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Study: Popcorn has some health benefits

ShaunBittle | Staff Photographer Popcorn is an essential trefor audiences Classic Cinemas Carpentersville IL Wednesday Sept. 17 2008.

Shauna Bittle | Staff Photographer Popcorn is an essential treat for audiences at Classic Cinemas in Carpentersville, IL on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008.

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Updated: April 30, 2012 8:08AM

Popcorn is rich in polyphenols — anti-oxidants that prevent damage to cells and also might have disease-fighting properties — a new study finds, but other experts warn not to go crazy, especially if you eat it drenched in butter and salt.

“The hull is where the most nutritional goodies are — not the white, fluffy part,” said Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton, Pa., and senior author of the study, which was funded in part by a popcorn company. The findings were presented in San Diego at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The findings confirm other research, said Kantha Shelke, a food chemist in Chicago and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists.

“Popcorn has an anti-oxidant called ferulic acid that’s also found in beans, corn, rice, wheat, barley and many other grains,” said Shelke, who has studied popcorn. “Ferulic acid exhibits a wide range of therapeutic effects against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases largely because of its strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.”

A small unbuttered popcorn at the movies typically has more than 650 calories; a large has 1,200, said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group. “Considering that two out of three American adults and one out of three children are overweight or obese, the best advice is to snack on fresh fruit or vegetables and to ignore the snack counter at the movies,” she said.

But Shelke said “there’s nothing wrong with eating popcorn with a little oil or a little butter within a balanced diet.”

Gannett News Service

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