As I wait for my food to be reheated in the microwave, I intuitively feel that this can’t be good. However, because it is so convenient, I put my concerns aside, and ignore the “inner instinct”….. This month I decided that it was time to investigate whether microwaving food is safe and healthy.
Microwave cooking of foods was studied by German scientists during World War II. If large quantities of food could be cooked by microwave, this cooking method could solve the logistical problems associated with transporting cooking fuel; additionally the food would be able to be cooked in a much shorter time.
After the war ended, the scientists’ research papers and experimental microwave equipment were found and transferred to the United States and to the Soviet Union.
Russian scientists have done the most research on the biological effects of microwaves and microwaved foods. In my research, I discovered that in 1976, microwave ovens were outlawed in the Soviet Union (this is no longer true today). Here is a summary of their key findings of what happens when food is microwaved.
1. D-nitrosodiethanolamines are formed in meats. These chemicals are known cancer-causing agents.
2. Cancer-causing agents are created in cereals and milk.
3. There is actually increased radiation in the food.
4. Elementally, food is changed resulting in digestive problems and disturbances in the lymphatic system.
5. Cancer-causing free radicals are formed, he especially in vegetables and fruit.
6. Vitamin C, vitamin E, the B vitamins and essential minerals all have their bioavailability decreased.
7. Digestibility of fruits and vegetables is decreased due to the alteration of their internal structure.
8. The nutritive value of meat proteins is decreased.
The Russian scientists also found external exposure to microwaves had many detrimental effects on the brain, hormones, nervous system and more.
In addition to what the Russians found, there have been some other negative reports from more recent research in other countries. In the December 1989 issue of the British medical journal, Lancet, it was reported that mirowaving baby formula created a disturbing result.Certain amino acids – the building blocks of proteins -undergo structural changes that render them not biologically usable. One of the amino acids, L- proline was changed into a form known to be toxic to the nervous system and to the kidney.
Another result the British scientists reported related to the microwaving of food in the plastic packaging these foods are often wrapped in. Chemicals from the plastics leaked into the food. Among these chemicals are benzene, toluene, xylene, and polyethylene terphthalate. Another study showed that microwaving different plastic wraps in olive oil caused DEHA, a carcinogen, to migrate into the oil at 10 million times, the FDA limit! Also xenoestrogens were found in the oil. These substances foreign to the human body, and they mimic the effects of estrogen.
In the late 1980s, a Swiss food scientist, Dr. Hans-Urich Hertel, teamed up with Professor Bernard H. Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to study the effect of microwaved foods on humans. They applied for funding and were turned down on the grounds that research was not needed in this area.
They self-funded a small study. Eight people were sequestered in a hotel for two months. They were fed a diet of vegetables cooked either conventionally or by microwave plus either fresh milk or microwaved milk. At intervals of two to five days, their blood was drawn before and after eating. In the blood drawn after consuming microwaved food versus the blood drawn after ingesting conventionally cooked foods, there were serious irregularities. They found a decrease in HDL’s (good cholesterol) and in certain white blood cells. They also found lowered hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cell counts. These got worse over the two months of the study, and, in fact, these changes were in a direction approaching anemia.
The trade organization, the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electroapparatuses for Households and Industry, obtained a court-directed gag order against Dr. Hertel and Professor Blanc, which prevented them from declaring that microwaving food is dangerous to people’s health. In 1998, this ruling was overturned in the courts. However, the years of silence allowed microwave cooking to enter the mainstream and become a common household appliance.
It seems that my “inner instinct” was true. In the interest of good health, I am no longer going to reheat food in the microwave (we never cooked anything in it). You will have to make your own decision.
© 2007, Mark A. Breiner, DDS
The information presented is for educational purposes only. You should consult a qualified dentist or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.