Microwave ovens: spoilage of food and health?


Microwaves have so many benefits that it would be almost unthinkable to live without them. Not only are they a huge time saver, they also allow you to cook a meal in seconds, even for frozen foods. However, the process employed on this technology can cause concern, and it is reasonable to wonder about the effects this can have on the health of its user.

Radiation around a microwave oven

The presence of radiation is a central concern of many people when it comes to using microwave ovens. From this perspective, microwave radiation is argued to be carcinogenic, in addition to promoting infertility. However, the majority of published research on the subject concludes that exposure to low-level microwave radiation does not pose a serious risk to human health.

International standards for microwave emissions are set at a scale of around 5 mW per cm² at a distance of 5 m from the device. The radiation should dissipate quickly when the user moves away from the source. Thus, a measurement taken 50 m from the device would correspond to one hundredth of that taken at 5m. It is therefore sufficient to move away from the device while heating to become immune to microwave radiation. It should also be noted that with the evolution of technology, the majority of models currently on the market have emissions well below this scale. (source: Microwav.fr microwave buying guide)

Microwave and protein damage

Critics of the microwave ’oven often claim that microwaves could denature the proteins in foods, making them toxic to the human body. There are, however, some misconceptions about the meaning of this distortion. This is because this term does not mean that a protein has changed in unspecified ways to turn into something more toxic. When a protein is denatured, it specifically means that it has unfolded and lost its three-dimensional shape. However, all amino acids are still linked together.

The heat in its generality causes the phenomenon of denaturation. Cooking a food will therefore denature its proteins, regardless of the heating method used. Cooking can even be defined as the consequent heating of something to change the nature of its proteins. This denaturation can also result from a change in pH. In fact, this process mimics one of the functions of stomach acid, which is the desaturation of proteins during digestion. Proteins must be denatured before being cleaved by digestive enzymes into individual amino acids. They will then be absorbed in the small intestine.

People quite often confuse denaturation with isomerization, which is the change in the configuration of amino acids. These can in fact exist in two configurations, namely the D- and L-. This change affects the value of protein. However, it only happens if a food has been overcooked, regardless of the heating tool used. Reasonable cooking should thus prevent this phenomenon.

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