Compound in microwave popcorn linked to Alzheimer’s

The ingestion of diacetyl, a compound contained in foods such as microwave popcorn and responsible for giving the food its aroma and buttery taste, has been the focus of investigations. Research by the São Carlos Institute of Chemistry (IQSC) at USP brings new evidence that, in excess, it could be harmful to health – at least for rats and in prolonged use. In the study, scientists identified proteins associated with Alzheimer’s in the brains of mice that consumed the compound for 90 days in a row.

Widely used in the most varied branches of industry, diacetyl has gained prominence in the food sector, mainly for its use as a preservative and flavoring (a substance that gives flavor and aroma). It can be found naturally in the composition of coffees, beers, chocolates, milks and yogurts, diacetyl is used in microwave popcorn as an additive, in higher concentrations. Despite its consumption being approved by regulatory agencies, prolonged exposure to the product could be harmful to health and, as it is present in the daily life of the population, different studies seek to understand the influence of the compound on living organisms and how it can alter biological functions.

The study was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp) and the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes).

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