Does raw cookie dough rise in your stomach?

Baking soda and baking powder are commonly used in cookie dough. The dough rises when these leavening agents break down and release carbon dioxide, which expands. Paula Figoni, associate professor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University, says baking powder releases 60 to 70 percent of its carbon dioxide during mixing, while baking soda releases 30 to 40 percent (the rest is released when—or if—the dough is baked). Most cookie recipes call for a very small amount of leavening agent, so ingesting raw cookie dough isn’t much different, gas-wise, from drinking a carbonated soda.

To date, there have been no reported cases of people bursting open due to cookie dough rising in their stomachs. And though no official studies have looked into the matter, Alan L. Buchman, MD, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says the acids and enzymes produced during the digestive process would break down the cookie dough before it ever had a chance to rise.

If Buchman’s assurance is not enough to quiet fears of internal explosion, consider the expertise of William Norcross, MD, a professor of family medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The stomach is quite distensible, and even if the expansion [of cookie dough] were considerable, I think the normal person would likely expel gas before exploding.”

Kelly O’Connor, a registered dietitian at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, does not recommend that anyone consume a whole bowl of raw cookie dough because of the risk of illness from raw eggs (salmonella).

“I definitely do eat a few spoons [or] lick the bowl myself when making cookies … and, so far, have come to no harm,” says O’Connor.

Note from editor: this story has been corrected. Please see comments section, below.

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