Saturday, 25 June 2016

How safe is microwave cooking?


Microwave oven uses electromagnetic waves to heat up food. When the oven is switched on, electromagnetic waves will spread across the oven and be reflected by the inside of the oven. Water molecules in the food will vibrate when these microwaves pass through it and thus the food is heated up.

The question that often arises among us is "Will the microwaves affect us?"

The electromagnetic waves in theory should not leave the oven. Microwave ovens are designed in such manner that the waves are contained inside the oven and will only be active when the oven is switched on. Microwaves are not absorbed through the oven wall. But there is a possibility of microwave leakage if the oven is faulty.

So what happens if our body come in contact with the waves? The molecules in our body will vibrate and heat it up. But only certain organs in our body are sensitive to heat, such as eye balls and genitalia.

For the small amount of microwaves to cause heat induced damage, two conditions need to be met

i) There must be leakage from your microwave

ii) There must be significant time of exposure, which is rare as cooking in microwave oven is commonly just for a short time.

"Many nutrients break down when they're heated, regardless of the source"

So we can confidently decide that microwave oven will not harm us, except if the unit is faulty in which there is a small possibility of wave leakage.

What about the food heated or cooked using microwave oven? Does microwave heating change any molecule that might make food carcinogenic ( ability to cause cancer )? Does it remove the nutrients of the food?

Key issue to understand is that microwave oven cook by production of heat. And many nutrients break down when they're heated, regardless of the source. 

A research done by Monreal J et al specifically compared effect of different cooking methods on anti-oxidant level of vegetables showed that microwave cooking has the lowest effect on the anti-oxidant level of vegetables such as celery and ginger. Boiling them has the highest effect,causing the vegetables to lose their anti-oxidant properties.

Essentially all cooking method will make some nutrients to break down. The key is to reduce the amount of time the food is exposed to heat. Microwave oven heats up quickly, thus reducing the amount of time the food is exposed, and effectively reducing the amount of nutrient loss compared to other cooking methods.

Menstrual Cramps? Nature is here to help!

Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is a common problem among women.. There are many causes for painful menstruation , some of them not due to any specific medical conditions especially when the begin from the time of first menstrual cycles. 

When the pain of menstruation remains to be worrisome after the 20s , a medical consultation is warranted.  Many women suffering  from menstrual cramps every month often  take pain killers and hormones.  

Not all women are comfortable taking prescription pills. There is also a risk of developing gastritis and even stomach ulcers when one takes these ‘pain killers’ for long periods.

A number of non-prescriptive pills have been said to relieve menstrual cramps. Although effectiveness varies from person to person, women should always seek the views of medical doctors when pain persists as some gynaecological problems like endometriosis, fibroids and pelvic infections may also cause persistent painful menstruation.

"Ginger is as effective as painkillers for painful menses"

1. Ginger

Based on search for evidence, two research articles compare the effectiveness  ginger  taken by mouth and  prescription pills (pain killers).

Shirvani MA et al reported that among 122 female students with dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) ginger  was as effective as a regular painkiller. Ginger was also noted not to have any side effects.

A systematic review by Chin X Chen et al also concludes that ginger can be effective in reduced menstrual cramps. In their study, some side effects such as heartburn and headache were noted among patients.

2. Cinnamon

Image by |Pixabay

Cinnamon stick is a spice available in many households. One research study by Jaafarpour M showed that cinnamon powder in capsule form reduced menstrual cramp, the amount of blood lost at menstruation and also nausea associated with menstrual cramps. 

 3. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a favorite pick among health bloggers and they swear by it's effectiveness in relieving menstrual cramps. A search on medical databases did not yield any useful results, but one research showed up.

Wang Y, Tang M et al published an article mentioning about how chamomile tea consumption increases level of glycine in urine. This indicates a rise in  mean levels of glycine in the blood. Glycine is known to be a muscle relaxant. Hence the authors think this digested product of chamomile tea might be responsible for reducing menstrual cramps in women. More substantial evidence is needed on this subject. 


Conventional teaching is to find a cause for menstrual pain when the problem persists in women past the age of 18 years. Prescription pills like mefenamic acid and indomethacin are commonly used for pain relief related to menstruation. These medications are taken only for short periods during the menstruation to get optimal results. Herbal medication mentioned above will need more stringent study by medical researchers before they can be prescribed as alternatives to medication given by doctors.

For further reading

1. Ginger & Menses

2. Ginger & Menses 2

3. Chamomile Tea & Menses

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Anti-diabetic properties of bittermelon

Image by |Pixabay
Bitter melon or bitter gourd originated from India and was introduced to many parts of the world. It is widely known for its medicinal benefits. Let's see the top 3 scientifically proven benefits of bitter gourd or  "Momordica charantia". 


1.     Acts as a natural anti-diabetic

Two studies have proven that bitter gourd helps in diabetes mellitus by working the same way as diabetic medications. 

Study by Chandru S et al compared the efficacy of bitter gourd juice and glitazone (a type of diabetic drug) in diabetic rats. In animal studies, it is shown that bitter gourd juice had reduction in blood sugar and was comparable with glitazone

Authors of this study postulate that bitter gourd juice works by increasing insulin sensitivity and causing the pancreas to secrete more insulin. 

"Bitter gourd juice proves to reduce blood sugar level"

Study by Rahman IU et al also reported similar findings among patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. 95 patients in this study took 2g (60mls) or 4g(120mls) of bitter gourd juice daily for 10 weeks. Both groups had blood sugar reduction. Their HBA1C level dropped along with fasting blood glucose level. 

Fuangchan A et al studied the effect of bitter melon and compared it to Metformin 1g, a standard first line medication for diabetes mellitus type 2. They proved that bitter melon juice has blood sugar reducing properties but not as strong as Metformin. This suggests that bitter melon juice can be used as supplement for sugar control in people with diabetes.

2. Added values in people with complications of diabetes

Raish M et al studied the effects of bitter melon juice  on the progression of diabetic kidney disease. Normally in patients with uncontrolled diabetes, many complications develop over time. 

Image by |Pixabay
Kidney failure is one of it, and it causes many patients to be dependent on dialysis machine for the rest of their life. Other than that some patients develop nerve problems, in which patients will feel numbness and tingling over their feet. Some may even lose balance.

In his study, it was shown that bitter melon given by mouth improves kidney function in rats. Scientists suggest that bitter melon provides kidney protection by reducing the high sugar level and also by reducing the oxidative damages to kidney. But more research will be needed to find out if bitter gourd will be effective in patients with complications.  

Study by Kim JW also proves that kidney functions improves with bitter melon juice . This study
focuses mainly on combined effect of oats and bitter melon on sugar level and diabetic nephropathy. But significant reduce in blood sugar and protective effects on kidneys are shown even in rats that were only treated with bitter melon juice. But again, this study did not talk on those with established kidney disease. 

From preliminary information available largely from animal studies, it appear that bitter melon juice helps in reduction of blood sugar level and prevention of diabetic kidney disease. Bitter melon juice has anti-oxidant properties and anti-diabetic properties which help to achieve this. 

How to prepare fresh bitter melon juice

Image by |Pixabay
Use unripe fresh bitter melon

Wash thoroughly, cut the melon and remove the seeds

 Use electric juicer to extract the juice

This method is used in the study by scientists Rahman et al.  

They prepared the bitter melon juice in this manner, and proceeded to freeze it to make it into powder form but it' s not necessary for personal use. 

They discovered anti-diabetic benefits at 2g of bitter gourd juice powders. 2g of powder is equivalent to 60mls of bitter gourd juice. 

For further reading: