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If you microwave butter or margarine, does this release the free radicals?

Free radicals are generated from many reactions in the body and can be created in foods from a combination of oxygen and light or heat that react with a donor molecule.  Therefore, free radicals are not released, but are created.  The main target or donor in foods is polyunsaturated fats because they have double bonds that accept oxygen and form a radical.  Butter and margarine contain small amounts of polyunsaturated fats.  For this reason, free radicals can theoretically occur in them when they are subjected to heat or light in the presence of oxygen.  However, these foods also usually contain antioxidants which will reduce the free radicals.  The risk of harm associated with microwaving butter or margarine from free radicals is, in my opinion, extremely low.


Ruth MacDonald, RD., PhD, Chair Food Science,  University of Missouri-Columbia.
University of Missouri Extension Site Administrator: 

Last updated:06/17/2015
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