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Protecting Ourselves from Food

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The act of eating can be one of the most dangerous things many of us do every day. Ingesting bits and pieces of the outside world provides a free pass to the bloodstream for whatever may lurk within, perhaps an unfriendly bacterium or a plant toxin. The authors argue that two mechanisms—one cultural and the other physiological—help us to avoid these dangers. In the first part of the article, the authors examine the hypothesis that adding spices to food inhibits the growth of microorganisms, and thus protect us from diseases. In the second part, they explore the idea that "morning sickness"—expelling or avoiding certain foods during the early months of pregnancy—also serves to protect the mother and embryo from foodborne illnesses and toxins, especially when the fetus is most sensitive to disruption.

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