Saturday, February 4, 2017

Don't Eat That Popcorn Until You've Read This

Popcorn is an all American traditional snack. Everyone loves the sound of popcorn popping away; anticipating its salty buttery savoriness, as its aroma fills the kitchen on movie night. That aroma teasing your nose may smell appetizing, but may not be so good for your health.

What you are smelling is a chemical called diacetyl; a artificial butter flavoring. Because of its distinctive buttery flavor and aroma, diacetyl is used in food production for snack foods, baking mixes, margarine and other vegetable oil-based cooking products. Diacetyl is an organic chemical compound that can occur naturally in small amounts in nature and during fermentation of alcohols, or traditional dairy products. So there's not a great risk of consuming it in that fashion. However, industrial production of diacetyl requires a number of chemical reactions to produce.

When diacetyl is heated it evaporates releasing harmful fumes into the air. According to a study by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, factory workers in plants producing microwave popcorn developed obstructive lung disease or scar tissue on the lungs from inhaling the fumes of diacetyl over time. Use of butter flavored oil, sprays, and spreads in restaurant kitchens puts workers at risk of overexposure; comparable to factory workers.

Another recent 2016 study published in the Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine journal found biopsy-proven cases of bronchiolitis obliterans in heavy consumers of microwave popcorn. A condition causing fibrosis of lung tissue.

Some brands of microwave popcorn advertise on their labels that they don't use diacetyl. Though, that maybe true that still doesn't mean it's safe. That just means they're substituting diacetyl for another artificial butter flavor which is usually just as bad as diacetyl. Acetylpropionyl for example, is the common substitute for diacetyl; also known as 2,3-pentanedione. This chemical is also used in paint and pesticides, but conveniently has a buttery cheesy flavor.

According to the (NIOSH) , inhalation of acetylpropionyl causes respiratory tract damage and scarring of the lungs as well. It also has mutagenic effects on the brain.

Diacetyl and its substitute acetylpropionyl are not the only health risks in a bag of microwave popcorn. The next problem is the bag itself. Microwave popcorn bags are lined with a synthetic chemical compound called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This prevents oils from the popcorn from over saturating the bag and popcorn from sticking. When heated in the microwave this chemical leeches into your popcorn and also releases harmful fumes into the environment.

(PFOA) is a known carcinogen and hormone disrupting chemical. According to a 2012  study conducted at Emory University, (PFOA) is linked to tumors of the liver, pancreas, and testicles. People with higher exposure were found to be at higher risk of dying of mesothelioma, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes. Multiple other studies have linked (PFOA) to infertility and degradation of semen. Even ADHD in children and reduced puberty, or increased maturation in young girls.

Microwaved popcorn isn't the only problem either. Self-contained stove-top popping pan popcorn also uses artificial butter flavor. If you pop your kernels in a pot you're safe as long as you don't use the artificial liquid butter oil. You'll be defeating the purpose of not using the microwavable bag. One way to minimize the risk of inhaling harmful fumes is to use real butter or apply your butter substitute after the popcorn has finished to avoid as much heat as possible.

Remember just because it smells good doesn't mean it's good for you. A bottle of Fabuloso looks refreshing on a hot summer day, but you know what is. Knowledge is power. Thanks for reading and don't forget to share.

Listen To This Article Instead


Update On Flavoring-Induced Lung Disease Holden, Van K.; Hines, Stella E. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: OBSTRUCTIVE, OCCUPATIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL DISEASES

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) FLAVORINGS-RELATED LUNG DISEASE

Cohort Mortality Study of Workers Exposed to Perfluorooctanoic Acid: Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Maternal levels of perfluorinated chemicals and subfecundity.
Fei C1, McLaughlin JK, Lipworth L, Olsen J.

Do perfluoroalkyl compounds impair human semen quality?
Joensen UN1, Bossi R, Leffers H, Jensen AA, Skakkebaek NE, Jørgensen N.
University Department of Growth and Reproduction

Exposure to polyfluoroalkyl chemicals and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in U.S. children 12-15 years of age.
Hoffman K1, Webster TF, Weisskopf MG, Weinberg J, Vieira VM.
Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health

Patterns of age of puberty among children in the Mid-Ohio Valley in relation to
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS)
The C8 Science Panel (Tony Fletcher, Kyle Steenland, David Savitz)