Dr. Mehmet Oz revealed the health dangers of microwave popcorn and disturbing news about "popcorn lung" on the May 1 episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dr. Oz said toxic chemicals in the bag liners and the flavoring used in microwave popcorn can cause lung disease and cancer.
Dr. Oz's guest was pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green. Dr. Greene said popcorn is a great snack because it's high in fiber and antioxidants and low in calories, but some microwave versions have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, infertility, high cholesterol, and kidney disease.
A chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, is used to line the bags of most microwave popcorn varieties. PFOA gives the inside of popcorn bags a non-stick surface, but when it gets inside our bodies, it causes a toxic buildup that we can't get rid of.
PFOA is the same toxic chemical used in Teflon pans and pots. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified PFOA as a carcinogen.
Diacetyl Causes Popcorn Lung
The other danger in microwave popcorn is the chemical diacetyl, the artificial flavoring that gives microwave popcorn its buttery smell and taste. Unfortunately, diacetyl can cause serious lung disease. "Popcorn lung" has been observed in factory workers employed by plants that manufacture microwave popcorn.
Popcorn lung can occur in anyone who eats an average of two bags of microwave popcorn a day or who repeatedly inhales the toxic fumes emitted by diacetyl. Diacetyl basically scars the lungs and causes holes in them, eventually leading to potentially fatal breathing problems.
In 2012, a jury awarded $7.2 million to Wayne Watson, a Colorado man who ate two bags of popcorn every day for 10 years, and developed "popcorn lung." Watson was diagnosed with the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans in 2007, which caused a 60% blockage of his lung's airways. Bronchiolitis obliterans (or popcorn lung) is irreversible.
Trans Fats Clog Arteries
Finally, Dr. Oz said a third health danger in microwave popcorn are the trans fats used to keep the oils from spoiling. Trans fats, which are found in partially hydrogenated oils, have been proven to clog arteries.
In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration moved to ban trans fats from all processed foods after determining that trans fats are not safe, have no health benefit, and shouldn't be consumed even in small amounts. Dr. Oz said the best way to minimize your risk of popcorn lung is to never inhale the fumes emitted by microwave popcorn and to eat less of it.
If you buy microwave popcorn, make sure you look for brands that are organic, non-GMO, and don't contain trans fats or diacetyl, such as the following: