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Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fiber, low in calories and fat, and free of sugar and sodium. This can make it an attractive snack to people with dietary restrictions on the intake of calories, fat, and/or sodium. For the sake of flavor, however, large amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium are often added to prepared popcorn, which can quickly convert it to a very poor choice for those on restricted diets.
One particularly notorious example of this first came to public attention in the mid-1990s, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest produced a report about "Movie Popcorn", which became the subject of a widespread publicity campaign. The movie theaters surveyed used coconut oil to pop the corn, and then topped it with butter or margarine. "A medium-size buttered popcorn", the report said, "contains more fat than a breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac and fries, and a steak dinner combined." The practice continues today. For example, according to DietFacts.com, a small popcorn from Regal Cinema Group (the largest theater chain in the United States) still contains 29 g of saturated fat, as much as three Big Macs and the equivalent of a full day-and-a-half's reference daily intake.
Health risks Popcorn is included on the list of foods that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving to children under four, because of the risk of choking.
Microwaveable popcorn represents a special case, since it is designed to be cooked along with its various flavoring agents. One of these common artificial-butter flavorants, diacetyl, has been implicated in causing respiratory ailments.