Butter-flavored Alzheimer’s.

ScienceBlogs pours it on with research that links a popular artificial butter flavor with one of the brain-destroying processes of Alzheimer’s disease:

It found evidence that the ingredient, diacetyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Robert Vince and colleagues Swati More and Ashish Vartak explain that DA has been the focus of much research recently because it is linked to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories.

Vince’s team realized that DA has an architecture similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain — clumping being a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. So they tested whether DA also could clump those proteins.

DA did increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping. At real-world occupational exposure levels, DA also enhanced beta-amyloid’s toxic effects on nerve cells growing in the laboratory.

The stuff also passes the blood-brain barrier easily and “switches off” some of the chemicals that protect brain cells.

So maybe pass on the microwave popcorn tonight, yeah?