Study: How unhealthy is movie theater popcorn?

November 19, 2009 4:43:56 PM PST
For many of us, a trip to the movies isn't complete without popcorn. But a shocking new look at the hidden calories in movie popcorn snacks may have some thinking twice.The findings may surprise people who choose unbuttered popcorn because they think it's a relatively healthy snack. Many theaters pop in oil, often coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat. And they supersize portions, turning a healthy treat into an artery-clogging snack.

Who can resist a big tub of popcorn and a medium soda, the perfect combo for watching a movie?

But now, a new study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows that movie time snacks have all the making of a Hollywood horror show.

And the biggest culprit is popcorn.

While some movie theaters now use canola oil, many don't. They pop with artery-clogging coconut oil.

"Coconut oil is the worst thing movie theaters could be using to pop in, because it is so bad for our hearts," CSPI nutritionist Jayne Hurley said. "It's 90 percent saturated. Lard is 40 percent saturated."

The study analyzed the fat and calorie content of popcorn from three movie theater chains: Regal Entertainment Group, AMC and Cinemark.

The most over-the top was Regal. A medium popcorn, about 20 cups, contains 60 grams of saturated fat and 1,200 calories. That's like eating 36 strips of bacon plus eight pats of butter.

AMC popcorn is only nine cups, so its calorie content drops to 590 and 33 grams of saturated fat.

A medium popcorn at Cinemark theaters has 760 calories and just three grams saturated fat, and it uses canola oil.

Jane and Alan Drucker know it's not a healthy snack, so they don't over do it.

"Since we try to eat intelligently most of the time, we can go off the deep end when we go to our once-a-month movie," Alan said.

"I know it's got too much butter and too much salt," Jane said. "But since we only have it once a month, we can digest it in that period of time."

In response to the study, the the National Association of Theater Owners says, "Many of our patrons like and enjoy the traditional taste and aroma of theater popcorn, as they have for decades, and theater popcorn continues to be one of America's favorite snack foods."

For popcorn lovers like Chris Bucci, knowing what's in popcorn really doesn't matter. He just has to have it.

'I cannot go to the movies without it," he said. "don't know if it's a salt thing, a buttery thing or something I can't make at home thing, but I know I have to have it."

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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