that can’t stomach the spicy red puffed cornmeal snacks. Kids and adults who are overstuffing their faces with the treat are winding up in the hospital with stomach problems.
Eating very spicy snacks can change the pH balance in the stomach, resulting in an elevated acidity that causes gastritis. Gastritis is when the lining of the stomach becomes swollen or inflamed.
In Los Angeles at the White Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician, told ABC News she sees around five to six cases of children with gastritis daily.
"We have a population who loves to eat the hot spicy, not real foods, and they come in with these real complaints," she said. "[The kids are being] set up for ulcerations, erosions and ... peptic ulcer disease."
At the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician, told ABC that he believes the flavored coating on Cheetos is what’s causing the pH imbalance. Glatter suggests that it isn’t necessarily the spiciness of the snack, but the coating itself.
"I've seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain," Glatter told ABC.
Andrew Medina, 12, told ABC that he eats about 20 to 30 bags of the spicy chips per month, thus leading to the fiery pain in his stomach.
Glatter went on to state that sometimes kids like the challenge of the food, seeing how much they can handle the intensity.
“It’s almost like a food addiction. They seek out the burn,” said Glatter. “It’s a little thrill-seeking. ‘It’s like how much can I tolerate?’”
"Parents should be aware of this. These products are not healthy and some children seem to become addicted.”
Dr. Dyan Hes told the Daily News that the pH imbalances come from the combination of a variety of snacks that are high in fat and sugar content:
"The same kids who are eating these snacks daily ... have diets that are filled with junk, and Cheetos may be just one part," she told the Daily News. "Spiciness can cause stomach upset, but there's also lots of fat. Usually that stomach pain is coming from the fat content of the food."
School districts like L.A. Unified have banned the sale on of Flamin' Hot Cheetos on their campuses, because the snack lacks any nutritional value and is high in fat and sodium content.
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