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How to Poison Your Spouse the Natural Way
One of the great myths of alternative medicine and the health food industry is that natural things are better than artificial or synthetic things because natural is natural and Mother Nature wouldn't want to hurt us. Wouldn't she just? Plants and animals have had many millions of years to evolve ways of protecting themselves against predators and competitors for resources. Humans have had about 100,000 years of hunting and gathering to evolve natural resistance and about 10,000 years of agriculture to breed out the nastiness, and these times are just not long enough to make much difference. We are surrounded by plants and animals which can do us great harm if we are not careful about what we eat, and also by a myriad of fungi which delight in making safe foods unsafe.
The book is divided into three sections - "Dangers we should worry about but don't", "Things we worry about but need not", and "Things we ought to know".
The first section is about the dangers out there which are often ignored because "natural is safe" or simply because people don't know any better. Some of the warnings are well recognised, such as the dangers of rhubarb leaves and anything to do with oleander plants. Others, such as the dangers of moulds, are often ignored because they are secondary to the main event. An example would be a herbal medicine which is harmless if the herbs are kept dry but which can become deadly if it becomes mouldy through bad handling or storage. If you want to be really scared, think about saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin in seafood which can paralyse someone to the point where bystanders think that the they are dead but which leave the victim fully conscious and aware of what is happening. This is the stuff of horror movies.
The second section deals with irrational fears about chemicals. Much of the hysteria about genetically-modified foods, additives, preservatives and other ways man interferes with nature is based on ignorance or fear of the unknown. This is not to say that we should not be careful, but if you are eating in an Asian restaurant you probably should be more worried about zearalenone in the corn and chicken soup or aflatoxin in the sate than about the MSG in the sweet and sour sauce.
The third section of the book gives a good explanation of how to interpret research and statistics, as well as some good advice about exercise.
Some of this book will make you think very carefully about what you put into your mouth and some of it will reassure you, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to find out the reality of food dangers and safety.
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