Red #40 from What's Really in Your Favorite Snacks? Slideshow

What's Really in Your Favorite Snacks? Slideshow

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Red #40

Example: Kellogg's® Nutri-Grain®Cereal Bars Strawberry

Read any of the news stories linking hyperactivity in children to food dyes and you start to get really scared about Red #40. Why so hostile, Red #40? Turns out that Red #40 is the most used dye, in terms of pounds consumed. It is approved for use in beverages, baked goods, candies, cereals, drugs, and cosmetics. The disturbing fact is that the dye has been shown to cause cancer in lab tests on mice, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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Corn Syrup Solids

Example: Doritos Cheese Supreme

Weirdly,this favorite cheesy snack contains four different sweeteners, including corn syrup solids. Basically dried and powderedcorn syrup, this ingredient can actually give snackers the urge to consume even more sugar.Thechemical that tells your body you're full is disrupted by eating these sweet ingredients, leading to overeating. The nutrition label lists one gram of sugar per serving, which is only 11 chips.Do youknow anyone who only eats 11 Doritos in a sitting? Exactly.

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Coconut, Palm Kernel, and Soybean Oils

Example: Sunbelt Blueberry Harvest Chewy Granola Bars

With 2.5 grams of saturated fats (thats the bad kind, folks), these little bars would contribute 13 percent of your daily recommended value of saturated fat, while raising your total and LDL cholesterol levels (again, the bad ones). The American Heart Association cautions that high LDL cholesterol levels can lead to a build-up of plaque in your arteries. So the less you eat, the better.

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Example: Orbit Gum

If youve ever seen a warning on a pack of gum and wondered, What the?, youre not alone. Phenylalanine is an ingredient in many artificial sweeteners, including Equal and NutraSweet. In rare cases, including people with the genetic metabolic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU), phenylalanine can be a serious concern.

The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding phenylalanine if you take medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, neuroleptics, or medications that contain levodopa; have tardive dyskinesia; have a sleep disorder; anxiety disorder; or other mental health condition. Umpass.

According to, phenylalanine is found in more than 6,000 products in the form of aspartame, including cough drops, soft drinks, gelatin, yogurt, and most notably, Diet Coke.

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Acetic Acid

Example: Nabisco 100-Calorie Ritz Snacks Mix

Acetic acid is the pungent chemical that gives vinegar its odor and sour taste. The food industry uses acetic acid as an acidity regulator. Weirdly, the same chemical is also used to produce polymers for products like soda bottles, photographic film, and wood glue. No wonder diet food is often described as having a strange consistency!

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Xanthan Gum

Example: Planters Trail Mix Alaskan Wilderness Blend

Xanthan gum is a ubiquitous food additive that can be found in everything from ice cream to cold cuts. It is actually a sugar, usually derived from corn, which can act as a thickener or stabilizer. Some people may experience gastrointestinal distress (read: upset tummy) from ingesting too much xanthan gum. So, you know, just dont go on any trail mix binges or anything.

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Chicory Root Extract

Example: Fiber One 90-Calorie Chewy Bar

Not so much a chemical as a, What the heck is that and why is it in my Fiber One bar? Chicory root, also known as inulin, has become a go-to for food manufacturers looking for a taste-free way to include extra fiber in their products. It has a creamy mouthfeel that imitates fat, which makes a perfect addition to low-fat, high-fiber products.

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Example: Hidden Valley Light Ranch Dressing

OK, it's not really one of your favorite snacks, but many mothers get kids to eat veggies they don't want by letting them slather on some ranch dressing, right? Carrots and ranch yum yum. What mom didn't tell you was that you were getting a little sea plant-life in the dressing as well. A derivative of seaweed, carageenan is another thickening agent, similar to xanthan gum. It contributes to ranch dressings characteristic thick, creamy texture. Now you know.

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Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate

Example: Twix Bars

Commonly know as PGPR, this additivehelps chocolate coat more thinly and smoothly on some of your favorite chocolatetreats. By taking out naturally occurring cocoa fat and replacing it with this slimy yellow goo, it becomes easier to manipulate chocolate. PGPR doesn't seem to carry any known health risks, but replacing naturally occurring fats with synthetic material can lead to deterioration of quality and taste.

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Modified Food Starch

Example: Gogurt Burstin' Melon Berry

Modifiedfood starch is pretty muchwhat it sounds like. Abase starch such as rice, corn, wheat, potato, or tapioca is modified with another starch to enhance itsproperties, such as thickening agents, consistency, texture, and shelf life.Gogurt is a low-fat yogurt, and a company spokesperson explained that modified food starch is used to thicken theyogurt in lieu of fat.

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What's Really in Your Favorite Snacks? Slideshow