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M&M’s are a staple product in the candy industry. They were one of the first of their kind, and their unique design prevents the chocolate from melting during long trips, making them popular for use in trail mix. In fact, they were originally made for soldiers during the 1940’s so that they could enjoy a sweet treat without having it lose its shape throughout the day.

Although the history of M&M’s is fascinating, this should not distract from the fact that they are still using cancer-causing chemicals in their food, even to this day. It comes as a surprise, considering many of the most popular food manufacturers are replacing the toxic ingredients they previously used with safer, more natural ones. A recent example of this is Kraft Dinner replacing the artificial dyes in their mac and cheese with turmeric.

Although public pressure to get rid of the toxic ingredients found in M&M’s has been around for decades, the company continues to fill their candies, which are generally marketed towards children, with known toxic chemicals.

Here is a list of these chemicals, and what they do to the human body.

Soy Lecithin

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Soy lecithin is an extract of soybean oil and is used as an emulsifier in M&M’s chocolate, which basically means that it is used to keep the water and oil found inside the chocolate from separating.

The controversy surrounding soy lecithin comes from the fact that it is a concentrated soy product. Soy contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens that mimic the effect that estrogen has on the human body. This can effectively increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer, as excess amounts of estrogen have been shown to cause most forms of breast cancer to grow.

Red 40, Yellow 5 & Yellow 6

Artificial dyes are used to create the distinctive multi-color assortment that defines M&M’s. Although no artificial dyes should really be considered “safe” for human consumption, these three are by far the most dangerous, and they can all be found in M&M’s being sold today.

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All three of these dyes contain the compound benzidine, a well known animal and human carcinogen. Although the FDA allows presumably safe amounts of this compound in dyes, many experts believe that people are being exposed to more carcinogenic activity than the FDA is aware of.

This is because the FDA only tests for “free” benzidines, despite the fact that these dyes contain “bound” benzidines as well. The FDA only tests for free benzidines as it is only in this form that benzidines are considered a carcinogen.

However, this is in spite of the fact that enzymes found in the intestine release bound benzidines, turning them into free ones. This means that there is a good chance that people consuming these dyes are exposed to more carcinogens than the FDA is aware of.

Gum Acacia

Gum acacia is used in M&M’s for its glue-like binding properties.

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Although the health risks associated with its side effects pale in comparison to the previous two ingredients mentioned, it has still been shown to cause adverse effects to the digestive system. These side effects can include gas, bloating, nausea and irregular bowel movements.

It is also advised for breastfeeding or pregnant women to avoid consuming gum acacia.

Healthier M&M’s Alternative

Although chocolate candy covered in a colorful layer will never really be considered “healthy”, there are alternatives to M&M’s that forgo the use of cancer causing ingredients. One of these alternatives is the coated milk chocolates produced by Unreal Candy.

These are made without using the cancer-causing ingredients still found in M&M’s such as soy lecithin and any form of artificial dyes.

Unreal Candy replaces potentially cancer-causing soy lecithin with organic sunflower lecithin, which doesn’t contain any phytoestrogens, which is the component found in soy that is said to raise cancer risk. Instead, it contains many naturally occurring molecules that are said to improve brain function, fat metabolism and more.

To color their chocolate, Unreal Candy uses healthy, natural dyes such as red cabbage juice, beetroot juice, carrot juice, annatto extract and even turmeric extract.

Sources:

http://www.dana-farber.org/Health-Library/Soy-Lecithin-and-Breast-Cancer.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/

http://www.mms.com/us/nutrition

https://www.mysunflowerlecithin.com/

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-268-acacia.aspx?activeingredientid=268&activeingredientname=acacia

http://getunreal.com/

Image source:

http://www.mashupmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/mms.png

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