Could microwave popcorn cause Alzheimer’s?

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I’m a big fan of microwave popcorn so I was disheartened to see dozens of headlines in the past couple weeks that imply the butter flavoring in popcorn could be related to Alzheimer’s. I took a closer look at the information and here’s the rundown:

The claim

Diacetyl, a substance used in butter flavoring, increases beta-amyloid clumping in test tube experiments. It also enhances beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells grown in the laboratory. Beta-amyloid is an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The methodology

The research was conducted in cell culture, basically in a test tube.

Beyond the headline

Despite the news headlines about this study, diacetyl is no longer used in the popcorn industry! This is because substance was previously shown to have negative respiratory health effects on popcorn factory workers. In addition, while these results were achieved in a test tube, the same findings may not be true inside a person’s brain.

The bottom line

While popcorn lovers probably won’t be exposed to this substance as it’s no longer used in the industry, research on diacetyl could be an interesting new area of research.

For more information on the latest news and developments in Alzheimer’s research, visit

3 Responses

  1. Kathleen Tanglewood says:

    Have there been any studies linking popcorn sans Diacetyl butter flavoring to Alzheimer’s?

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