Are Doritos Bad For You? Think Again Before Sucking That Orange Dust Off Your Fingers

Bianca Piazza - Author

Dec. 18 2023, Published 4:03 p.m. ET

Close-up photo of black and orange bags of Doritos
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Around for more than half a century, Doritos are a beloved American tortilla chip.
  • Ingredients like artificial coloring, maltodextrin, and acrylamide have doctors and researchers wary of Doritos' long-term safety.
  • Processed foods like Doritos have been linked to cancer, but there's not enough conclusive evidence that proves eating Doritos causes cancer.
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Invented in a Frito-Lay-run Disneyland restaurant called Casa de Frito, Doritos were introduced in 1961 as an unflavored chip. According to Food Network, the crunchy triangles became the world's best selling chip by 1988.

Today, Doritos are the "top fried corn snack" in the U.S., as per a 2023 Forbes piece. And as tasty as the "for the bold" chips are, it's alarming that Reddit users say their high levels of oil and carbs "make an excellent fire starting material," as shared by Taste of Home.

That can't be healthy. So, how bad for you are these “little golden things"?

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Photo of a white Doritos truck parked on a street
Source: Getty Images

Are Doritos bad for you? They contain a number of concerning ingredients.

In short, Doritos are pretty much processed junk food.

“Processed foods are loaded with added sugars, fats, and other harmful ingredients that contribute to cancer and other chronic diseases," said Dr. Neal Barnard, the President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, as per Brio-Medical Cancer Clinic.

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Unfortunately, certain ingredients present in Doritos have been linked to cancer, including artificial color red No. 40. According to Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, red No. 40 contains a cancer-causing substance called benzene. However, Brio-Medical stated that the scientific evidence linking Doritos to cancer is "still inconclusive."

Additionally, the artificial dye can potentially have side effects like hyperactivity and increased ADHD, irritability, allergic reactions, depression, hives, asthma, sneezing, teary eyes, skin aggravation, and migraines.

Doritos also contain yellow No. 6, which is, too, linked to hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and asthma.

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Closeup of hand scooping guacamole with a tortilla chip
Source: Getty Images

Maltodextrin was another standout ingredient, which Brio-Medical relayed "[enhances] the texture and flavor." It's linked to high blood sugar (it has a higher glycemic index than regular cane sugar, as per WebMD), poor gut health, skin irritation, and inflammation. According to WebMD, in large amounts, the processed carbohydrate can potentially lead to type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and high cholesterol.

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Flavor enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) is yet another controversial ingredient found in Doritos. For years, people have been concerned that it can cause alarming physical reactions; however, the hate surrounding MSG has origins in xenophobia, and the FDA puts it in the “generally recognized as safe” category.

Brio-Medical also explained that when Doritos (and certain other foods) are cooked, they potentially form acrylamide.

There's not enough evidence to suggest that acrylamide increases cancer risk in humans, studies have shown that acrylamide exposure does increases cancer risk in rodents.

Plus, the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens deemed acrylamide "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

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Are Doritos vegan? Most flavors contain dairy ingredients.

The majority of Doritos varieties are not vegan, as they contain dairy products including whey, buttermilk, cheese, and skim milk.

According The Goodness Project, three Doritos flavors are dairy-free and vegan: Chilli Heatwave, BBQ and Chilli, and Lightly Salted. Just make sure to read the ingredients first in case the formulation has changed.

And on top of that, consumption of dairy products have been linked to various health conditions, making this another unhealthy ingredient in Doritos.

Sigh. Perhaps it's time we retire the nacho cheese triangles from our diet.

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