A buttery food flavouring ingredient found in microwave popcorn could intensify the damaging effects of abnormal brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, a recent study has suggested.
Diacetyl (DA), an artificial food flavouring that gives popcorn and margarine its distinctive butter taste, encourages beta-amyloid proteins in the brain to ‘clump’ together, according to findings published in the Chemical Research in Toxicology journal.
This damaging ‘clumping’ process is a hallmark for Alzheimer’s disease.
Artificial butter flavouring linked to Alzheimer's
Researchers from the American Chemical Society also warned that DA could easily penetrate the so-called ‘blood-brain barrier’, which prevents harmful substances from entering the brain.
Furthermore, the artificial flavouring also stopped a protective protein called Glyoxalase I reaching the brain – a key protein that safeguards 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," researchers said in a statement, reports Science Daily.
What is Diacetyl?
Diacetyl is a natural byproduct of fermentation.The DA chemical also forms naturally in fermented beverages such as beer, and gives some chardonnay wines a buttery taste. Diacetyl, at low level, gives beer or wine a slippery feel. At higher levels one can taste a butterscotch flavour.
However, researchers added that the study focused on factory workers who worked at microwave popcorn and food-flavouring factories, and were therefore more exposed to the chemical.
A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.
Everyday games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.
Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."
Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.
A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that 3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.