M&M's are bad for you. While Mars is phasing out the controversial food dyes in M&Ms, they’re mostly sugar in the first place.
M&Ms are basically sugar and food dye. The sugar is mostly found in chocolate, although the candies also have added sugar and corn syrup. There's not much fiber to speak of in M&Ms, so their sugar hits your system quickly. It's broken down in the blood, giving you a quick boost followed by a crash. It also feeds the bacteria in your mouth, which produce an acid that breaks down your teeth. Eat too many M&Ms on a regular basis, and you could do damage to your dental health. You'll also increase your chances of developing chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension.
The food dye in M&Ms has also been the subject of controversy. A study in 1976 linked red dye #2 - which M&Ms did not use - and cancer. Public panic around red-dyed foods caused Mars to temporarily pull red M&Ms from their packets.
The dyes that Mars does use, however, have been the subject of even more controversy. They've been linked by some studies to hyperactivity in children. Investigations in rodents have demonstrated that they can accelerate tumor growth, disrupt the endocrine system, and increase rates of cancer.
The European Food Safety Authority has called for further tests to determine whether or not the dyes are safe, although they have not yet adjusted their daily recommended allowance of the dyes. Foods that have the offending dyes can't be sold in the European Union without a printed warning that they may cause hyperactivity in children. The FDA has also kept the door open, for now, although advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest continue to pressure them to restrict or ban the dyes.
The public and consumer advocacy groups have gone further. For years, they've put pressure on companies like Nestle and Mars to replace the synthetic dyes that they use in their products with natural ones. Nestle and Mars have responded; the former has pledged to replace the dyes with natural alternatives within the next five years. Mars followed suit in February of 2016. If they keep their promise, the controversial dyes used to color M&Ms will be phased out by 2021. They've done so already in Europe, although they still use some of the dyes in the United States.
Natural alternatives may be hard to find; the New York Times Magazine's food issue in 2016 has an in-depth breakdown of the search for a replacement blue. Berries, algae, tree-root fungi, and sea sponges are all candidates for a blue that has the right hue, doesn't have a strong taste, and doesn't break down easily.
Possible short-term side effects
- blood sugar spike
Possible long-term side effects
- endocrine disruption
- damaged teeth