Zero calories – at what cost?
Some of my calorie-counting friends look at me like I’m crazy when I spread a little butter on a grilled ear of corn or dab a little in the pan before sautéing some squash. They would rather reach for their “zero calorie” sprays than let a bit of fat pass their lips.
To which I’ve always said, “Gross.” I mean, have you looked at the ingredient list on the back of a bottle of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter?
But there’s another adjective I can add: dangerous.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota recently found that chronic exposure to a key ingredient in fake butter may actually worsen the effects of a protein linked to Alzheimer’s.
It appears that the chemical, called diacetyl, increases the amount of clumping of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. Such clumping is a major feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Diacetyl also worsened the harmful effects of the proteins on nerve cells grown in a lab.
Other experiments have shown that the chemical is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is supposed to keep dangerous substances out of the brain. Oh, and it also looks like it prevents a beneficial protein from doing its job of protecting nerve cells.
The focus of the recent study was on factory workers who are exposed to the chemical day in and day out. But I know some people who go through bottles of the stuff like water. And that’s just the spray butter. Diacetyl also gives a buttery taste and smell to spread margarine, snack foods, candy, baked goods, and other products.
Long-time e-Tips readers are probably thinking this stuff sounds familiar. Well, that’s for good reason. Back in 2007, we told you about diacetyl-induced “popcorn lung.” Sure, it might sound like a Halloween recipe. But it’s actually a terrible condition that brings about deteriorated lung function. When that news broke, food giant Kraft’s response was to launch a toasted butter flavored popcorn, claiming that “to some customers diacetyl is not an issue.”
Well, it should be. The only reason it isn’t is that people just don’t know about the dangers. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that “low fat,” “low calorie,” and “zero calorie” are code for healthy. These companies throw in harmful food additives to make up for flavor loss and to keep things stable on the shelf, and they just assume we’re none the wiser.
It’s time we woke up. I will always choose a small amount of organic butter over a spray laden with ingredients I can’t even pronounce. Of course, olive oil has replaced butter in much of my cooking. (Drizzle it on some air-popped popcorn and you’ll never go back to the bagged stuff.) But sometimes butter offers something olive oil can’t. I just have to be smart about it.
When it comes down to it, it’s really all about moderation and choosing REAL FOOD over this fake stuff.
P.S. We’ve become so obsessed with calorie counting and convenience that we’re willing to reach for boxed “meals” that do nothing to nourish us. It’s time to get back to real meals that feed our bodies. It’s time to unleash the power of food. Click here to learn more.
“Chronic ‘Butter Flavoring’ Exposure Linked to Harmful Brain Process,” Healthday (healthday.com)