Ever noticed how the guy at work who's always making the microwave popcorn is a little slow? Like, he always burns it? It could be no coincidence.

Recent research has found that a common food ingredient used to create the butter smell and flavoring in microwaveable popcorn may be linked to Alzheimer's disease, UPI reports. Diacetyl also is used in margarine, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods, beer and chardonnay.

According to the research by scientists at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota, those with the highest levels of exposure to the chemical could be at an increased risk for Alzheimer's. The findings appear in the current edition of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Lead researcher Robert Vince and his colleagues examined the structure of diacetyl and found it was similar to chemicals that cause beta-amyloid proteins to clump in the brain. Such clumping is the hallmark of Alzheimer's.

The study found that not only did diacetyl increase the level of beta-amyloid clumping but it also enhanced beta-amyloid's toxic effects on nerve cells.

“In light of the chronic exposure of industry workers to diacetyl, this study raises the troubling possibility of long-term neurological toxicity mediated by diacetyl,” the scientists said in a statement. Diacetyl previously has been linked to respiratory and other problems in workers at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories.

But maybe if you drink enough coffee with your microwave popcorn, it will counteract the chemical-butter effect?

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