The microwave oven is an integral part of modern cuisine, since 88% of French households have one, or nearly 9 out of 10. Whether it is for heating, reheating, defrosting, its role is above all to save time, to help always go faster.
We buy quickly, we heat up quickly, we eat quickly. However, the microwave is the subject of more and more questions at a time when people are starting to seriously care about their health.
How does a microwave oven work?
The invention of the microwave was made by an engineer who worked on radar in the military. A microwave oven has a magnetron, which produces waves, which in turn are the source of a magnetic field.
To put it simply, the microwave works by stirring the water molecules in food. So it is only the water in the food that produces heat, and this heat will spread to the rest of the food by conduction.
The difference between microwave and traditional cooking is the way the cooking is propagated. Traditional cooking will heat the food from the outside to the inside, while microwave cooking will heat the food as a whole evenly.
A microwave oven consists of a Faraday cage: a fully enclosed metal cage that is supposed to protect users from radiation. We then understand that the waves generated are possibly dangerous … So, is there a risk for humans? Also, if the radiation stays inside the device, isn’t it dangerous to eat foods affected by this radiation?
What are the health risks?
”This device is considered by the French population as one of the 10 objects that we absolutely cannot do without“ – Indeed, it it is rare not to see a microwave in a modern kitchen.
Here, “which we can not do without”, oddly makes the cigarette. Addictive, “potentially” dangerous but allowed. So what do studies say about the health risks of microwaves?
As is often the case, two camps clash with defenders on one side and detractors on the other. We will focus on two things: the interactions between the waves and the user and the interactions between the waves and food.
– The waves:
They are non-ionizing, that is to say they do not affect the quality of living things. In themselves, microwave waves are similar to WiFi waves or cell phone waves, but they are less dangerous (we now know the link between cellphones and cancer).
Waves are non-ionizing, but they are not harmless. This is why the Faraday cage exists. The radiation can escape to a greater or lesser extent and reach the user, the maximum intensity of course being reached during operation.
Some people recommend unplugging the microwave after each use since the radiation continues to be emitted (at low intensity) at rest. Plus, although they are less dangerous than the laptop, it is good that they are still a minimum.
– The quality of the food:
The microwave does not reduce the nutritional quality of a food any more (vitamins, minerals …) Than another method of cooking . It is true that the method of cooking greatly influences the quality of the food, the barbecue being one of the most harmful.
The higher the cooking, the more it alters the nutritional composition of the food and will increase the risk of contracting cardiovascular disease. Cooking in the microwave is not done at high temperature, so it is harmless.
The microwave will on the contrary denature the composition of food. The problem does not lie in the cooking temperature. The microwave is a special case, since it is not the heat that will be the driving force behind the heating of the food, , but the waves that will turn the water molecules of food on themselves (explained in more detail later).
The heating of food is therefore a mechanical consequence of the propagation of waves inside it. This leads to an increased production of free radicals (which damage cells) and will reduce the nutritional value of foods. We then note a weakened immune system and a poorer ability to resist stress.
So, for or against?
Personally, I am against it. There are many arguments defending or denouncing microwaves, but the problem is that there is a lack of studies on it, being a fairly recent product (a few decades ago).
This remains the least natural cooking that exists (cooking food can already be considered unnatural because we are the only animals on the planet to cook our food).
There is a risk, and I don’t see the point in taking an unnecessary risk.
In addition, some studies have been able to prove the dangerousness of the microwave. We discover that:
– The use of the microwave is even more harmful to health if the food is heated with a plastic container. This information is given by Professor Pierre Martin, in the book “Eat” by Gilles Lartigot . In fact, the heat emitted by the agitation of the water molecules will be transmitted to food in contact with the plastic (plastic does not contain water, it does not heat directly).
When heated, plastic releases endocrine disruptors. These will be absorbed and stored in the fatty layers of the consumer and will greatly disrupt the hormonal system. In addition, endocrine disruptors are passed from mother to child.
– The microwave will cause deformation of water molecules, and this will seriously disturb the body. As a reminder, the microwave works precisely thanks to the heating of the water molecules, by making them spin on themselves at the speed of 2.5 billion times per second, which will produce energy and therefore heat the food.
But it turns out that the microwave will affect the physical spatial arrangement of water molecules. The angle of the hydrogen bond is disturbed by 30% (experiment carried out by physicist Marc Henry).
Where is the problem? 100% of (natural) foods contain water, and therefore 100% of foods will undergo a deformation of the molecular structure of the water they contain . And that’s where it becomes extremely dangerous. Because even if the microwave does not lower the nutritional value of food, it will considerably reduce the assimilation and use of nutrients since these reactions depend on water.
It makes sense. Remember that the human body is made up of about 65% water, and that water is used (among other things) to transport blood cells and nutrients, for the proper functioning of the nervous system (the brain is made up of more than 80% water), thermal temperature regulation, elimination of metabolic waste, etc, etc.
Of course, we don’t just consume water through food, but there is still a significant part. In addition, a whole food (vegetable for example) is made to be assimilated in this way, all of its components being interdependent. As water is part of the food, it naturally allows the normal use of nutrients.
The water consumed by food heated in the microwave will be much less efficient for the body and will not be able to perform its functions fully. We then speak of “bio-incompatible” water when it comes to water heated in a microwave. Dr Ohlmann has done the experiment on plants.
One can wonder if the body will not have reactions of releases following the assimilation of this bio-incompatible water, in order to preserve itself. This could be the cause of a weakened immune system and a general increase in stress, but this remains a hypothesis.
It is even possible to do an experiment at home to see the connection between microwaves and the resulting bio-incompatibility of water. It involves growing two plants, one being fed with water brought to a boil in a saucepan and then cooled, and one with water heated in the microwave and then cooled as well. One person performed this experiment.
It is not known whether in the photo of the experiment, the water on the right was cold still water or still water brought to a boil and then cooled (2 versions explain this), but the one on the left was in any case water heated in the microwave and then cooled.
And here is the result after 9 days:
We will stay on that.
In conclusion , I will tell you to make your choice, I am not here to influence you. The microwave, like many everyday objects and habits, are controversial. As often, let’s not forget that there are financial interests and that the studies that demonstrate its innocence are to take a step back.
I remember this image shared by Gilles Lartigot in his show-conference “Resilience”, where we see a doctor promoting tobacco in the 1950s. At the time, no one wanted to believe that tobacco was dangerous for your health.
The alternatives exist. It is only a few minutes of “wasted” with other cooking method. Steam cooking, for example, is interesting. You can find steamers for the price of a microwave (around 40 euros) like this :
Reheating can also be done in a pan. A few more minutes, but minutes that can make the difference in long-term health capital.
Personally, my choice is made. I don’t use the microwave anymore unless I really don’t have a choice. It’s up to you to do yours. For advice on how to start vegetarian / vegan nutrition and bodybuilding, you can download my free guide by clicking here .