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5 Reasons to avoid microwave popcorn

Are you a microwave popcorn addict? Many people love the salty, butter-like taste. Some even rely on popcorn as a diet aid. But here are just 5 reasons why microwave popcorn is a bad choice.

Is your popcorn fresh?
Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

1. Popcorn Lung Disease

The artificial butter flavoring contained in most microwave popcorn can cause irreversible lung damage. The offending chemical is called diacetyl.

It can cause bronchiolitis obliterans. That’s a condition where small airways (bronchioles) become obliterated. It’s the same kind of lung damage soldiers suffered in World War I from poison gas.

The dangers of diacetyl were first discovered in popcorn factory workers who inhaled it on the job. Manufacturers claimed it was only an occupational hazard and posed no threat to consumers. Not so.

Recently researchers from Brown University documented three cases of bronchiolitis obliterans in microwave popcorn lovers:

  • A 47-year-old woman consumed three to five bags a day. Now she can’t walk without getting out of breath and needs a lung transplant.
  • A 56-year-old man started coughing up blood after eating two to three bags a day.
  • Another woman ate one to two bags a day. Her lungs show severe scarring called “honeycombing” and patches with the appearance of ground glass.

2. Alzheimer’s Disease

Another study from the University of Minnesota found diacetyl can pass through the blood-brain barrier and weaken the brain’s defenses against the formation of amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients.

Despite complaints to the FDA microwave popcorn containing diacetyl is still on the store shelves. The flavoring may also be in other snack foods, baked goods, pet foods, and fast foods.

3. Pesticides and GMOs

About 86% of the corn in the United States is a genetically modified organism (GMO). The GMO corn contains a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The so-called Bt-corn produces Bt-toxin, a pesticide. Bt-toxin breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.

The EPA, Monsanto, and other biotech companies claim Bt-toxin does not have the same effect on the intestinal tracts of mammals, including humans. Human studies are needed.

But a Canadian study found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93% of pregnant women tested, 80% of the umbilical cord blood of their babies, and 67% of non-pregnant women. Animal studies in Italy show that Bt-toxin increases the body’s immune, allergic and inflammatory responses.


Most microwave popcorn bags are lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to keep grease from leaking out. When the bags are heated, they leach PFOA into the popcorn. PFOA is an endocrine disruptor. It’s been linked to infertility, thyroid disease, cancer, and immune system problems.


Some microwave popcorn brands contain a preservative called TBHQ. It stands for “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.” Right away you know it’s not natural.

TBHQ is a chemical made from the toxic gas butane. Studies show eating just 1 gram may cause ADHD in children, asthma, allergies, dermatitis, and dizziness. It’s been associated with stomach cancer in laboratory animals.

What’s a popcorn lover to do? Make your own.

Place coconut oil or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add corn kernels. Cover pot. When the popping slows to one or two pops every few seconds, you're all done. Add your own natural seasonings like grass-fed, raw butter and Himalayan pink sea salt for a natural popcorn snack without all the artificial chemicals.

And make sure your popcorn kernels are organic and non-GMO. If they’re not in your grocery store, you can find organic popcorn kernels online at

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