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Spicy chips, snacks are harmful for kids, doctors warn

Spicy chips like Flamin' Hot Cheetos are a favorite among kids, but doctors warn the popular snack can have harmful effects.
November 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Spicy chips like Flamin' Hot Cheetos are a favorite among kids, but doctors warn the popular snack can have harmful effects.

After weeks of on-and-off stomach pain, 12-year-old Andrew Medina told his mom it was time to see a doctor. He described the burning on his left side.

"Like if you have a bruise or something. It really hurts a lot," said Medina.

Medina regularly eats bags and bags of spicy chips and snacks. He estimated about 20 or 30 bags a month.

On any given day, White Memorial Medical Center's Dr. Martha Rivera says she'll see five, six, sometimes more cases of kids with gastritis due to eating spicy chips, spicy candies and spicy delicacies.

"We have a population who loves to eat the hot spicy, not real foods, and they come in with these real complaints," said Dr. Martha Rivera, White Memorial Medical Center.

Gastritis is an inflammation, erosion or irritation of the lining of the stomach. It can come on gradually or suddenly. Symptoms include bloating, burning, vomiting and even hiccups.

"You set up for ulcerations, erosions and so you can set up to get peptic ulcer disease in these children," Rivera warned.

Pediatricians nationwide claim the hot Cheetos and other spicy snacks are leading to unnecessary emergency room visits. Several school districts including ones in Southern California have banned the snacks because they lack nutritional value.

But Rivera's main concern is how the artificially flavored spicy chips can easily increase acidity in the delicate lining of the stomach.

"It burns when it goes down, it burns when it comes out," said Rivera.

Rivera is not alone in her concern. One emergency room doctor says she's seen kids literally doubled over in pain, coming into the ER after downing several bags of spicy chips.

That's why in Rivera's practice, she advises parents to sub out snacks like chips for string cheese. She also discourages giving kids money for after school snacks. Instead, save the money for something else.

Medina says he will stop eating spicy chips, though he admitted quitting will not be easy.

This has been an ongoing issue among pediatricians. Eyewitness News tried to contact Frito-Lay Thursday for reaction, but they didn't respond.

In response to similar concerns the company has said it is "committed to responsible and ethical marketing practices, which includes not marketing our products to children ages 12 and under."


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