I used to love movie theater popcorn. I could eat one of the big tubs all by myself. But a few years ago, I started getting queasy when I ate it. I tried just getting the little bag. Then I didn't get any myself, but flinched a few kernels off my patient friends and family.
So what happened?
Movie theaters once used coconut oil to pop the corn and real butter or melted margarine for flavor. But in the in the mid-1980's the soybean growers made a play for the popcorn oil market, decrying the evils of coconut oil and downplaying the negative attributes of soybean oil. By the end of the 80's most theaters were using soybean oil to pop the corn instead of coconut oil.
But the soybean growers weren't happy with just displacing coconut oil, they decided to use similar tactics to go after the movie theater popcorn butter niche. It wasn't that difficult. Butter and margarine are also saturated fats and they are more expensive than soybean oil. Soybean oil also doesn't require an apparatus to heat it so that it remains liquid, like butter and margarine. So movie chains quietly phased out the margarine/butter dispensers and put in the "butter flavoring" dispensers.
By the mid-1990's almost all theaters had replaced melted margarine or butter with a mixture of soybean oil, artificial flavoring, beta-carotene for coloring and preservatives.
Basically, when we get a tub of movie theater popcorn and "butter" it, we're dumping 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of highly processed, additive-laden oil on it. Can a person drink 1/4 to 1/2 cup of such a substance without getting sick? No.
Unfortunately, the "butter flavor" soybean oil isn't as flavorful as the old margarine/butter mixtures, so people douse their popcorn with more trying to satisfy that craving for the taste of dairy fats.
I'm not the only person who can no longer enjoy movie theater popcorn, either
The stomach upset caused by movie theater popcorn is so prevalent that there's even a name for it:
Movie Theater Sickness (MTS)
Symptoms of the disease are nausea, clammy hands, migraine, fatigue, and a stomach ache.
Did replacing coconut oil, margarine and butter with soybean oil make movie theater popcorn any healthier, as touted by the soybean growers? Not really. According to Calorielab a large bucket of movie theater popcorn has about 1,238 calories and 78 grams of fat, 49 of them saturated. That's twice the recommended daily intake of fat.
But replacing the coconut oil, margarine, and butter with soybean oil did increase the profit-margin on the sales of movie theater popcorn. A win for the soybean growers and the movie chains, a loss for movie theater popcorn lovers.