A new study has linked an artificial butter flavoring to a key Alzheimer's disease process. The researchers found evidence that the ingredient, diacetyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer's disease. The study appears here
in ACS' journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
The researchers say the finding raises concern about chronic exposure of workers in industry to a food flavoring ingredient used to produce the distinctive buttery flavor and aroma of microwave popcorn, margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products. It should also raise concerns about consuming these foods.
Robert Vince and colleagues Swati More and Ashish Vartak explain that DA has been the focus of much research recently because it is linked to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories. Diacetyl gives microwave popcorn its distinctive buttery taste and aroma. DA also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer, and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste. Vince's team realized that DA has an architecture similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain. This clumping is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. So they tested whether DA also could clump those proteins.
The found that diacetyl did increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping. At real-world occupational exposure levels, the researchers say DA also enhanced beta-amyloid's toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory. Through other experiments the researchers also found that DA easily penetrated the blood-brain barrier, which keeps many harmful substances from entering the brain. DA also stopped a protective protein called glyoxalase I from safeguarding nerve cells.
The researchers say, "In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to DA, this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by DA."
This is yet another reason to avoid microwave popcorn. Microwaved popcorn has been linked
to lung harm. The perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) released when bags of microwave popcorn are heated have also found
to leave vaccinated children more vulnerable to disease. Scientists say popcorn is the perfect snake food, but you need to make your popcorn with an air popcorn popper and avoid the microwave bags.