With the growing focus on the dangers of trans-fats, fast food companies have had to find new and creative ways to market their products.
One such company is Lay’s, founded in 1932 by Herman Lay. It merged with the Frito Company in 1961 to become Frito-Lay Inc., the snack food giant that grosses over $13 billion annually. This makes it the largest manufacturer, controlling an outstanding 59 percent of the United States savory snack-food market (1).
You probably remember Lay’s infamous slogan “Betcha can’t eat just one.”
While eating more than one chip satisfies your junk-food cravings, it certainly won’t do anything good for your health. Lay’s marketing gurus knew this and brought up the Baked Lay’s craze that caters to guilt-ridden junk food addicts.
While these supposedly healthier chips may not be doused in trans-fats like their original greasier counterparts, they still contain a cesspool of chemicals and sugar that will make you cringe when you actually learn what’s in them.
The Fried Vs. Baked Potato Chip Controversy
Fried Potato Chips
The premise behind baked chips is that because they are not fried in trans-fats, they are a healthier alternative. Trans-fats are essentially unsaturated fats modified to be solid at room temperature.
One study shows the fatty acids in soybean and canola oils found on most grocery store shelves in the US contain anywhere from 0.56 percent to 4.2 toxic trans fats (5).
The canola and soybean oils typically used to make fried potato chips are not good for many reasons. First, studies clearly show that vegetable oils contain large amounts of biologically active fats known as omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are harmful in excess.
Processing these oils involves pressing, heating, and a variety of industrial chemicals and highly toxic solvents you wouldn’t dare put in your mouth if you knew about them.
Not exactly what you signed up for when you bought that bag of Lay’s potato chips.
That’s Not All
Apart from the elevated levels of omega-6 fatty acids, vegetable oils contain low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Your body uses both of these fatty acids to make other substances called eicosanoids (7). These modified fatty acids sit in your cell membranes where they play a crucial role things like cellular messaging, immunity, and inflammation.
Studies show that for the most part, the eicosanoids made from omega-6s, like those found in vegetable oils, are pro-inflammatory, meaning they cause inflammation, which research shows directly leads to a variety of serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression and even cancer (8, 9).
The big issue with eating foods that contain disproportionate levels of fatty acids is that different fatty acids compete with each other. For example, the more omega-6 you ingest, the more omega-3 you need to balance it out. As such, it is also true that if you have less omega-6 in your body, it requires less omega-3s (10).
The bottom line is that a diet high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, like that found in potato chips, promotes inflammation, whereas a balanced amount of both omega-6 and omega-3 reduces inflammation (11).
Other studies further show that when heated to high temperatures, oils such as canola and safflower, both of which are regularly used to make potato chips, actually become carcinogenic.
Worse yet, not only are the potatoes genetically modified and full of herbicide residue, so are the oils they’re fried in. And it’s not just potato chips, other Frito-Lay products also contain glyphosate (13).
Baked Potato Chips
After reading all of the dangers of fried potato chips, like most people, you probably think that baked has to be a better option. But that isn’t exactly the case.
For starters, baked chips are actually dried prior to baking. While the exact process is not entirely known, in all likelihood high temperatures are needed to dehydrate the chips, which creates acrylamide.
An FDA study actually found that depending on the brand, some baked chips actually have higher levels of acrylamide than fried chips, including Lay’s Original Naturally Baked Potato Crisps, which scored at the very top range of acrylamide (14). This is upwards of three to four times times the level of acrylamide in their fried counterparts.
You should also be aware that in 1995, potato plants producing CRY 3A Bt toxin (a gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide) were approved safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), making it the first human-modified pesticide-producing crop approved in the US (15).
Because this is a relatively new condition, researchers need to conduct more in-depth studies to determine the actual dangers.
One study, however, states “Although the term ‘toxic is not appropriate for defining the effects these toxins have on mammals, they cannot be considered innocuous, as they have some physiological effects that may become pathological; thus, trials that are more comprehensive are necessary to determine their effects on mammals because knowledge in this field remains limited.” (16)
While both fried and baked potatoes obviously contain potatoes and likely now this new toxin, baked potato chips are no better than fried and definitely not a better alternative in this case.
Apart from potatoes, Baked Lay’s also contain things like corn starch, corn oil, sugar (high fructose corn syrup) as well as soy lecithin, which as we know is probably made from genetically modified (GMO) soybeans and corn since 93 percent of all soybeans are now genetically modified as are 88 percent of all corn crops (17).
GMOs are linked to a wide variety of diseases and issues including cancer, infertility, allergies, birth defects, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and autism just to name a few (18). Once again, this does not make baked potato chips any better than fried when it comes to GMO contamination.
The amount of corn sugar (high fructose corn syrup, HFCS) in baked potato chips is also a real issue. According to a recently published study in Nature, HFCS is “a key driver for a molecular mechanism that drives uncontrolled growth of the heart muscle,” which can eventually lead to “complete heart failure, as the heart literally outgrows its ability to function within the body.” (19)
A 2009 study from University of California, Davis, shows that excessive fructose intake can cause metabolic damage and trigger the early stages of diabetes and heart disease (20).
Other research shows that rats fed HFCS gain 300 percent more fat than those fed regular sugar or sugar from fruit, even in slightly higher amounts. HFCS also cause insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, hypertension and stroke (21). It can further lead to liver disease, cancer, arthritis, and even gout.
When it comes to baked or fried potato chips, the choice is obvious—neither. Both are highly toxic and pretending one is healthier just to pad an already bursting bottom line, is not only unethical but downright dangerous.