Thursday, April 21, 2011

Microwaving - Examining the claimed risks

I had an inquiry about "the recent discussion about the dangers of microwaves" as a comment in another blog of mine and decided to do a bit of research. The questioner asked me what I thought of the stated dangers. I only found a couple of articles in a search of Google.

One article details the claimed risks of microwaving. This article, found on a website called "global research" (but apparently from an article in "Natural News") included a photo of two plants, supposedly a student science project - the one watered with microwaved water was dead, so went the story. (A student science project where we don't know all the facts? Not exactly hard evidence!) Don't do microwaving, concludes the author. Well, that's fine if you have all the time in the world to cook the slow way but will avoiding the microwave oven really protect from cancer?

To review a couple of the claims from the article:

"Microwaved prepared meats cause the formation of d-Nitrosodienthanolamines, a well-known carcinogen"

Fact remains, cooking meat can cause the formation of carcinogens. For example, if you barbecue your meat, and char the meat, that is considered a carcinogen also.

But is eating small amounts of a carcingen, going to cause cancer? No proof of this. And evidence suggests not - things like heredity, smoking and even consuming trans fat etc are likely, much greater risks. And by the way, the article does not explain how the "d-nitro..." is formed either nor does it give any cites for further study. FYI, giving up fast food, would probably much sooner lower the cancer risk (though probably only slightly) than giving up your microwave, and doing cardio exercise daily can actually lower your cancer risk by 40%!

"Studies have shown that human breast milk heated in microwave ovens is altered and that not only is its vitamin content depleted, but some of the amino acids are also rendered biologically inactive. Some of the altered amino acids are poisons to both the nervous system and the kidneys."

Another undocumented and un-cited statement and fact remains, any time you heat milk, some of the vitamins are altered - regardless of how you heat it which was why even when I was bottle feeding our son in the 1970's, the books suggested it was best to mix the formula from powder in room temperature water (I used bottled water) to preserve the vitamins (rather than preparing a larger amount, keeping it in the fridge and reheating it.

The author also claims that when you microwave broccoli, 97% of the Vitamin C was destroyed. First of all, Broccoli is not that good a source of Vitamin C and then, anytime you cook it, it destroys the vitamin C but few of us can stomach it raw.

A conversation on the Snopes message boards expressed that all of the posters were very skeptical of these claims and several pointed out that there are no studies backing the claims up. Another conversation on the "Physics" message base is also good source reading. Again, the consensus is, the "death by cancer" claims about microwaving are likely not true but there, a person can read some explanations of the nuts and bolts of microwaves which are enlightening.

Microwaves have been around for a long time - and it's good to remember that cancer is not a single cause disease. It's likely that moderate use of the microwave isn't a real danger - and no studies have been done to support the "sky is falling claims" one reads on some of the natural websites.

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