Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why my home does not have a microwave oven

Microwave oven is a popular electrical appliance nowadays that you will probably find one in most of your friend's home. It is convenient to use, fast in cooking, and 3 times energy efficient (save electricity) than conventional oven. You might also observed that out of 10 electrical ovens displayed in shop, 8 are microwave ovens and only the other 2 are conventional ovens. My home has a Cornell conventional oven instead of a microwave one, because my wife and I are in doubt about the safety of microwave cooking. When still in doubt, we opt to play safe and use conventional oven instead.

There have been years of long debates over conflicting information on the safety of microwave cooking and their effect on the nutritional value of food, which is difficult to conclude till today. Obviously more research is required on this field, but most researcher unfortunately seem to be more interested in what happens if a microwave oven door malfunctions (danger of microwave leaking), than on the effects of eating microwaved foods.

In order to understand the debate subject, we need to have brief knowledge of how microwave oven works. The microwave oven generates electromagnetic waves (called microwave because the wavelength is short) at a frequency of 2,450 MHz. The microwaves bombard the molecules of water in the food. These molecules each have a positive and negative end, or “polarity”. The polarized molecules try to line themselves up with the electrical field, like compass needles trying to point North. But because the electrical field is reversing polarity at a rate of 2,450 million cycles a second, the water molecules end up rotating at the same speed. That activity generates heat, which cooks the food.

This violent movement of molecules causes substantial damage to some molecules, often tearing them apart or deforming them.
People against microwave oven says that this action destroy the nutrients in the food, and might cause cellular mutation and deform the food into hazardous substances such as carcinogen (cancer causing agent). However, we have to also know that the same thing will happen to our food cooked in heated surface or directly burnt with fire. As a result, the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that “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.” (Click here to read the FDA's article)

This viewpoint is disproved by a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003, whereby researchers from the Spanish scientific research council CEBAS-CSIC found that cooking by microwave is the worst way to preserve at least one key nutrient in vegetables.

Some of the earliest research into the effects of microwaved food was conducted in the 1950s in Russia which indicated bigger dangers than destruction of nutrients. Russian researchers found that people who ate microwaved foods had a statistically higher incidence of stomach and intestinal cancers, a general degeneration of peripheral cellular tissues, and a gradual breakdown of the digestive and excretory systems. Due to chemical alterations within the food, they had lymphatic malfunctions, causing a degeneration of the body’s immune system. As a result of that research, the Soviets banned the use of microwave ovens in 1976 and issued an international warning on the health hazards, both biological and environmental, of microwave ovens and similar frequency electronic devices. This point is always heralded by people against microwave oven. However, the ban was lifted later in late 1980s, overturning their earlier decision, and the whole world appears not to have headed the warning at all.

Another article by Doctors Hertel and Blanc appeared in a Swiss environmental magazine entitled Journal Franz Weber, which stated that the consumption of food cooked in microwave ovens had cancerous effects on the blood as indicated by an increase of leukocytes, which could indicate cell damage, after eating microwaved substances. The authorities reacted promptly. In 1992, a powerful trade organization, the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electro-apparatuses for Households and Industry, known as FEA forced the Swiss courts to issue a “gag order” against them. The following year, Dr. Hertel was convicted for “interfering with commerce” and prohibited from further publishing his results. However, he fought the decision and both it and the gag order were reversed in 1998 when the European Court of Human Rights in Austria ruled that there had been a violation of his rights in the 1993 decision. As a result, Switzerland was ordered to pay him compensation.

The debates are still on, so we are still in doubt. Do you have a microwave oven in your home? Are you also in doubt about the hazardous sayings of it?


dclh said... Reply To This Comment

Mee too! No microwave oven at home after knowing that a friend does not eat microwaved food.

Btw, thanks for inviting me as your friend in SocialSpark!

halcyon said... Reply To This Comment

ditto. same with non-stick frying pans which is replaced by stainless steel variety. WMF and Buffalo makes quite sturdy ones.

Anonymous said... Reply To This Comment

Food cooked by microwave oven taste odd and a bit off to me. It could be due to the damage and changes cause by microwaves to the food molecules.

Alternatively, we can use convection oven to bake and grill, food steamer to reheat food.

If you are willing to spend more for health, can consider Sharp Healsio which can cook anything without oil. It cooks by using super heated steam which breaks down fat and reduce salt content. You can cook healthier fried chicken with it. Low fat and low salt.

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