What's In That Microwave Popcorn? And Can It Be Good For Us?


What\'s In That Microwave Popcorn? And Can It Be Good For Us?

A new study links the chemical used to create the butter flavour in microwave popcorn to an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

You might want to chuck the microwave popcorn and opt for the pop-it-from-scratch variety for your next movie night. Scientists have just reported a link between the chemical used to create the buttery flavour of microwave popcorn and Alzheimer’s disease.

Flavouring agent linked to Alzheimer’s

In a study recently published online in the Chemical Research in Toxicology journal, scientists at the University of Minnesota found that the butter-flavouring agent, diacetyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of a brain protein—beta-amyloid—linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Beta-amyloid proteins

In the laboratory study, scientists found that DA increased the level at which beta-amyloid proteins clumped together. This clumping is one of the major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. They also reported that DA “enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory” and that “DA easily penetrated the … blood-brain barrier that keeps harmful substances from entering the brain.”

DA replacement harmful too

Some major companies, including ConAgra foods—manufacturers of Orville Redenbacher’s and Act II popcorn brands—have replaced DA in their formulations because of its well-documented links to a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans in their factory workers. As scientists study its replacement (2,3-pentanedione), however, they are finding similar problems.

Forget the microwave—pop your own

Pity the factory workers. But we can certainly make a choice to avoid these dubious—and possibly deadly—chemical flavouring agents. What could be better than a bowlful of naturally popped and flavoured popcorn?

Start with organic popcorn kernels and a hot air popper. Then add some adventure:

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • flaxseed oil
  • vinegar
  • nutritional yeast flakes
  • fresh minced herbs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoning
  • cinnamon
  • minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • honey
  • maple syrup

If you love pizza and/or chocolate, you’ll love these delicious—and super healthy—popcorn recipes:

  • EFA Popcorn
  • Festive Pizza Popcorn
  • Dark Chocolate Popcorn


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