Why popcorn from a microwave oven smells so much and what does it say
We were all there. In a situation where popcorn cooked in a microwave oven , the first few minutes have to be almost disgusted, because the smell from it comes, frankly, not the most pleasant. For the sake of justice, it does not seem to everyone. But even if you like the scent, you are unlikely to deny that it is too harsh. Why does popcorn smell that way? And does not this become a problem? Let’s try to understand.
How are popcorn and “cat bear” related?
According to Live Science, in most cases, blame (well, or thank) for the “perfume” of popcorn follows one of several artificial flavors in its composition. A small digression: despite the fact that flavors are usually blamed for the extremely negative impact on health, researchers warn that everything here depends on quantity. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), flavors are dangerous only for workers who inhale them in large quantities in production, but not for people, even if they consume popcorn from a microwave every day.
In this case, the smell of popcorn, although unusual, but still not unique. Binturong – a mammal from Southeast Asia, also known as a cat’s bear – is famous for that it smells like … popcorn from a microwave oven. Are you surprised? And we are not less. A study published in the journal Science of Nature in 2016 showed that Binturong’s urine contains a compound called 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. This substance is formed during the Mayar reaction, which usually occurs between the amino acid and sugar when heated. The same 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline determines the smell of popcorn, mixing, as we have already said, with those or other flavors.
The researchers also found that 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline is one of the few compounds in the urine of animals that will eventually smell stronger, and not vice versa. This, they suggest, can explain why, after cooking popcorn, the microwave oven smells like a few more days.
Popcorn affects lung function: truth or myth
One of the most common aromatic compounds in popcorn is diacetyl. As part of a number of foods, including butter and sour cream , diacetyl appears naturally as a result of fermentation . By the way, it is this simplest representative of diketones that gives them an amazingly creamy and slightly oily taste. To use as a food additive, diacetyl is obtained by removing hydrogen from 2,3-butanediol.
The subject of scientific disputes diacetyl began in the early 2000s, when the results of a study with the participation of eight people working in the production of popcorn for microwave ovens with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseasewere published . Analysis of the data allowed scientists to say that it was diacetyl that was one of the most noticeable pollutants in the air.
On this occasion in 2007, many popcorn producers said that they were gradually able to remove the diacetyl from their products, as the Associated Press immediately wrote. However, a 2016 study published in the journal Toxicologic Pathology showed that replacement chemicals, including 2,3-pentanedione and 2,3-hexanedione, can also cause lung damage. In other words, if the problem was, then it obviously survived.
“Both diacetyl and pentanedione are reactive compounds. And their reactivity comes from the same active chemical group, called the dicarbonyl group, “explains Ann Hubbs of NIOSH. “So when these compounds come into contact with the respiratory system, they will in any case damage the proteins in the airways.” According to the expert, the result of the reactions is irreparable damage to tiny alveoli – bubble structures in the lungs, in which air exchange usually takes place. But this, we clarify once again, is true only in respect of large-scale and regular impact.