(aMyth) What is it with M&Ms and the way we associate them with everything from health to sex drive? They are, after all, just a color-coated chocolate candy — or are they?
The M&M began its dubious existence in 1940 and takes its name from the parent company Mars. The owners’ names were Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie.
It was Forrest who created the recipe for the candy. The hard shell candy that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” was created after Forrest witnessed Spanish infantrymen snacking on chocolate-covered pellets coated in a hard shell (sugar) in order to keep melted chocolate from sticking to their fingers. After all, this was a time without air-conditioning, so storing chocolate and keeping it from melting was a task. Soon, American GI’s were issued the candy.
So how is it that so many myths and practical uses of M&M’s exist now? Let’s start with health and work our way to the myths.
The Blue M&M That Heals
Recently, CNN reported that blue M&M’s may help in the healing process of spinal cord injuries. This is no joke. Apparently researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a study where they injected the color compound for the blue M&M into rats with spinal cord injuries.
OK… here is my question before we go any further. Where do they get rats with spinal cord injuries? Do the lab techs break the rat’s backs, or do they wait for a rat to take a terrible fall which would otherwise leave the rat bedridden for life? Sadly this is the only question I didn’t get an answer to.
Next, I had to find out who the genius was that said, “Hey! I got an idea! Let’s see if the colors of M&M’s can be used as medicinal cure!” While you wait for the answer, rest assured the result of injecting the rats with the ‘brilliant blue’ compound (that’s what it is really named) did in fact enable them to walk again immediately after injury, albeit with a limp.
OK… next question. How did they ascertain whether the rat was mildly injured or severely injured? The truth is, researchers did not turn to the blue in the blue M&M thinking that would make the difference in the rats’ health.
What’s going on here is this: Back in 2004, researchers learned that a molecule in BBG (Brilliant Blue G) called P2X7 allows an energy source called a nucleotide ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to attach itself to motor neurons, thus blocking chemicals that kill them. It’s not all good, as the side effects are similar to the outcome of taking steroids. The metabolic stress over-stimulates healthy motor neurons, causing them to die. It’s a science still in the works. Besides, the treatment temporarily turns you blue. No kidding.
You can also find BBG in blue Gatorade. So if you read carefully you learned the real story is the P2X7, but doesn’t Blue M&M’s make for a better read? What’s cute is this story began in 2004 but has life now because the BBG exists in M&M’s.
If you are old enough, you know that Mars stopped making the Red M&M for a few years. It happened back in 1976 when the red dye used in the color coating on red M&M’s was thought to be a cancer-causing agent. The level of hysteria in our country caused Mars to stop producing red M&M’s even though the red dye (red dye #2) wasn’t even used in their candy coating. Mars used red dye # 3 and red dye # 40.
During that time the public began to ask, “Where’s the Red M&M’s?” By 1985 – after an 11-year absence – a student from the University of Tennessee by the name of Paul Hethmon began a campaign to restore the red M&M while working for his school paper. Paul created a grass roots campaign and The Society for the Restoration and Preservation of the Red M&M. Yep, only in America folks.
The Green M&M That Makes You Horny
There is no other word for it. Ask anyone what the Green M&M does, and that’s the word they use.
Now for the myth of the Green M&M, which is that they make people horny – or should I say they act as an aphrodisiac? Green M&M’s have reached mythical status in this area. Why? No one really knows where this urban legend started, but even Mars, the makers of M&M’s, rides the marketing story. In 1997 Mars Candy introduced the female M&M to their line up in commercials. In turn, some speculate that the reason they allegedly make you horny is due to the fact that the green M&M is the only female M&M character.
There is an actual story behind the green M&M. In 1992 Wendy Jaffe developed a green M&M look-a-like candy. She sold her brand, the ‘Green Ones,’ under the name Cool Chocolates. If you don’t know Mars, they are a secretive and litigious company, so of course, they went after Wendy. Fortunately Wendy is also an attorney. She settled with Mars to change the name of her candy. She has a better, more apropos name for them: Greenies. Perhaps the dog treat company that sold “Greenies” went after her next, as you can’t no longer find Greenies sold anywhere (unless you want a dog treat). Wendy is now back to lawyering.
Who doesn’t hate the brown M&M? They are so plain! But they are the yin to their color counterparts’ yang. You need them in each pack to give the colors contrast and excitement — or do you?
Once again, if you are old enough you will recall the story in 1982 of Van Halen’s concert rider. A rider is a document that performers supply to their concert producers outlining their needs for each event. Van Halen’s rider is now legendary among performers and inspired many outrageous requirements from subsequent followers. What made that rider so outrageous? They insisted that among their snacks M&M’s be supplied — without any brown ones. Some thought this was an urban legend. It’s not, see copy of actual rider below:
Did you know that M&M’s originally came in a tube? They were also plain, without a stamped “M,” and they only came in one color. Quick… before looking at an M&M candy, do they have two M&M’s stamped on the shell or one? Prior to 1980 M&M’s were known in Europe under the Mars brand name Treets. They were not sold under the name M&M in countries like Australia, France, Japan, England, or even Canada until 1980. M&M’s did make it to the moon just two years later in 1982 and have been a shuttle staple ever since.
Did you know that a 50-foot M&M statue sits in New York harbor? Did you know that Bruce Murrie, co-founder of Mars, was the son of Milton S. Hershey’s partner William Murrie?
Did you know that teachers throughout the U.S. issue class assignments to report on the distribution of colors of M&M’s in each bag? Now if you purchase a bag of M&M’s, Mars insists that the ratios are: Blue: 24%, Orange: 20%, Green: 16%, Yellow: 14%, Brown: 14%, Red: 13%. But guess what, this doesn’t mean that those percentages apply to each bag — they are the percentages of colors based on what they produce. What ends up in a bag is random. Your 1.69 oz bag of M&M’s could have all brown, or all blue or blue and red, or greens, orange and brown — what you get in your bag is just whatever color combination occurs as they funnel into the package.
We tested this assertion and our results did not agree with Mar’s claim. Here are the results of three samples randomly purchased at the same location. We found that no bag had the exact same amount, so we used the middle figure of 56 as our benchmark since M&M’s doesn’t give an exact number of how many are in a bag.
|Claimed||24% 13||20% 11||16% 9||14% 8||14% 8||13% 7||56|
|Package 1||11% 6||16% 9||24% 14||12% 7||12% 7||24% 14||57|
|Package 2||17% 10||16% 9||17% 10||7% 4||19% 11||23% 13||56|
|Package 3||20% 11||25% 14||20% 11||16% 9||5% 3||13% 7||55|
Now, our analysis is pretty basic, so if you want a detailed, perhaps even over-the-top analysis, check out Josh Madison’s effort: http://joshmadison.com/article/mms-color-distribution-analysis/ complete with pie charts, graphs and breakdowns of various type sized packages. It’s nuts; or should I say it’s M&M’s.
You see folks, some things in life need a closer look, and others just need common sense.