Microwave Popcorn: Elevated Glucose Levels, Inflammation, and Destroyed Lung Tissue

Many people eat popcorn because it’s touted as a healthy, low-fat, high-fiber food. While it’s true that it has a relatively low glycemic load due to its low density, don’t get excited about popcorn. And microwave popcorn is the worst.

In addition to the potential for causing unfavorable blood glucose levels, corn is an inflammatory substance that you should avoid or eat only in great moderation. In addition, if you have concerns over genetically modified foods, you probably want to be even more careful about corn, as nearly 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.[1]

Microwave popcorn is especially inflammatory, due to the presence of omega-6 fats like the partially hydrogenated soybean oils used in processing. (Remember, vegetable oils are a common ingredient in microwave popcorn and even though the label on your popcorn says zero grams of trans fats, each serving can contain as much as 0.49 grams of trans fats and the manufacturer is allowed to round 0.49 grams down to 0 grams on the nutrition label.)

Worse yet, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in the microwave-absorbing interior of popcorn bags increases microwave popcorn’s toxicity. PFOA, a chemical similar to Teflon, has been associated with birth defects, increased cancer rates, liver damage, and immune system damage. Microwave popcorn manufacturers have promised to remove PFOA by 2014, but it’s still in nearly every microwave popcorn bag available in the market today.

In addition, the artificial butter flavoring in many brands of popcorn used to contain diacetyl, a dangerous chemical that was blamed for causing illness and death in a number of popcorn manufacturing employees and consumers.[2] The diacetyl, when vaporized and inhaled destroys the small airways of the lung, a medical condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans, which is Latin for “Dude! Where are your lungs?”

When evidence of this disease became known, popcorn manufacturers replaced the diacetyl with “new, safer butter substitutes.” Unfortunately, these “new, safer butter substitutes” appear to be no safer than the deadly diacetyl they replaced. According to the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, the diacetyl substitutes are actually just another form of diacetyl.[3]

In a letter to OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that the diacetyl substitutes are in some cases at least as toxic as those that they are replacing. This is confirmed by Dr. Daniel Morgan of the Respiratory Toxicology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Morgan reports that one of the primary components of the butter substitute, 2,3-pentanedione, “caused the same injuries in test animals as diacetyl, and our preliminary data indicates that the toxicity is close to identical.”[4]

The solution is simple: If you absolutely insist on eating popcorn, avoid microwave popcorn like the plague. The best way to make popcorn? First, pop organic popcorn in coconut oil. Then drizzle melted butter on it. Toss it with some finely grated parmesan cheese and then sprinkle it with some powdered jalapeno or cayenne pepper.

Now that’s popcorn.

Trust me, it’s far healthier than that toxic, fake butter-flavored, diacetyl-laden, perfluorooctanoic acid-enriched microwave garbage that most people think is popcorn.

8/12/2012 Follow-up: A news article today announces that diacetyl, the “buttery flavor” in popcorn, has now been linked to Alzheimer’s, due to its tendency to increase the clumping of beta-amyloid proteins, the proteins that form plaque in the brain.


[1]88% of corn grown in the U.S. in 2011 was genetically engineered.http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/ExtentofAdoptionTable1.htm

[2]Exactly what is wrong with using real butter on popcorn? Oh, yeah. I remember. Fat is bad.

[3]John Hallagan, general counsel for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association. (I’m still stunned that a lawyer for the food additives trade organization would even admit this.)

[4]The Food Watchdog; December 16, 2009


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