Butter Flavored Popcorn Linked to Lung Disease
Artificial butter-flavor lovers beware — studies show that the artificial butter flavor, diacetyl, can cause lung diseases, including a life-threatening disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly called “popcorn lung.” This disease was first noticed in workers who manufactured microwave popcorn. Many who developed this serious lung disease were put on a list to receive lung transplants while others actually died from it. Dr. Micheal Greger mentions in the video below that the "industry knew about the dangers for decades, but covered it up. Even when workers started dying, they swore the chemical was safe for consumers, and that it was only an occupational health hazard."
Diacetyl is produced naturally as a byproduct of fermentation in products like beer/wine, butter, and vinegar. The synthetic form produces a highly-palatable butter flavor and aroma. Manufacturers use heavily-concentrated levels in food products such as microwave and movie theater popcorn as well as processed products like margarine, butter-flavored oil sprays, snack foods, chocolate/candy, yogurt/cheese, and baked goods. Microwaving butter-flavored popcorn disperses this compound into the vapor which can then be breathed into the lungs. Some microwave popcorn manufacturers have removed this flavoring from their product, although it is still legal and being used in many processed foods in the United States. This ubiquitous butter-flavoring agent has also been found to "influence several aspects of amyloid-β (Aβ) aggregation—one of the two primary pathologies associated with Alzheimer's disease."
Although manufacturers may add diacetyl to their processed food products, it may not necessarily be listed as an ingredient and would most likely be considered an "artificial flavoring." Artificial flavorings and additives can be avoided by eating foods that aren't sold in a package or have a label. As Dr. Michael Klaper likes to say "Eat food as grown!" In other words, choose food items that are as close as possible to how they are found growing in nature. This offers us the best protection from harmful ingredients that can be potentially hazardous to our family's health. For more information concerning food additives, see Dr. Greger's video, Who Determines if Food Additives are Safe? and the Environmental Working Group's website (EWG).