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Can the Times be relied on?


Years of misleading readers on HIV∫AIDS creates suspicions of wider rot

For example, microwave ovens and nutrients

Taking a break from the irrationality of HIV∫AIDS to a lighter topic we know very little about, microwaving food and whether it loses nutrients and taste, and whether the Times is any more authoritative on that important theme, we note the following:

Yesterday’s “REALLY?” column (Tues Oct 17) by Anahad O’Connor is part of a weekly series where the New York Times helpfully offers readers its verdict on whether popular claims are valid or not, based on science.

Is it unfair and an illusion based on knowledge of the atrocious performance of the newspaper in the realm of HIV∫AIDS science that one views this text with a jaundiced eye, and wonders about its accuracy?

This is the column, with comment:

October 17, 2006

Really?

The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR

THE FACTS They are a staple in kitchens everywhere, but for about as long as microwave ovens have been around, people have suspected that the radiation they emit can destroy nutrients in food and vegetables.

Your mileage may vary. but we have always found microwave ovens destroy the taste of food, and after keeping one around for the sole purpose of sanitizing kitchen cleaning rags (dampened and cooked in the microwave, they could quickly be sterilized), we tossed it on orders from the boss to save space.

According to most studies, however, the reality is quite the opposite. Every cooking method can destroy vitamins and other nutrients in food. The factors that determine the extent are how long the food is cooked, how much liquid is used and the cooking temperature.

This seems already to overlook the one great distinction of the microwave, as we understand it, which is that it cooks by agitating the molecules of water, fats and sugar inside food at 2450 million cycles per second and thus heating and boiling the water inherent in the food.

Since microwave ovens often use less heat than conventional methods and involve shorter cooking times, they generally have the least destructive effects. The most heat-sensitive nutrients are water-soluble vitamins, like folic acid and vitamins B and C, which are common in vegetables.

Does Anahad even understand the microwave process? This suggests he does not. The point about microwaves is not that they heat food hotter than other means of cooking, but faster, by agitating the internal molecules etc. In other words, from the inside out, as it were, rather than the outside in. A microwaved stalk of broccoli will heat up at every point, rather than from the surface inwards as in boiling water.

In studies at Cornell University, scientists looked at the effects of cooking on water-soluble vitamins in vegetables and found that spinach retained nearly all its folate when cooked in a microwave, but lost about 77 percent when cooked on a stove. They also found that bacon cooked by microwave has significantly lower levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines than conventionally cooked bacon.

This information sounds reliable, and makes sense, since obviously boiling a vegetable in water will leach its water soluble constituents out of it, as all of us can see when we look at the colored liquid when the vegetables are cooked, and anyway, boiling bones in soup leaches out the goodness from the marrow, so we know it will do it to vegetables.

The information about bacon is interesting. Is this because microwaving doesn’t heat bacon to high temperatures and burn it? Bacon, of course, is one of the essential foods worth risking a heart attack over, but any news of a way to block its ill effects is welcome.

When it comes to vegetables, adding water can greatly accelerate the loss of nutrients. One study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003 found that broccoli cooked by microwave — and immersed in water — loses about 74 percent to 97 percent of its antioxidants. When steamed or cooked without water, the broccoli retained most of its nutrients.

What on earth does Anahad mean with this? Apparently he means cooking broccoli in water in a container in a microwave, thus boiling the water around it. This seems absurd. Is this how people microwave broccoli? One would have thought they would simply microwave the raw vegetable, which would be quicker and prevent the leaching.

Anyhow, the whole point of the question was to compare microwaving with other ways of cooking in its loss of nutrients, surely, never mind about using it to boil the vegetables in water. And surely taste interests everybody and is dependent on nutrient preservation or loss? Why no mention of taste?

THE BOTTOM LINE Microwave ovens generally do not destroy nutrients in food.

The whole column seems not to answer the question that the claim posed, which is whether microwaving destroys more nutrients than rival methods. Obviously boiling water leaches out nutrients, but that’s just a red herring. We want to know whether a microwave loses nutrients in its pure, microwaving mode. We are only told that it retains “most” of the nutrients”.

The whole thing smacks of a stressed Anahad doing a superficial job, perhaps due to shortage of time, on a matter of keen interest to foodies everywhere. Perhaps Anahad does not realize the skepticism with which readers who are familiar with the HIV∫AIDS debacle will now approach anything in the Times to do with science.

The fallibility of the Times is not just revealed by comparing its record in covering HIV∫AIDS with the scientific literature of the field, of course. In the last few years, there have been more than one giant embarrassment for its editors, from front page reporter Jayson Blair’s humiliating exposure as a fiction writer who filed stories bylined in the South from his apartment in New York City, to the revelation that Judith Miller was suckered by her high level contacts in the Bush Administration into insisting that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

To our mind, however, the most annoying incompetence of the Times is the daily irritation produced by its inadequate search engine. Take the above Anahad O’Connor column, for instance. At this moment, 3.11 am on Wednesday morning, October 18, asked to find “Anahad O’Connor” the search engine cannot produce any more recent column of Anahad’s than the October 10 “REALLY?” column on “THE CLAIM — A plane’s back row is the safest place to sit. ” (Answer: No seat is safer than any other. But you improve the odds by flying non-stop, avoiding multiplying the dangerous landing and taking off phases of flight.)

Yet a search for “microwave nutrients” will produce Tuesday’s column.

Ten years into the Web revolution proper and the New York Times cannot even get its act straight on the search engine which is probably the most visited page on its site.

Is it not time that this vital organ of current history employed fact checkers and reviewed its performance as a news data base, which is surely what it will soon turn into before being swallowed up by the Wikipedia, which is already updating its entries the same day as relevant events happen.

16 Responses to “Can the Times be relied on?”

  1. Marcel Says:

    Truthseeker continues to resist the truth, which is that the Times is not just imperfect, they are any have been for many decades simply the world’s leading propaganda operation, working on behalf of the Global Elite.

    They are never going to blow any of the Big Lies out of the water, they will only expose minor lies that don’t seriously threaten the powerful.

    I wouldn’t trust anything they write about anything but sports and the weather. However, with cooking, one should simply eat food as close to raw as possible. I do not cook vegetables. If I’m making soup or macaroni (forgive me, but I LOATHE the word “pasta”, it’s such a Times word, so pretentiously yuppie) I simply cut the vegetables and put them in the bowl, and pour the hot water or hot noodles over them, and mix it all up. They taste just fine that way, and don’t get hot enough to lose any nutrients, and retain their crispness.

  2. Truthseeker Says:

    I simply cut the vegetables and put them in the bowl, and pour the hot water or hot noodles over them, and mix it all up. They taste just fine that way, and don’t get hot enough to lose any nutrients, and retain their crispness.

    Interesting, if somewhat extreme. Why isn’t the result waterlogged? But we agree that the best way of cooking rice and pasta (sorry to use the word, but what else is there to describe a group which surely includes more than macaroni) is to boil the water first then cut off the flame and chuck the rice or spaghetti in and just let it sit till done.

    They are never going to blow any of the Big Lies out of the water, they will only expose minor lies that don’t seriously threaten the powerful.

    This also seems extreme, a sort of blanket generality which cannot be true, can it, based on the evidence, which is that despite all the critics and skeptics in the world, now including billions given a new and loud voice on the Net, the Times’s grand failures in reporting exposed over the years are pretty few in number. In fact, the only one that comes immediately to mind is the failure to report Stalin’s genocide, now widely recognized.

    Perhaps you have better examples. But the idea of the Times’ reporters and editors setting out as a group to coordinate successful Big Lies so far never exposed seems as unlikely as the same kind of accusations leveled at government bureaucracies, eg that they cover up UFO landings etc.

    One example of a blatant falsehood perpetrated by bureaucracy is apparently the EPA verdict soon after 9/11 that the smoking pile of human and office remains of the World Trade disaster wasn’t dangerous to breathe, but this has been exposed as false now, as one would expect.

    If Big Lies perpetrated by the Times were successfully maintained for decades, it would have to be with the cooperation of its rivals, wouldn’t it? Such secret cooperation between the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, etc etc to maintain even one Big Lie successfully over decades is hard to imagine, to say the least.

    In the case of HIV∫AIDS, we have an exception based on the impenetrability of the science to outsiders who cannot easily critique it, and the unapologetic censorship imposed by Dr Anthony Fauci, who believes it is “dangerous” to investigate whether the science makes sense, in case patients are persuaded not to take medications which might prove fatal and irrelevant.

    Apparently the priority is to ensure at all costs that the supply and demand for such medications should not be interrupted, whether or not they are validated by the science.

  3. Martin Kessler Says:

    Another aspect for the NY Times and other dailies is economic. Ad revenue has been decreasing and they are in financial trouble – much ad revenue comes from the phamaceutical mega corporations, and many others who believe HIV is the cause of AIDS, or are on the receiving end of money related to the AIDS paradigm. Print publications like the NY Native, and Christopher Street which were either anti AIDS establishment or at least objective, are long gone. Continuum Magazine which was also very good is gone too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harpers publishing of Celia Farber’s article affected its ad revenue. Time will tell.

  4. Truthseeker Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Harpers publishing of Celia Farber’s article affected its ad revenue. Time will tell

    Harpers is funded by a foundation, which is what gives it its rare independence. Pharmas and any other businesses without conscience are hardly going to advertise in that magazine anyway. It is notoriously suspicious of the profit motive. We need more journals funded by foundations which can afford to take an independent line øn the liberal side!

  5. nohivmeds Says:

    According to Celia, the issue her article appeared in sold more copies than any other issue of Harper’s in its entire history. I imagine that might affect ad revenue.

  6. Marcel Says:

    TS, I didn’t suggest that you not boil the “pasta” or rice…that’s okay. I just said that what I do is I don’t cook the vegetables, I just pour the cooked “pasta” or cooked soup over the raw, cut vegetables in the bowl. That gets the vegetables warm but not warm enough to destroy the texture or nutrients. I do the same with garlic. I even plan to do the same with curries next time I make one!

    Not waterlogged unless it’s soup!

    Boy, TS, you are really uninformed about the corruption of “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” which is the CIA’s house term for “the media.” Even though I’m convinced that he’s a CIA agent pretending to be a leftist, Noam Chomsky’s many books expose quite well that the Times lies continuously on behalf of the Global Elite, and gives innumerable, examples of their big lies and toadying to Power. Read a few, start with Manufacturing Consent and Necessary Illusions.

    As for the Times not “secretly cooperating” with their rivals, just have a look at the International Herald Tribune, which is run as a partnership between the Times and the Washington Post. Look at the Times’ Board Of Directors, where you’ll find pharma-flunkies and other corporate and CFR honchos. You think this doesn’t affect their reporting?

    All of the media sources you mentioned are equally corrupt, but the Times is first among equals, as they are “the newspaper of record,” and formerly “The Good Grey Lady” (in reality the bad grey whore). Most other newspapers won’t touch a story unless it has the Times’ seal of approval, which is why they are such a tremendous force for evil.

    Seriously, read some of those books I mentioned. You will change your tune.

    Boycott the media. Cancel your subscriptions. Never buy them again. I haven’t for over 20 years.

  7. Truthseeker Says:

    Marcel, you have to read the weightier posts more carefully, for we did not say that we boiled rice, but that we boiled the water and then dunked the rice into the saucepan of water and let it sit with the flame off. The result is cooked rice without overcooking, overflowing or burning the pot.

    As to your warming raw vegetables by ladling the pasta on top on them, OK, but rather primitive. The whole point of cooking is to aid the digestion and kill germs, so why not simply dunk them into the boiling water and cut the flame, as we suggested? If that would leach too much nutrient from them, maybe you could use a wok, in which vegetables can be cooked very rapidly indeed, certainly fast enough to suit Anahad, and probably al dente enough for you, and that would be a thousand times tastier. Or simply steam them in a container above boiling water, which is the best of all. Anyhow, no one can eat raw potatoes, so you have to have some method of cooking those.

    A pot of boiling water with another container fitting on top of it with holes for the steam to come through into which vegetables can be put is clearly the best option for those worried about losing nutrients. But an even tastier and seriously time saving approach is to throw meat and vegetables into a pot with a closed lid and bake at 250 degrees for 1 1/2 hrs. Nothing tastier can be found in the palaces of the world.

    As regards your conspiracy theory of media publishers running the world with Big Lies exposed only by Noel Chomsky, we already have had for a long time on our shelves Manufacturing Consent and many of his other books, but have always found that his delightful style, so reassuringly decent, enlightened and caring in spirit, unique in that respect in fact, was strange;y not enough to motivate us to finish any of them, because his content always seems to add up to nothing more than what is generated by his permanent premise that the US government and major capitalists are always up to mischief and never motivated by decency or human welfare, or anything much apart from self-interest, national interest and stockholder demands, and while we agree that misbehavior is always likely unless people are watching, that is not the whole story, governments like capitalist boardrooms are made up of all kinds of people and there are many civlized and idealistic people in positions of power and influence everywhere, according to our own experience which even includes working within the institutions you are so suspicious of.

    If you haven’t read any of the media you accuse for twenty years, how would you know what their Big or Small Lie performance has been lately?

  8. Gene Semon Says:

    TS,

    Manufacturing Consent and the follow-up Necessary Illusions represent a “propaganda model” and can be interpreted as the “benevolent elitism” of “civilized and idealistic people in positions of power”, which is the position “radical” Walter Lipmann eventually adopted. It leaves room for media that will keep the elite well informed (e.g. The Wall Street Journal).

    I think something like a propaganda model (John Moore’s “responsible journalism”) is operating in maintaining the “necessary illusion”, HIV causes AIDS. Why necessary? No “evil capitalists” required – the prevention of a substantial worsening of the economic crisis. AIDS is also a lynchpin in maintaining the multi-billion dollar cancer industry where failure is likewise irrelevant.

    The Straussians currently in charge are elitists without the benevolence and have added psyops – the “war on terror”, declared during the Reagan Administation – to “classical” propaganda. As we’ve seen, they have no problem intensifying and amplifying crises, which distinguishes them from “liberals”. Remember “shock and awe”?

    This all-important “psyops” is treated in a scholarly manner by historian Christopher Simpson in “Science of Coercion” and related on-line essays.

  9. Martel Says:

    Interestingly, NYTimes profits continue to sink: for the last reporting period, by 39%.

  10. Marcel Says:

    I did not say that I never read the media anymore, TS, I said that I never PAY to read it.

    I do see their stories on Google News and I’m always seeing the CNN nonsense as I pass by TV sets in public places.

    You have a too-rosy view of the nature of men of power. The reality is, it’s even worse than what Chomsky describes. Power always corrupts, and eventually makes men insane.

    In short, it ain’t just Aids that they propagandize about. It’s everything that affects the wealthy elite.

  11. Marcel Says:

    The whole point of cooking is to aid the digestion and kill germs? I thought the point was to make the food taste good!

    Raw is the way to go. And germs don’t cause disease.

  12. trrll Says:

    <blockquote>Does Anahad even understand the microwave process? This suggests he does not. The point about microwaves is not that they heat food hotter than other means of cooking, but faster, by agitating the internal molecules etc. In other words, from the inside out, as it were, rather than the outside in. A microwaved stalk of broccoli will heat up at every point, rather than from the surface inwards as in boiling water.</blockquote>

    Why would it matter whether it heats faster? Are you really claiming that chemical degradation is dependent upon the derivative of temperature rather than upon the absolute temperature? What physical mechanism could possibly account for this? And I’m surprised to see you repeating the old myth that microwaves cook “from the inside out.” As with any other method of radiant heating, the amount of energy deposited falls off as you go deeper into the food. The only time you get more heat at deeper levels than at shallow ones is if the outer layers of food contain fewer water molecules. Here’s a more accurate statement from Wikipedia:

    <blockquote>A common misconception is that microwave ovens cook food from the “inside out”. In reality, microwaves are absorbed in the outer layers of food in a manner somewhat similar to heat from other methods. The misconception arises because microwaves penetrate dry nonconductive substances at the surfaces of many common foods, and thus often deposit initial heat more deeply than other methods. Depending on water content the depth of initial heat deposition may be several centimeters or more with microwave ovens, in contrast to broiling (infrared) or convection heating, which deposit heat thinly at the food surface. Depth of penetration of microwaves is dependent on food composition and the frequency, with lower microwave frequencies being more penetrating.</blockquote>

    Chemical degradation proceeds much more rapidly at higher temperatures that are attained at the outer layers of food using conventional baking or frying methods. This is why many microwaved foods lack the flavor of foods cooked by older methods–because no part of the food attains the high temperatures required to produce the chemical changes we call “browning,” which add flavor even as they destroy nutrients and produce carcinogens.

  13. Truthseeker Says:

    Good one, trlll. One forgets that Wikipedi has spoiled most spontaneous amateur discussions, except that it is often enough wrong, that is, when the common idea is wrong, as in HIV∫AIDS. In this case, in fact, it seems to us that this is a typically slightly bent entry, making the common mistake of the petty arrogance of mediocre minds that something is a “common misconception” when the writer misunderstands what he is interpreting.

    Like most people, we imagine, we didn’t mean literally that it “heats from the inside out” rather than the outside in, it was just a figure of speech to express exactly what the Wikipedia authors say is likely, which is that it heats up the interior, rather than the surface in certain common configurations of material composition of the thing being cooked, where there is a lack of water or fat on the surface. Similarly, on your point, we never said there was more heating in the interior than at the surface, just more than in the case of heating by contact.

    Obviously it depends on what material is in the way of the penetration of the microwaves. But there doesn’t seem any doubt that microwaves penetrate well and that heat by contact does not do so nearly as rapidly in most cases of commen edible materials. You disagree with this? Microwaves are bought because they cook faster. How do they do it if not like that? They penetrate. Thrw something in a very hot oven and only the surface will burn, far earlier than the interior heats up.

    As to why heating faster matters, we just meant that it doesn’t take as long, which is what microwaves are famous and desired for. We weren’t sure if this affected flavor or not. If flavor demands browning we can see why this might afect taste, but what about when browning is not desired?

    Your point about browning is worthwhile but surely not so relevant for the bulk of cases where flavor of microwaving is unsatisfactory, since it destroys the flavor of anything which is tastier when dry, since it renders material soggy eg reheating the crust of a precooked Turkish meat or spinach pie. It creates heat inside the pie which heats the contents but it doesn’t heat the surface crust very well, and whatever browning was achieved in the original cooking is spoiled as it leaves the pastry soggy.

    You don’t say whether you agree that it generally spoils the taste. Do you agree? Does steamed broccoli taste better than microwaved broccoli? Or does it taste exactly the same? One imagines the same. But is there anything that doesn’t need browning that tastes worse from the microwave?

  14. trrll Says:

    Obviously it depends on what material is in the way of the penetration of the microwaves. But there doesn’t seem any doubt that microwaves penetrate well and that heat by contact does not do so nearly as rapidly in most cases of commen edible materials. You disagree with this? Microwaves are bought because they cook faster. How do they do it if not like that? They penetrate. Thrw something in a very hot oven and only the surface will burn, far earlier than the interior heats up.

    With energy that doesn’t penetrate well, you need very high temperatures at the outer layers in order to cook in a reasonable period of time. Higher temperature means greater chemical degradation of nutrients.

    Your point about browning is worthwhile but surely not so relevant for the bulk of cases where flavor of microwaving is unsatisfactory, since it destroys the flavor of anything which is tastier when dry, since it renders material soggy eg reheating the crust of a precooked Turkish meat or spinach pie. It creates heat inside the pie which heats the contents but it doesn’t heat the surface crust very well, and whatever browning was achieved in the original cooking is spoiled as it leaves the pastry soggy.

    This is more a matter of moisture distribution and texture than flavor. On the other hand, I like using microwaves to reheat breads, because very often infrared heating in an oven renders the crust too dry for my taste. Most recipes are designed for oven are pan cooking, and rely upon chemical changes produced by high local temperatures for flavor. Moreover, slow cooking is often desirable because it allows flavors to diffuse. I generally prefer microwaves for reheating foods with high liquid content, like stews.

    But in terms of preserving nutrients, it is hard to do better than microwaves (although steaming should be comparable). Microwave photons do not have enough energy to cause chemical changes individually, so the only way they can damage nutrients is by excessive heating. And the penetrating nature of microwaves makes this easier to avoid.

  15. Truthseeker Says:

    Infra red oven? How do they work? Never seen one.

    So it seems you do not recognize any deterioration in taste with microwave except for sogginess. All the improvement in taste with conventional baking etc comes from browning, then? Presumably this is because it creates sugars on the way to carbonizing, in some way. Burned things certainly taste delicious. Seems unnatural that they should cause cancer. Hope that research result is correct. Probably needs to be checked.

    You would make one sorry that one got rid of the microwave, except that we just know that it didn’t taste good at all much of the time. Even heated liquids didn’t taste the same, as we recall.

    How do you feel about chemicals added to food?

    “Food, one assumes, provides nourishment; but Americans eat it fully aware that small amounts of poison have been added to improve its appearance and delay its putrefaction.” – John Cage

  16. trrll Says:

    Infra red oven? How do they work? Never seen one.

    You doubtless have one in your kitchen. They typically use an electric heating element or sometimes a gas flame to generate infrared radiation (electromagnetic energy with a wavelength a bit shorter than microwaves), which heats the food.

    Even heated liquids didn’t taste the same, as we recall.

    I’ve never tasted any difference, and I’d be skeptical unless you did it in a blind taste test. But it’s not impossible. When you heat liquid in a container, it often boils right near the heat source, and that can add air. Liquid in a microwave heats more evenly. It can occasionally be a hazard, since it is if you are careless with the timing, it is possible to superheat a liquid in a microwave, only to have it instantly start boiling violently when disturbed.

    How do you feel about chemicals added to food?

    Once again, this is an area where generalizations make little sense. It depends upon the chemical and the quantity added. I find that a little bit of sodium chloride often enhances flavor. Of course, large amounts of sodium chloride are toxic, and some people do not tolerate even fairly small amounts.

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