This Is Where Flamin' Hot Cheetos Really Get Their Spice

The devotion to Flamin' Hot flavor is almost cult-like. Fans of this spicy, crunchy snack food have found creative ways to incorporate it into other foods: like adding Flamin' Hots to quesadillas and even creating a spicy Cheeto cake. Says one Instagram fan to another on discovering some Flamin' Hot dusted street corn, "I think I found your nirvana." While people add these spicy treats to anything from a Bloody Mary, to macaroni and cheese, fans just can't get enough. 

But along with that addictive flavor come a few side effects. "Literally just ate a bag, my thumb and index finger is red," says one fan (via Instagram). In addition to a bright red residue, stomach problems have been a common complaint. Rapper Lil Xan shared, "I guess I ate too many hot Cheetos and it ripped something in my stomach open, so I puked a little blood," in a now-deleted Instagram post shared on Men's Health. ER Dr. Robert Glatter explains to the magazine, "It's possible to develop erosions or bleeding in the stomach lining if enough acid is produced in the setting of eating excessive amounts of the spicy snack."

So what exactly is it that makes this snack so dangerously delicious?

These Flamin' Hot Cheetos ingredients are spicy and addictive

The first Flamin' Hot Cheeto was created by Richard Montañez, a then-janitor who decided to hack some uncheesed-crunchies with some added flavor. Inspired by elote, Mexican street corn, he thought, "I see the corn man adding butter, cheese, and chili to the corn and thought, what if I add chili to a Cheeto?" (via Inc.)  Fast forward to today, and Flamin' Hots are now Frito-Lay's top-selling snack, and Montañez is now an executive VP at PepsiCo. 

Two primary ingredients are maltodextrin and "seasoning" (via Cheetos). Maltodextrin is a processed binding-style ingredient. It helps preserve shelf life and distribute flavor, and speeds the absorption of capsaicin into the bloodstream (via Chemistry Life). Capsaicin and chili powder are reported to make up the ingredient listed as "seasoning" in Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Capsaicin is what gives pepper its spice. When consumed, our body translates this experience into feeling "hot" while at the same time toning down our pain receptors. This pleasurable feeling is part of what makes the snack food so addictive. 

 Realistically, it's best to remember this is a spicy treat, and excess consumption is bad in general.