Artificial Butter Flavor May Increase Risk of Alzheimer's Disease


New research published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology suggests a connection exists between an ingredient used in artificial butter flavor and an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s, the degenerative disease that currently affects more than 5.4 million Americans.

The study, entitled “The Butter Flavorant, Diacetyl, Exacerbates Beta-Amyloid Cytotoxicity” was conducted by researchers at the Univeristy of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design and found that diacetyl (DA), which is the common ingredient in artificial butter flavoring, influences the damaging effects of beta-amyloid protein clumping that is connected with Alzheimer’s. One of the signature symptoms of Alzheimer’s is the visible clumping of beta-amyloid proteins. The researchers discovered that diacetyl is structurally very similar to the substances that cause the beta-amyloid proteins to clump together, and at risk of increasing the possibility of  developing Alzheimer’s.

The study comes after research in the Netherlands found a strong connection between cases of a lung disorder, bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, and food factory workers who were regularly exposed to diacetyl, inhaling the substance in large doses. Further studies have also reaffirmed the connection to the lung disorder.

Diacetyl (DA) is found in a number of processed food products including margarine, cooking sprays, microwave popcorn and other snack foods.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease currently affects one in eight older Americans and is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death. It is the only disease among the nation’s top ten leading causes of death that has no known effective preventative measures, no cures or effective treatments in slowing the advancement of the disease.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: o5com

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.