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May 15, 2018

I live in a little house out in prarie country, but it's not every day I get to quote Laura Ingalls Wilder in an article about science. I managed to do it in my column for Australasian Science magazine

Sweet simple things of life

When Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all" she wasn't referring to things used to make food taste better, but it is undeniable that humans have a preference for sweetness. There is even some indication that a preference for sweetness is common throughout the animal kingdom.

In 1998 a book titled "Sweet Poison" appeared. The author, Janet Starr Hull, described herself as a "certified nutritionist" (which is not a dietician, the actual scientific discipline related to diet and food consumption) and the book addressed the terrible dangers of aspartame, one of the five most deadly chemicals in the mythology of people who oppose real medicine. (The other four are mercury, Prozac, Ritalin and fluoride.) The fact that millions of people consumed aspartame on a daily basis without any apparent ill effects was just an inconvenient fact that could be ignored. The hysteria about the chemical is matched by the nonsense we hear whenever a new mobile phone tower is to be erected, and as my Council is proposing yet again to fluoridate the water supply the letters pages in the local paper would be on fire if they weren't being quenched by mouth foam.

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