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Turns Out, Chips Are Even Worse for You Than We Thought

Watch out for this salty side next time you want a snack.

When you want a quick snack or need something to pair with a burger or hot dog at a barbecue, nothing sounds better than a bag of chips. While it can't hurt to splurge on a few chips from time to time, these fried potatoes have the potential to cause a variety of unwanted side effects. The average bag of commercial chips contains enough fat and salt to dissuade anyone on a diet from indulging too frequently. While this snack could wreck your figure, they also increase the chances of a variety of health problems.

"They are so tasty…, even I, as a health professional, have a weakness for Hot Cheetos," says Blanca Garcia, RDN, nutrition specialist of HealthCanal. "But it doesn't mean they are a regular part of my diet, and they shouldn't be a regular part of yours."

"One thing you may not realize is that chips can contribute to cavities," Garcia continues. "This happens from bacteria in the mouth fermenting dietary carbohydrates. Chips are high in hydrolyzed starch (broken-down carbohydrates). If consumed, often two things happen. The highly processed chips stick to the teeth [and] lower the pH of the tooth tissue, which often occurs with sugar, and allows bacteria to ferment. [Chips also] demineralize the tooth, increasing the risk of cavities."

potato chips
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The University of Rochester Medical Center rates potato chips as one of the worst foods for your teeth due to the fact that they can get stuck in crevices and cause some prolonged damage. While your dental hygiene may suffer if you dig into chips more often than not, one shocking ingredient found in all fried potato chips should immediately make you take note.

"[Chips expose] you to a potential carcinogen called acrylamide," says Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, a writer with MyCrohn'sandColitisTeam. "Acrylamide is found in tobacco smoke and some environmental pollutants, but it can also be found in some foods."

According to Winchester Hospital, this odorless, tasteless carcinogen typically gets used as a chemical to help preserve food, but naturally occurs when potatoes get fried at high temperatures.

"Unfortunately, fried potato products are one of the most common sources of acrylamide," says Klamer. "Some studies with mice suggest acrylamide can increase the risk for certain types of cancer. While more research is needed in humans, these studies suggest acrylamide from fried potato chips may be a source of carcinogens in the diet."

Scientists across North America and western Europe independently concluded that cooking potatoes in oil at high temperatures resulted in a product with a significant acrylamide count, and one survey even found that a large order of fries contained 300 times the amount of acrylamide allowed in drinking water. Researchers are still trying to definitively link this chemical to a variety of cancers, but science has already proven that other ingredients in a bag of chips could lead to cancer, making this snack particularly insidious when it is eaten in large amounts.

If you love chips and don't want to give up this snack, have no fear. Make sure to pivot to one of the 11 Best Healthy Chips for Weight Loss and enjoy the snack in moderation for the best health results.

Erich Barganier
Erich Barganier is a health and food writer. Read more