Butter-flavored popcorn’s harmful ingredient

By • Published: November 16th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Popcorn is one of the world’s most popular snack foods. In fact, Americans consume 16 billion quarts of the popped treat every year at movie theaters, ballparks and in their homes.

But now, a new study warns that a chemical that puts the buttery oomph in microwave popcorn may also cause Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Minnesota researchers discovered that the chemical, called diacetyl (die-uh-SEE-tull), may cause brain proteins to morph into dangerous beta amyloid, the clumped proteins that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Diacetyl is used to create the flavor and appearance of butter in popcorn and is found in many other food products. Even though diacetyl can be found naturally in some alcoholic beverages, researchers say the synthetic version is potentially very harmful.

Scientists say diacetyl also crosses the blood-brain barrier, which can inhibit the brain’s ability to clear away excess amyloid proteins. Buildup of these proteins in the body can affect your organs and has been associated with certain diseases.

Previous studies have also linked the artificial flavorant to lung damage in people who worked in factories that make food flavoring and microwave popcorn. Because of these risks, some popcorn manufacturers already axed the buttery chemical from their formulas.

But it is not all bad news for popcorn. Recently, another team of researchers called the fluffy, white treat the perfect snack food because it contains higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables.

So, the next time you have a hankering for a buttery bite of fluffy popcorn, just remember, you may want to consider eating the snack au naturale. You could be doing your brain a big favor.