Scientists Say Ingredient Common In Microwave Popcorn Could Be Linked To Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s has proved a mysterious disease for researchers who have been trying to pinpoint what can cause it, and how it can be deterred. Researchers now think they’ve got another insight into what could cause Alzheimer’s after studying an ingredient called diacetyl, a flavoring often used to make microwave popcorn smell and test buttery.

Researchers at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota were looking into diacetyl because it’s been linked to health problems in workers at microwave popcorn factories as well as other places where the flavoring is used in food, says UPI.com. The stuff is also used inmargarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products such as beer or some chardonnay wine, the researchers said.

After studying diacetyl, the researchers found that it’s very close in structure to a substance that makes certain proteins clump together in the brain, which is one of the signs of Alzheimer’s in patients. The study showed that diacetyl can up the amount of that clumping, and also made the protein’s effects more toxic on nerve cells that were grown in a lab.

While you likely don’t need to swear off microwave popcorn forever, researchers seem concerned with this diacetyl, as they found it is pretty wily at eluding barriers the brain has set up to prevent harmful substances from entering it.

“In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to diacetyl, this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by diacetyl,” the researchers said in a statement.

Popcorn ingredient linked to Alzheimer’s [UPI.com]