(Organic Slant) Microwave cooking has become very popular, but did you ever think how it may be effecting the food you are heating up with it. I have always been skeptical about the microwave oven for years. Now that I began snoping around the subject, I am more convinced that this ‘magic’ oven does more harm than good. I wonder how it influences the nutrients in the food; and how does it effect the dna in the cells of the food as well.
The specific heating effect of a beam of high-power microwaves was discovered accidentally in 1945, shortly after high-powered microwave radar transmitters were developed and widely disseminated by the Allies of World War II, using magnetron technology. Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer from Howland, Maine, was working at the time building magnetrons for radar sets, with the American company Raytheon. He was working on an active radar set when he noticed that a Mr. Goodbar he had in his pocket started to melt. The radar had melted his chocolate bar with microwaves.
A microwave oven heats food by dielectric heating. This is accomplished by using microwave radiation to heat polarized molecules within the food. A microwave oven works by passing non-ionizing microwave radiation, usually at a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz (Ghz) – a wavelength of 122 millimeters (4.80 in.) – through the food. Microwave radiation is between common radio and infrared frequencies. Water, fat, and other substances in the food absorb energy from the microwaves in a process called dielectric heating. Many molecules (such as those of water) are electric dipoles, meaning that they have a partial positive charge at one end and a partial negative charge at the other end, and therefore rotate as they try to align themselves with the alternating electric field of the microwaves. Rotating molecules hit other molecules and put them into motion, thus dispersing energy. This energy, when dispersed as molecular vibration in solids and liquids, is heat.
Several studies have shown that if properly used, microwave cooking does not change the nutrient content of foods. But if that is correct, why is it that in other studies it is proven that microwave ovens DO convert vitamin B12 from the active form, making approximately 30-40% of the B12 contained in foods unusable by mammals. Microwaving broccoli loses 74% or more of phenolic compounds (97% of flavonoids) while boiling loses 66% of flavonoids, and high-pressure boiling loses 47%, though the study has been contradicted by other studies. This goes to show maybe we should be studying the full effects of microwaving considering these contradictions. There have been very few scientific studies done on the effect of eating microwaved food. Maybe we should find out then, what exactly is happening to the food that has been microwaved.
Two researchers, Blanc and Hertel, confirmed that microwave cooking significantly changes food nutrients. Hertel previously worked as a food scientist for several years with one of the major Swiss food companies. He was fired from his job for questioning procedures in processing food because they denatured it. He got together with Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Biochemistry and the University Institute for Biochemistry.
They studied the effect that microwaved food had on eight individuals, by taking blood samples immediately after eating. They found that after eating microwaved food, haemoglobin levels decreased. “These results show anaemic tendencies. The situation became even more pronounced during the second month of the study”.
The violent change that microwaving causes to the food molecules forms new life forms called radiolytic compounds. These are mutations that are unknown in the natural world. Ordinary cooking also causes the formation of some radiolytic compounds, (which is no doubt one reason why it is better to eat plenty of raw food), but microwaving cooking causes a much greater number. This then causes deterioration in your blood and immune system.
Lymphocytes (white blood cells) also showed a more distinct short-term decrease following the intake of microwaved food than after the intake of all the other varients. Another change was a decrease in the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) values. Each of these indicators pointed to degeneration.
The results were published in “Search for Health” in the Spring of 1992. How was the research greeted? A powerful trade organization, the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electroapparatuses for Households and Industry somehow made the President of the Court of Seftigen issue a “gag order’. Hertel and Blanc were told that if they published their findings they would face hefty fines or up to one year in prison. In response to this, Blanc recanted his findings. Hertel, on the other hand, went on a lecture tour and demanded a jury trial.
FINALLY, in 1998 the Court ‘Gag Order’ was removed. In a judgement delivered at Strasbourg on August 25, 1998 in the case of Hertel v. Switzerland, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Hertel’s rights in the 1993 decision. The Court decided that the ‘gag order’ prohibiting him from declaring that microwaved food is dangerous to health was contrary to the right to freedom of expression. In addition, Switzerland was sentenced to pay compensation of F40,000.
After World War II, the Russians also experimented with microwave ovens. From 1957 up to recently, their research has been carried out mainly at the Institute of Radio Technology at Klinsk, Byelorussia. According to US researcher William Kopp, who gathered much of the results of Russian and German research – and was apparently prosecuted for doing so (J. Nat. Science, 1998; 1:42-3) – the following effects were observed by Russian forensic teams:
- Heating prepared meats in a microwave sufficiently for human consumption created: *d-Nitrosoiethanolamine (a well-known cancer-causing agent) *Destabilization of active protein biomolecular compounds *Creation of a binding effect to radioactivity in the atmosphere *Creation of cancer-causing agents within protein-hydrosylate compounds in milk and cereal grains;
- Microwave emissions also caused alteration in the catabolic (breakdown) behavior of glucoside and galactoside – elements within frozen fruits when thawed in this way;
- Microwaves altered catabolic behavior of plant-alkaloids when raw, cooked or frozen vegetables were exposed for even very short periods;
- Cancer-causing free radicals were formed within certain trace-mineral molecular formations in plant substances, especially in raw root vegetables;
- Ingestion of micro-waved foods caused a higher percentage of cancerous cells in blood;
- Due to chemical alterations within food substances, malfunctions occured in the lymphatic system, causing degeneration of the immune system=s capacity to protect itself against cancerous growth’
- The unstable catabolism of micro-waved foods altered their elemental food substances, leading to disorders in the digestive system;
- Those ingesting microwaved foods showed a statictically higher incidence of stomach and intestinal cancers, plus a general degeneration of peripheral cellular tissues with a gradual breakdown of digestive and excretory system function;
- Microwave exposure caused significant decreases in the nutritional value of all foods studied, particularly: *A decrease in the bioavailability of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and lipotrophics *Destruction of the nutritional value of nucleoproteins in meats *Lowering of the metabolic activity of alkaloids, glucosides, galactosides and nitrilosides (all basic plant substances in fruits and vegetables) *Marked acceleration of structural disintegration in all foods.
As a result microwave ovens were BANNED in Russia in 1976; the ban was lifted after Perestroika.
As a seventh grade student, Claire Nelson learned that di(ethylhexyl)adepate (DEHA), considered a carcinogen, is found in plastic wrap. She also learned that the FDA had never studied the effect of microwave cooking on plastic-wrapped food. Three years later, with encouragement from her high school science teacher, Claire set out to test what the FDA had not.
Although she had an idea for studying the effect of microwave radiation on plastic wrapped food, she did not have the equipment. Eventually, Dr Jon Wilkes at the National Center for Toxicological Research agreed to help her. The research center, which is affiliated with the FDA, let her use its facilities to perform her experiments, which involved microwaving plastic wrap in virgin olive oil.
Claire tested four different plastic wraps and “found not just the carcinogens but also xenoestrogen was migrating [into the oil]…” Xenoestrogens are linked to low sperm counts in men and to breast cancer in women. Throughout her junior and senior years, Claire made a couple of trips each week to the research center, which was 25 miles from her home, to work on her experiment. An article in Options reported “her analysis found that DEHA was migrating into the oil at between 200 parts and 500 parts per million. The FDA standard is 0.05 parts per billion.”
Her summarized results have been published in science journals. Claire Nelson received the American Chemical Society’s top science prize for students during her junior year and forth place at the International Science and Engineering Fair (Fort Worth, Texas) as a senior. “Carcinogens–At 10,000 Times FDA Limits” Options, May 2000. Published by People Against Cancer, 515-972-4444
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated the manufacture of microwave ovens since 1971 and has authority over food safety, says “foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals because microwave ovens can cook more quickly and without adding water.”
A Spanish study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003 contradicts that. The Spanish scientific research council, CEBAS-CSIC, found that microwave cooking destroys at least some important nutrients in vegetables. Microwaved broccoli lost 97 percent, 74 percent and 87 percent of three-cancer-protecting antioxidants (flavonoids, sinapics and caffeoyl-quinic derivatives). Steamed broccoli lost 11 percent, 0 percent and 8 percent of these compounds.
In 1992, a team of Stanford University researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics that re-heating human breast milk in a microwave even at low settings can destroy lysozyme, a compound that fights bacterial infections.
Japanese research reported in Science News in 1998 said microwaving destroys vitamin B-12. Six minutes of microwave cooking destroyed half the B-12 in meat and dairy, a much higher rate than from conventional cooking.
In 1989, The Lancet medical journal reported that heating baby formula in a microwave changed its chemistry. Dr. Lita Lee found that microwaving converts some trans-amino-acids into synthetic substances similar to unhealthy trans-fatty acids; one amino acid, L-proline, reportedly converted to a substance that’s reputed to be toxic to the nervous system and kidneys.
In case Warner v. Hillcrest Medical Center, the use of microwave-heated blood in medical procedures has been cited as causing serious problems. Norma Levitt died on the operating table at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 8, 1989, following successful hip replacement surgery. A nurse anesthetic gave Levitt a unit of Levitt’s own blood which had been warmed in a microwave oven located in the employee’s lounge. It was alleged the negligent introduction of this blood into Levitt’s system was a direct cause of her death minutes later. The defendants argued that Levitt died from a blood clot, rather than the hemolyzed blood. Some may argue the blood was heated too quickly and/or too unevenly. I don’t think anyone could know for certain the specific body reaction to the blood. The variables are too complicated.
Getting the necessary nutrients from vegetables may be even harder than you thought. Antioxidants are plentiful in vegetables and work to eliminate free radicals, which can damage cell DNA and contribute to various diseases. As it turns out, though, that protective effect is most pronounced when the vegetable is in its natural state. Raw food is more nutritious than cooked food, and cooking food destroys nutrients, whether it’s on a stove, or in the microwave.
Seems like the FDA is more concerned about leakage from the doors, which is a good thing. But it does seem like some credible studies do exist as to the influence of microwaving foodstuffs. I’m going to side on caution.
For convenience, few kitchen tools can compare to the microwave oven. An estimated 90 percent of American households have one and most of us have used a microwave to reheat leftovers. Is the microwave a friend or foe? Who can say for certain, but I believe that it is doing something to the food that is being microwaved. What that something is, I don’t know. I don’t trust it enough to feel safe using it thou. I disposed of my microwave oven years ago, and haven’t had one ounce of regret. If food is medicine, it should be as pure as possible.