News broke on Tuesday that Lil Xan had been hospitalised because he ate too many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. At least that’s what the tatted, 22-year-old creator of TOTAL XANARCHY claimed in a video shared with his 5 million ‘Xanxiety’ Instagram account followers.
“Yeah, I went to the hospital today,” he said, “You know, getting ready to pack for this tour. I just want to let everybody know I was in the hospital, not due to any drugs, but I guess, uh, I ate too many Hot Cheetos and I guess it ripped something in my stomach open, so I puked a little blood”
For those who aren’t up on their snacks, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have been sending little American children to the hospital for a hot minute. Several schools in Illinois, New Mexico and California banned them back in 2012 due to their distinct lack of nutritional value, even citing evidence that they “create a brain response similar to what is seen in individuals who are addicted to illicit substances”. More importantly, though, the red dye in these Cheetos was cited in 2012 as the real reason people thought they were pooing or puking blood. It might not have been blood after all, but just dye.
So is eating too many corn snacks truly dangerous? How many dusty puffs can you eat before your body oozes red with regret? How long would it take before your heart pumped out nothing but a salty, sugary sludge? I spoke to some experts to help me out with this burning hot topic.
Anonymous junior doctor
Noisey: Hi Doc, so a rapper, Lil Xan, has been hospitalised because of Cheetos.
Anonymous junior doctor: Oh really? Did they not think that it might be all the drugs instead?
No comment. Why are these particular Cheetos meant to be so lethal, though?
I had a bad experience with them, so I have a bit of personal beef to be honest. I ate some with a friend once when we went to America, and they made me extremely unwell. I was vomiting everywhere. It was bad news all round really. I didn't quite poo red but I definitely sicked lots of red.
What do you reckon happened to Lil Xan?
He might have ulcerated his stomach from this heinous chemical they put into it to make it red, this red pepper bullshit. I guess that's probably what's happened. He's had the devil chemical and now he's got a hole in his stomach. Well, not really a hole I guess more of like an abrasion, an ulcer, you know.
The devil's chemical?
That's not the official name, but whatever it is – it's bad.
Technically, these are the ingredients in the flavouring: “maltodextrin, salt, sugar, MSG, yeast extract, citric acid" and then the dyes: Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5. So… one of those? How likely are we to get these in food in the UK?
I think the EU probably would have had some kind of procedure to stop the sale of it. The general capitalist cowboy domain that America is, there are probably chemicals they're allowed to put in crisps which would probably be legislated more tightly over here.
Anonymous junior doctor 2
Noisey: What has happened here Doc?
Anonymous junior doctor 2: There are many things that could cause you to vomit blood. The top three causes I would have in my mind for someone of his age would be: Mallory Weiss tear which is an oesophageal resulting from repeated vomiting, oesophagitis or gastritis, an inflammation of the oesophagus or stomach, or a peptic ulcer.
None of that sounds like it's much fun at all does it!
Hot, spicy food is associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux which would cause oesophagitis. Or maybe he ate so many that he made himself vomit a lot!
Do you think Flamin' Hot Cheetos on their own have the power to burn through stomach tissue?
Let's say he has a hole burned through his stomach, if he keeps on eating Flamin' Hot Cheetos after that, what is likely to happen to him next?
So in the hypothetical situation that he does have a hole in his stomach, stomach acid would leak out into the abdominal cavity causing inflammation, known as peritonitis. That would require surgery to close the hole and antibiotics to treat the peritonitis.
Would the Cheetos fall through the hole and erode the rest of his body slowly?
The Cheetos are unable to erode through the stomach in the first place, so also not able to erode any other organs. Stomach acid would leak out of any hole and cause irritation but wouldn’t erode.
How many Flamin' Hot Cheetos would a human have to eat before it would kill them?
I would say A LOT!!! If he continues to eat Cheetos and these get through the hole this would worsen the situation. It wouldn’t be good to ONLY consume Cheetos in any number! But I would say I would worry about someone who had had more than ten bags in a day.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb, celebrity nutritionist
Noisey: Hi, I’ve spoken to some doctors and they don’t like what they see. As a nutritionist, what do you make of this Cheeto scenario?
Geeta Sidhu-Robb: Well it doesn’t sound like a great situation does it? Processed foods like Cheetos are an example of where the food industry has met pharmaceuticals. Food went from being something that was nourishing and sustaining to being something that became part of a logistics chain for large companies. It was how long they could keep it alive, because then it made shipping it and delivering it and storing it before sale cheaper.
So are the ingredients of Cheetos legitimately dangerous?
The ingredients on the top of it sound completely fine, but if you look closer... sulphur is deeply poisonous to the body if it's taken in extreme quantities, mononitrate is unhelpful for the system, lots of people are very allergic to monosodium glutamate, and yellow 6 is something that, I mean, fuck me – why would you eat this?
How many of these things would I have to eat before I collapse in a heap of dirty orange sludge?
I literally don't have a clue but it doesn't sound like many does it? You'd probably be hospitalised and saved before you died. But I'm pretty sure it would be bloody bad.
Professor Laurence Lovat, Director of the London Gastroenterology Centre and Professor of Gastroenterology at UCL
Noisey: Hi Professor, you are basically the expert I’m looking for. How much could Cheetos really harm you?
Professor Laurence Lovat: As I understand it, Cheetos contain red pepper. Red pepper has been shown to cause increased acid secretion and bleeding in the stomach, similar to the type you get from taking some sorts of painkillers.
So they could… potentially kill people?
Is it possible, the answer is yes. It's not as if there are loads of people dropping dead from eating Cheetos. Given that rather large numbers of people are eating them the risk is probably not that large. It can end up with people getting stomach ulcers but I believe it's extremely unlikely to do terrible damage to anybody.
How many would you have to eat to enter life-threatening territory?
Probably more than one pack. If one pack did it to you, they simply wouldn't be selling them. I think we can reasonably assume it's 'a lot,' but exactly what a lot is I don't know. I'm afraid I can't answer that question.
Should we avoid Cheetos as a precaution?
Any hot snack which has got pepper in it runs the risk of causing troubles. It is worth saying that many spices can actually promote health. Many spices are beneficial to health. But pepper in particular is not.
Young people generally eat what they like eating and when they don't like it they stop. They generally don't get as far as doctors. But the old adage of everything in moderation is probably a good one to apply here.
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Speaking to Billboard, a spokesperson for Cheetos maker Frito-Lay responded to a request for comment with the following statement: "At Frito-Lay, we aim to delight our consumers and food safety is always our number one priority. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos meet all applicable food safety regulations, as well as our rigorous quality standards. That said, we realize some consumers may be more sensitive to spicy foods than others and may choose to moderate consumption or avoid spicier snacks due to personal preference."
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.