The Dangers of Microwave Popcorn

dietIf you think back to the last time that you watched a movie, chances are that you reached for a handful or two of butter-flavored popcorn and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, next time you may want to reach for a healthy food snack instead once you learn that the compound that gives popcorn that buttery flavor and aroma, diacetyl, may be unhealthy for your brain.  New research from the University of Minnesota published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology found that diacetyl can worsen the damaging effects of a protein in the brain that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic, progressive deteriorating brain disease and that is ultimately fatal.

Not Exactly a Healthy Food


Previous research had already found that diacetyl was linked to respiratory problems as well as other health conditions in employees working in popcorn and food-flavoring factories.  The researchers noted that diacetyl has a structure that is very similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump in brain. The beta-amyloid protein clumping is a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s disease. They investigated if diacetyl could cause clumping of these proteins. They found that diacetyl did increase the amount of beta-amyloid clumping.  Furthermore, they also found that diacetyl also increased the toxicity of beta-amyloid protein on nerve cells that they were growing in the laboratory.  This increased toxicity was seen with real-life exposure levels, similar to the levels factories workers would be exposed to.  They also found that the protective protein, glyoxalase l was also halted by diacetyl.  Another key feature that the researchers found was that diacetyl was able to cross the blood-brain barrier.  This barrier is responsible for protecting the brain from harmful substances.  If diacetyl is able to cross the barrier, it means that more damage can be done to the brain by this toxic substance. The researchers note that the findings from this research suggest that there is a possibility of long-term neurological toxicity in workers that are exposed to diacetyl for extended periods of time.

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This study showed that there is an associated between diacetyl exposure and harmful brain processes; however it did not show a cause and effect relationship.  Future research should look at determining what the relationship is and if limited exposure and consumption of diacetyl in the diet has the same negative effect on the brain.  To be on the safe side, limiting products that contain diacetyl from you diet may help you achieve good health and protect your brain.  Products that are commonly found in your diet that contain diacetyl include: margarines, snack foods, baked goods, and candy.  If you’re unsure if the product contains diacetyl, be sure to check the label.

Since diacetyl is found in a lot of junk food, think about substituting junk food for healthy food as part of your normal diet for good health.  Eating a diet that is rich in healthy food options will help to ensure optimal good health benefits.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy diet should focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low fat milk products.  Also, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts should be included in your diet in moderation.  Ensuring that your diet is low in cholesterol, fats, salt and added sugar will also help you to achieve good health benefits.

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