No.

However, there is never a shortage of crankery from Mike Adams who asserts Microwave ovens destroy the nutritional value of your food. There may be too much idiocy here to address but let’s get started.

The rise of widespread nutritional deficiencies in the western world correlates almost perfectly with the introduction of the microwave oven. This is no coincidence. Microwave ovens heat food through a process of creating molecular friction, but this same molecular friction quickly destroys the delicate molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant medicines) naturally found in foods. One study showed that microwaving vegetables destroys up to 97% of the nutritional content (vitamins and other plant-based nutrients that prevent disease, boost immune function and enhance health).

What is is about any mention of radiation that makes people lose their minds? By the first paragraph the stupid is burning my eyes.

First of all, widespread nutritional deficiencies in the western world? Show me this study that shows that nutritional deficiencies are rising, or even present at significant rates in the US or elsewhere in the west. Ever since the 1930s the US has been using public health measures to reduce nutritional deficiencies. In the early part of this century, for instance, Pellagra was responsible for as many as one in nine deaths in many southern states before the cause of the disease – niacin deficiency often associated with high corn diets – was discovered in 1937. A program of food fortification solved the problem and today it is a rare diagnosis except in susceptible populations like alcoholics. Rickets, a deficiency of vitamin D, was similarly eliminated by fortification. Recent fortification with folic acid has reduced neural tube defects, like spina bifida, by about 20 percent. Since 1900, lifespans have been increased by about 30 years. About 25 of these years are due to public health innovations including fortification. These days, diseases of malnutrition in the US and western world are vanishingly rare, and certainly aren’t widespread or increasing since the development of the microwave. That’s why I get just a bit irritated when an HIV/AIDS denialist and general crank like Mike Adams suggests conventional medicine is a cult and unscientific. I can think of few things more harmful to health than the lies spread by cranks like Mike Adams, who enjoy enormous success due to preying on people’s conspiratorial tendencies and fear of technology and medicine.

Wow. The first line of the first sentence and I’m already tired of this idiotic essay. Let’s hold our noses and dive back into the stupid.

He asserts that microwaves damage delicate nutrients in food. Is this the case? Well, yes and no. Cooking food decreases some of the nutritive content, but if anything, microwaves tend to protect the nutritional value of food (because they heat rapidly) or produce equivalent results compared to conventional ovens. Here’s a nice overview I found of the positive and negative effects of microwaving food. Where did he get the 97% figure? Well, there’s this this paper (which every crank in the universe seems to have latched onto) which shows that 97% of flavinoids in broccoli are lost with microwaving compared to raw broccoli. Conventional cooking killed about 66% of them, while steaming had minimal effects. I read that and say, wow, I guess people should steam broccoli (not that the loss of flavinoids from a serving of broccoli is going to kill you). Cranks read that and say, “microwaves nuke nutrients!” Well, in one food, and for one nutrient yes, one group managed to cook out the nutrients. Nevermind that the authors didn’t control for equal temperature or cooking times or that the mechanism that degraded the flavinoids wasn’t the microwave radiation but the heat generated from microwaves exciting water molecules in the food (microwaves operate by creating a 12cm wavelength EM radiation which happens to resonate with the molecular bonds in water). Instead we have paranoid ramblings about “nuking” based on one example of food preparation. The larger body of research shows the effects to be minimal or the opposite of this, but does this stop the cranks? Of course not. Cherry picking is second nature.

Wow. One paragraph down and we already have way too much idiocy. I’ve got endurance for a little more (I steamed some broccoli and the flavinoids are like crack!)

In other words, eating raw broccoli provides you with natural anti-cancer medicine that’s extremely effective at halting the growth of cancer tumors.

Do I even need to bother? No evidence exists that raw broccoli or flavinoids are a cancer cure or tumor suppressor in humans. I’m sure they have a cell culture experiment or two, but who doesn’t. Orac already has explained why cell culture results on cancer should not be over-interpreted in regards to DCA.

There’s even some evidence to suggest that microwaving destroys the natural harmony in water molecules, creating an energetic pattern of chaos in the water found in all foods.

Oh god! The agony! Energetic pattern of chaos in the water? You mean, like, heat? Where do you even begin with people who ascribe magical behavior to things like molecules of water. Luckily Orac has covered water-woo and homeopathy too, thus saving me the trouble.

In fact, the common term of “nuking” your food is coincidentally appropriate: Using a microwave is a bit like dropping a nuclear bomb on your food, then eating the fallout. (You don’t actually get radiation from eating microwaved foods, however. But you don’t get much nutrition, either.)

Well, at least he didn’t fall for that particular form of idiocy, that irradiating food doesn’t make food radioactive. But then, it kind of makes the first sentence a bit, shall we say, hyperbolic?

Consumers are dying today in part because they continue to eat dead foods that are killed in the microwave.

Did I say hyperbolic? I meant to say Adams drops a nuclear bomb off stupid with that latest statement. Microwaving food is cooking food. Heating food is not dropping a nuclear bomb on it, no matter what method you use (except a nuclear bomb of course). Yes, the degree that you cook food matters. If you convert a steak to a charcoal briquette, you’re not going to get a lot of nutrition from it, no matter what method you use.

Humans are the only animals on the planet who destroy the nutritional value of their food before eating it. All other animals consume food in its natural, unprocessed state, but humans actually go out of their way to render food nutritionally worthless before eating it. No wonder humans are the least healthy mammals on the planet.

Hmmm, leave it to Adams to believe that cooking, arguably one of the greatest innovations of the humans species, has been bad for us. It’s true that cooking decreases the nutritive content of some foods. Others it may increase, like lycopene in tomatoes. Some foods simply aren’t edible without cooking. Ever tried eating raw corn? Raw potatoes? Yuck! And the benefits in terms of eliminating microbial contamination are of critical importance, especially for meat.

For some reason people are obsessed with maximizing nutrient intake, but there is no reason to think that you need 100% of every nutrient in your food. A well-balanced diet will provide you with more than enough nutrients, and any excess won’t make you healthier. The excess water-soluble vitamins are usually easily excreted, and the fat soluble ones, and many minerals are actually dangerous in excess. A typical diet will provide you with all the nutrition you need, and nutritional deficiencies simply aren’t a problem in this country, and certainly aren’t being caused by cooking foods. The human body is pretty clever. It doesn’t need megadoses of vitamins to survive, and it doesn’t need you to constantly screw with it.

But Adams isn’t done:

The invention of the microwave and its mass adoption by the population coincides with the onset of obesity in developed nations around the world. Not only did the microwave make it convenient to eat more obesity-promoting foods, it also destroyed much of the nutritional content of those foods, leaving consumers in an ongoing state of malnourished overfeeding.

No amount of vitamins is going to prevent obesity from over-eating. The obesity epidemic is not caused by inadequate nutrition, and this claim is totally baseless. Nutritional deficiencies result in wasting, not obesity.

Microwaving is, technically, a form of food irradiation. I find it interesting that people who say that would never eat “irradiated” food have no hesitation about microwaving their food. It’s the same thing (just a different wavelength of radiation). In fact, microwaves were originally called “radar ranges.” …Probably the best way to heat foods right now is to simply use a countertop toaster oven, and keep the heat as low as possible.

Wait, I thought Adams understood that irradiation doesn’t make things radioactive? And it’s just a different wavelength of radiation? What do you think the broiler in the toaster oven is doing? Using infrared. Turning on a lightbulb is also irradiating you, with harmless non-ionizing visible light. Microwave radiation is also non-ionizing, and is not the same as the irradiation used to preserve food which uses ionizing radiation to kill microorganisms – and would put an end to most instances of food poisoning in the US if people weren’t insanely paranoid about radioactivity.

I’ll end with his excellent solution to your problem:

Do yourself a favor: Toss your microwave, or donate it to some charity. It’s much easier to avoid using the microwave if you don’t have one around.

That’s right, just pass it off onto poor people. If you really thought a microwave was so evil, maybe you shouldn’t pass the buck.

Adams’ essay is so rife with unscientific nonsense, and misrepresentations of the nutrition of cooking food (and nutrition period) it’s a wonder anyone gives a damn about what he has to say.
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P.S. I’m stunned Adams managed to write an essay without a conspiracy theory! That’s a first. 3/5 will have to do.

Comments

  1. #1 Colin
    August 8, 2007

    “Microwaving is, technically, a form of food irradiation. I find it interesting that people who say that would never eat “irradiated” food have no hesitation about microwaving their food. It’s the same thing (just a different wavelength of radiation).”

    I wonder if this guy only eats food under cover of darkness, or in a cave…

  2. #2 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 8, 2007

    Sounds like mike needs to join the RAW food movement.

    I’ll give him this crankery aside, I own a microwave and it is only used for reheating / defrosting. As a former professional chef I can’t bring myself to cook anything in it.

  3. #3 PalMD
    August 8, 2007

    I am literally choking on woo, now…thanks a lot. I’m gonna go eat my lawn now, cuz goats are a lot healthier than people.

  4. #4 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 8, 2007

    Microwave radiation is also non-ionizing, and is not the same as the irradiation used to preserve food which uses ionizing radiation to kill microorganisms

    Wikipedia claims 3 common techniques: electron beam, x-ray and gamma irradiation.

    While the later two are EM radiation as much as light, they obviously differ in characteristics. Um, an analogy for Adams would perhaps be comparing storm waves with calm waters. Both are waves but only the former capsize boats.

    Ionizing radiation capsize electron shells, microwaves gently rocks the molecules.

  5. #5 Brian
    August 8, 2007

    Not so fast, PalMD. That lawn has been irradiated by the SUN!

  6. #6 Mike Power
    August 8, 2007

    Rev. BigDumbChimp As a former professional chef I can’t bring myself to cook anything in it.

    I’m a retired chef and I think your missing a few tricks by avoiding microwave cooking altogether. Dig out Barbara Kafka’s great book on Gourmet Microwave Cooking for some insights. As for loss of nutrients, depending on whether they are water soluble or fat soluble the cooking method used will impact on the leeching of things like flavinoids. That’s why asparagus should never be cooked in water but rather sauted in a little oil (better still, add a knob of butter, clingfilm and microwave gently till tender) Mmmmm. We also now know that undercooking some vegetables is worse than overcooking them as far as releasing nutrients is concerned. Raw potato anyone?

  7. #7 dzd
    August 8, 2007

    It really can’t be long before orthorexia nervosa shows up in the DSM-V.

  8. #8 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 8, 2007

    Oh I’m sure there are tricks but something…keeps … me from… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    I’ll take a look at the book. I’m always up for an excuse to buy a new cook book.

  9. #9 Matthew Hardy
    August 8, 2007

    Microwaves are not simply a different wavelength of the radiatio used to irradiate food. A good proproation of food irradiation uses electron beams.

  10. #10 Graculus
    August 8, 2007

    Consumers are dying today in part because they continue to eat dead foods

    Last time I checked if it’s a plant of an animal it’s dead before it winds up on your plate. How does this idiot think food ends up as, well, food?

  11. #11 trrll
    August 8, 2007

    Humans are the only animals on the planet who destroy the nutritional value of their food before eating it. All other animals consume food in its natural, unprocessed state, but humans actually go out of their way to render food nutritionally worthless before eating it.

    In contrast to the claim that “All other animals consume food in its natural, unprocessed state, but humans actually go out of their way to render food nutritionally worthless,” there is a theory that the expansion of the human brain–with its massive energy demand–was made possible by the invention of cooking, which allowed us humans to obtain superior nutrition from the food we eat.

  12. #12 Melissa G
    August 8, 2007

    Ever tried eating raw corn? Raw potatoes? Yuck!

    Bad example– I love raw corn and raw potatoes, personally!

    Raw eggplant, on the other hand… :P

  13. #13 daedalus2u
    August 8, 2007

    This is such bogus crap.

    When humans do their “hunting and gathering” at a grocery store in a city, and eat a raw diet, they suffer from Chronic Energy Deficiency.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=14527628&ordinalpos=18&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

    Women become amenorrheic.

    Could humans do their “hunting and gathering” in the “wild” and survive without cooking? Very likely they could not. There is no indigenous population ever recorded that did not use fire for cooking.

  14. #14 Melissa
    August 8, 2007

    Why don’t people ever talk about the dangers of traditional methods of cooking? Smoked and fried foods serve up a heavy dose of carcinogens. Give me my microwave any day.

  15. #15 R. A. W.
    August 8, 2007

    Forget raw potatoes and raw corn. Ever try eating raw almonds? Cooking allows humans to eat foods that are otherwise poisonous!

  16. #16 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    August 8, 2007

    Who are these people cooking broccoli in the microwave? The most common microwavable foods are all transfat-filled, cholesterol-rampant, disgusting foods you shouldn’t be eating in the first place. If these people were really worried about health, they would consider eating healthy foods instead of that junk they get out of TV dinners. But we all know society thinks big is beautiful.. well.. sometimes.

  17. #17 G Felis
    August 8, 2007

    I’m with Melissa G on the raw corn, if not so much on raw potatoes. Fresh off the stalk at just the peak of perfect fullness, raw corn is delicious. Even field corn is a crisp, slightly sweet delight if you get it at at just the right time. But wash the hell out of it first unless you’re fond of herbicides and pesticides.

    [For you non-Midwesterners, what you grow in the garden or get at the store is sweet corn, and the majority of what’s grown in industrial agriculture is field corn, the primary destination of which is feed for livestock.]

  18. #18 Mongrel
    August 9, 2007

    My personal hypothesis about the whole modern foods have low nutritional value, and I include organic in their as well, is the breeds of fruit and vegetable sold by the large supermarkets\grocery stores.

    The big corps wanted food with good shelf life, consistent size and colour with a short growing cycle, taste dropped down the list. Because of all this commercially grown food just isn’t as tasty as something you could grow yourself in your back garden (Tomatoes are a prime example of this, try growing some – it’s dead easy and doesn’t need a lot of space) therefore some people have got it in their heads that Tastes ‘bland’ = low nutrition.

  19. #19 katie
    August 9, 2007

    Humans are the only animals on the planet who destroy the nutritional value of their food before eating it. All other animals consume food in its natural, unprocessed state, but humans actually go out of their way to render food nutritionally worthless before eating it. No wonder humans are the least healthy mammals on the planet.

    Hmm, quite a few animals – like cats and dogs, for instance – are able to eat their food in it’s natural state because their digestive system is set up to process raw foods, like meat. Humans can’t, therefore we cook it.

    Man, this guy is quite the tool.

  20. #20 Laser Potato
    August 9, 2007

    Homonids before (modern) Homo Sapiens cooked as well, so there blows that theory.

  21. #21 John Marley
    August 9, 2007

    My mother is particularly susceptible to nutrition-woo for some reason. Especially when presented in a “Food the way God intended” fashion.

    She once scolded me for using the microwave because it “scrambles the molecules” in the food.

  22. #22 PalMD
    August 9, 2007

    I vote for banning the use of infra-red radiation on products for human consumption, even in the home.

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