Artificial butter flavoring ingredient linked to key Alzheimer’s disease process


August 1, 2012
Brain & Behavior, Health

A new study raises concern about chronic exposure of workers in industry to a food flavoring ingredient used to produce the distinctive buttery flavor and aroma of microwave popcorn, margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products. It found evidence that the ingredient, diacetyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The study appears in ACS’ journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Artificial butter flavoring ingredient linked to key Alzheimers disease processRobert Vince and colleagues Swati More and Ashish Vartak explain that DA has been the focus of much research recently because it is linked to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories. DA gives microwave popcorn its distinctive buttery taste and aroma. DA also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer, and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste. Vince’s team realized that DA has an architecture similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain — clumping being a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. So they tested whether DA also could clump those proteins.

DA did increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping. At real-world occupational exposure levels, DA also enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory. Other lab experiments showed that DA easily penetrated the so-called “blood-brain barrier,” which keeps many harmful substances from entering the brain. DA also stopped a protective protein called glyoxalase I from safeguarding nerve cells. “In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to DA, this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by DA,” say the researchers.


29 Responses to Artificial butter flavoring ingredient linked to key Alzheimer’s disease process

  1. Natural Personal Lubricant September 15, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    My partner and I stumbled over here from a different web address and thought I might as well check things out.
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  2. Popcorn Lover August 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    agree, i eat many bags of pop corn with no mentil preblems.

  3. Nick August 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    It contains no*

  4. Nick August 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

    Yes, it is stated specifically on the box that it contains to diacetyl compounds

  5. MonkeeRench August 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    Are you very certain? A plethora of unknowns can be under the label “natural and artificial flavors” Diacetyl, like monosodium glutamate, can be interpreted to be “natural.”

  6. Nick August 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    The ironic part is that there is no diacetyl in the pictured product (Orville Redenbacher’s).

  7. ggg August 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Thanks! But, I was looking for the actual, scientific publication, itself. Found it at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22731744/

  8. ggg August 2, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    There is also several factual misstatements by the author of this Science blog article. Notably, “At real-world occupational exposure levels, DA also enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory.” SH-SY5Y cells (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SH-SY5Y) are not neurons or “nerve cells” grown in culture. That would be dissociated neuronal culture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultured_neuronal_network), which the authors did not use.

  9. ggg August 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    For those who would like to review the results of the paper being referenced by this article you can find it at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22731744/

    The evidence seems suggestive at best, and frankly a little dubious given all the experiments were done in vitro. No Alzheimer’s disease animal models were used.

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