Is a microwave harmful to food?
The debate about the dangers or benefits of food cooked or preheated in a microwave oven has been going on for decades, since when in 1946 American engineer Percy Spencer first noticed the ability of microwave radiation to heat food, and Raytheon patented the invention, starting one year later production of microwave ovens for the military.
Over the past almost 70 years, microwave ovens, as ordinary household appliances, have penetrated almost every home and office, although there is still no final verdict on their benefits or harms. Even despite the fact that in 2008 the World Health Organization issued a conclusion – “microwave ovens use radiation that does not adversely affect either humans or food”, disputes, as in the topic of GMOs, continue. We would like to convince you that the microwave should still be discarded.
In order to better understand this issue, it is necessary to distinguish two aspects of the topic – firstly, what is the effect of microwaves on a person himself and secondly, on food products that a person then consumes.
The negative impact on human health of microwave radiation, as well as any other electromagnetic radiation coming from household appliances (TV, computer, cell phone, etc.) depends on the characteristics (wavelength) and radiation intensity, its duration, distance to the device and a number of other factors. Unfortunately, the level of the electromagnetic fields surrounding us generated by human activity has already significantly exceeded the natural background of the Earth, and the frequency range of these fields has expanded dramatically.
We can say that we are surrounded by an “electromagnetic smog”, which is invisible, in contrast to such familiar phenomena as industrial pollution of air, soil and water. However, it is he who, according to scientists, causes a decrease in immunity, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches and other health problems. Of course, without modern instruments and devices it is no longer possible to imagine the life of modern society, so you just need to try to minimize the intensity of the surrounding electromagnetic radiation.
The negative influence of microwave radiation can be minimized by using modern models of furnaces with a good protective function, as well as by distance from the furnace during its short-term operation. Manufacturers of microwave ovens are improving designs and are advising to change furnaces more often, assuring us of their absolute safety. And if the radiation from the oven itself can really be minimized, then the negative effect of microwave radiation on the food that we then consume cannot be reduced, and this is a much more important and serious problem.
It is the effect of microwaves on food that is the subject of disagreement in the scientific and near-scientific community. Therefore, let us dwell a little more on the available primarily scientific data on the nature of this effect.
Microwaves with a frequency of 2450 MHz generated by a magnetron of a microwave oven heat water-containing products according to the principle of the so-called “dipole shift”, when the energy of electromagnetic field oscillations leads to a constant shift of polar molecules (primarily water molecules). And since the field is variable, the water molecules constantly change direction, sway, collide, rotate, transferring energy to neighboring material molecules, thereby increasing its temperature, which is directly proportional to the kinetic energy of atoms and molecules. Since water is contained in almost all products, the frequency of the microwave emitter of the microwave oven was chosen to better heat precisely the water molecules in the liquid state, while ice, fat and sugar heat up much worse.
The main difference between heating in the microwave and heating from an external heat source (electric stove, oven, open flame, etc.) is that on a conventional stove, the dishes and the environment are first heated, and then the food, and in the microwave, immediately the external layer of food is immediately warmed up, which then gives off heat to the rest of the product and dishes. Energy losses are much less, heating is fundamentally faster. However, it is precisely the speed of heating, a kind of “explosion” inside the product, and carries with it potential dangers that are still poorly understood, especially their long-term consequences.
Studies have shown that proteins, fatty acids, vitamins and other compounds under the influence of microwaves practically do not change their chemical properties. But due to the high-frequency polarity reversal, the high heating rate and its non-uniformity, the structure of the molecules changes unpredictably and even the cell walls of the product are destroyed. In this case, free radicals may occur, but the negative effect of their excess on almost all body functions has already been well studied.
All radicals have high chemical activity and can easily enter into oxidation reactions, damaging and destroying cells of the whole organism.