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Issue 197: Pop! Goes Your Brain

Oh, the Pressure!

Who doesn’t enjoy snacks? They’re enjoyable and satisfying—but you need to choose your snacks wisely, watching out for additives, excess sugar and high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy fats and carbs—and even chemicalized butter flavor.

That’s right. It’s called diacetyl, and it’s a synthetic-made chemical used by food companies that gives foods and snacks their buttery flavor and smell. In the past, it’s been cited in microwave popcorn. Interestingly, many of the companies who make microwave popcorn have stopped using diacetyl because it’s been linked to lung damage in workers at their manufacturing facilities.

A University of Minnesota study, however, indicates that diacetyl not only is a risk factor in workers’ lung damage, but that it may also have unhealthy effects on the brain. The researchers found that diacetyl can pass through the blood-brain barrier which, of course, is there to help keep toxins such as diacetyl out of the brain. Likewise, diacetyl can cause brain proteins to “misfold” into what’s known as the Alzheimer’s-linked kind called beta amyloid.

That’s not all, though. Diacetyl also impedes natural defense mechanisms which get rid of the dangerous beta amyloid from your brain. And while it’s not confirmed that eating these diacetyl-packed foods or snacks actually increase a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s, it’s unsettling, to say the least, that diacetyl—at relatively low concentrations— can contribute to brain plaques that are linked to Alzheimer’s.

As mentioned, microwave popcorn is not the only contributor. Certain processed snack foods, baked goods, some fast foods and other food products as well as some pet foods contain diacetyl.

While some microwave popcorn companies and other food companies manufacturing conventional, processed foods have put a hold on diacetyl, don’t think that you’re out of the woods yet. Many of those who’ve stopped using diacetyl in their manufacturing processes have simply replaced it with another chemical ingredient named 2,3-pentanedione (PD), which also gives a buttery flavor and scent.

PD has its share of problems, too, though. It can be toxic to the respiratory system as well. What’s more is that, in tested rats, it altered the gene expression of their brains, leading to neurotoxicity.

Then there are the chemicals used to keep grease and oils from leaking through food wrappers. They’re called perfluoroalkyls, or PFCs, and they can make their way into the food and into your body, where they can mess with your endocrine system and adversely affect your sex hormones. In fact, PFCs have been linked to infertility, thyroid disease, cancer, immune system problems and other unhealthy outcomes.

In short, when it comes to snacks and other foods, avoid all the bad stuff associated with conventional, processed foods—including these chemicals and others that can adversely affect your brain and more

The bottom line? Keep your snacking pure and simple.



This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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