Movie popcorn has often been criticized for its high calorie count, but now the tasty treat may harm more than just your waistline.
A recent study has found that diacetyl, an ingredient in popcorn responsible for its buttery flavor and smell, may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The scientists said they focused on the substance, because it has already been associated with respiratory and other health issues in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories. According to UPI.com, diacetyl is used in other products such as margarines, snacks and candies, baked goods and in some beers and chardonnay wine.
Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota and the study’s lead author, said diacetyl is similar in structure to another substance that aids the clumping of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain – a significant indicator of Alzheimer’s.
Just like this substance, diacetyl was found to increase the amount of beta-amyloid clumping, UPI.com said. The popcorn ingredient was also able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a defense which prevents harmful substances from entering the brain.
The study was published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Boosting bacteria in drinking water may improve health
Every gallon of purified drinking water is home to hundreds of millions of bacteria. Water treatment facilities try to remove them – but perhaps encouraging some of the microbes to grow could benefit human health.
Lutgarde Raskin of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says that workers at water treatment facilities across the US try to destroy all of the bacteria in drinking water with infusions of chlorine and other disinfectants. But this is nearly impossible to achieve with the current technology.
The present approach also ignores the fact that the drinking water microbiome contains some bacteria that can be beneficial. For instance, nitrates that can contaminate drinking water could be converted by some bacteria into harmless nitrogen gas. Raskin and her team suggest that encouraging the growth of these bacteria in drinking water could actually improve the quality and safety of the product.
Between April and October 2010, the researchers analysed bacterial DNA in drinking water treated at municipal facilities in Ann Arbor. They wanted to work out exactly which bacteria were present, and what factors influenced the abundance of the various components of the bacterial community.
They found that slightly altering the water's pH during the filtration process, or even changing how filters were cleaned, helped good bacteria outcompete more harmful microorganisms for the limited resources in the water.
"It does no good to try to remove bacteria entirely," says Raskin. "We are suggesting that a few simple changes can be made that will give bacteria that are good for human health an edge over harmful competitors."