What are the Dangers of Microwaves or Food Cooked in Them?
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What are the Dangers of Microwaves?
Is Microwaving Your Food Safe?

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Are there dangers from microwaves used in cooking your food? Microwaves are fast and easy but are we paying a price for this convenience; perhaps a long-term price in terms of our health? There is some evidence that this is the case. I am not suggesting that you immediately throw out your microwave but would like to bring awareness to some possible dangers. You should make your own evaluation and choose the best for you and your family. Just ignoring the question may cost you dearly.

Microwave oven

Dangers of Microwaves
Microwave ovens were invented after World War II from radar technology developed during the war. They were originally called "radaranges" and were first sold in 1947. Microwaves heat food by causing water molecules to vibrate at very high frequencies. This happens because water molecules are bipolar with positively and negatively- charged ends. The vibration causes friction which is what heats the food and heats it quickly.

It all sounds good until we learn that this high energy, while producing the desired heat, also can change a food's chemical structure. A dramatic example of how it can change the structure of what is heated occurred in 1991 after a woman in Oklahoma had hip surgery. Norma Levitt required a blood transfusion and blood is normally warmed before being given to a patient. The normally life-giving blood actually killed her and resulted in a lawsuit. This incident and others indicate that microwaving does more than just warm.

There have been a number of scientific studies that have demonstrated various detrimental effects of microwaves on food.

Microwaved broccoli lost up to 97% of its antioxidants compared to an 11% loss for steamed broccoli. There were reductions in other nutrients. (Vallejo F, Tomas-Barberan F A, and Garcia-Viguera C. Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking. The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Nov. 2003.)

A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamin C6. (Kidmose U. and Kaack K. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B 1999:49(2):110-117)

Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting factors in breast milk that help to protect babies. One researcher, R.Quan determined that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity and antibodies and resulted in the proliferation of potentially pathogenic bacteria. (Quan, R. et al. 1992. Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk. Pediatrics 89(4 part I):667-669)

One study found that as little as 60 seconds of microwave heating was enough to inactivate the allinase in garlic. This is garlic's active ingredient against cancer. (Song K and Milner J A. The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic. Journal of Nutrition 2001;131(3S):1054S-57S)

Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center (reported in the April 1992 Journal of Pediatrics) discovered that when human breast milk was warmed by microwaving it there was destruction of 98% of its immunogloban-A antibodies and 96% of its liposome (bacterial-fighting) activity.

A paper by Dr. Lita Lee in the journal Lancet (December 1989 issue) reported that the microwaving of milk or baby formula both depleted the vitamin content and converted some of the amino acids into biologically inactive substances. Some of these are known poisons to both the nervous system and the kidneys.

Foods such as pizzas, chips and popcorn are packaged to be microwave-ready. The Nutrition Action Newsletter (Jan-Feb 1990 issue) reported that there was leakage of toxic chemicals including polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene from the packaging when microwaved. Microwaving fatty foods in plastic containers releases dioxins, which are known carcinogens and other toxins into the food.

While not everyone is convinced of the dangers of microwaves there seems to be enough scientific evidence to warrant caution in this area. Because of all these possible dangers, you mihgt want to minimize your use of a microwave in food preparation and keep your distance anytime you do use it.

You should be aware that there are differences of opinion as to whether or not there is any harm from microwave ovens or microwave-cooked food. I have tried to quote research evidence on this page.

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