A common food ingredient called diacetyl, which is used to create the butter smell and flavoring found in microwaveable popcorn and other foods, may be linked to Alzheimer's disease, a new study from researchers at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota shows.
Lead researcher Robert Vince and his colleagues examined the structure of diacetyl and found it was similar to chemicals that cause beta-amyloid proteins to clump together in the brain. Clumping of beta-amyloid proteins is a signature symptom of Alzheimer's.
The chemical is used widely in microwave popcorn, margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products. Diacetyl also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste.
According to the research, those with the highest levels of exposure to the chemical could be at an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.
"In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to diacetyl, this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by diacetyl," the researchers said in a statement.
Their findings appear in the current edition of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
by RTT Staff Writer
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