Popcorn is a whole-grain food, a good source of fiber and if eaten plain, is essentially a healthy food. Eating excessive amounts of pretty much anything has a downside and consuming too much popcorn over an extended period could negatively affect your health. Factors that need consideration include preparation, type of oil used and extras sprinkled or poured over popcorn.
Eating too much popcorn in one sitting will cause a bloated and uncomfortable feeling. Adding generous amounts of butter, sugar or salt will lead to thirst and the salt may elevate blood pressure.
Putting too much popcorn into the mouth is a potential choking hazard. According to the National Institutes of Health, popcorn is a potentially dangerous food that should not be fed to children under the age of three.
The Center for Disease Control recommends choosing popcorn that is air-popped as opposed to kernels popped in fat as this reduces your calorie intake. There are 73 fewer calories in 3 cups of air-popped popcorn than in popcorn popped with oil. However, the way popcorn is prepared is not always under an individual's control, especially if purchased at a movie theater. In 2009, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted an analysis of popcorn served by several major movie theater chains. The findings of laboratory analysis indicated that some large size popcorn servings clocked up a whopping 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. Extra toppings like butter and sugar increase the number of calories and change the nutritional value, negating the healthful benefits of the food. Eating too much of this type of popcorn will result in weight gain.
Eating too much popcorn with added salt is likely adding too much sodium to your diet. The Mayo Clinic notes that, in people sensitive to sodium, the extra salt can lead to fluid retention and increased blood pressure which can, in turn, lead to kidney disease, stroke and heart disease. In their 2009 survey about movie theater popcorn, the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that some large size popcorn servings contained 1,500 milligrams of sodium, which is the recommended total daily allowance of sodium for some people.
Popcorn popped in saturated fat, such as coconut oil and then topped with additional buttery sauce, is likely to increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood. If popcorn is regularly consumed in this fashion, it poses a greater risk of clogging the arteries with cholesterol and of developing atherosclerosis or other heart disease.