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Jack Tame: There's no such thing as a free lunch

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 1 Jul 2023, 9:31AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Jack Tame: There's no such thing as a free lunch

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 1 Jul 2023, 9:31AM

Sir Isaac Newton missed a trick. Albert Einstein did no better. Archimedes was good, sure. But he still failed to describe one of the most obvious principles defining almost every aspect of our mortal existance: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

So far as I’m concerned, the Theory of No Free Lunch applies to every aspect of our lives. It’s the rule of payoffs. The rule of compromises.

Sure, you can drive a massive V8 that sounds awesome and goes like the clappers, but it’s probably gonna’ be terrible for the environment and a nightmare to maintain. Sure, you can have a meaningful, purposeful, nourishing job, but you’re probably only going to earn a 50th of the salary of someone trading derivatives or trafficking weapons for a living.

But perhaps nowhere is the Theory of No Free Lunch more applicable than at lunch.

Sure, you can have a fast, convenient, delicious meal, but it’s probably not gonna’ be very healthy. You can enjoy a highly-nutritious, wholesome, plant-based dish, but it’s probably not gonna’ be quite as tasty or convenient as some other options.

Think about how we use salt and sugar. Up to a point, is it too cheeky to suggest that every sprinkle makes a dish both a bit more delicious and a bit less healthy?

There are very few unicorns when it comes to the Theory of No Free Lunch, which is why I for one am not surprised in the slightest at the news on Aspartame. The World Health Organisation is reportedly preparing to define the artificial sweetener as a possible human carcinogen.

Aspartame is the miracle ingredient that makes things like Diet Coke, toothpaste, and sugar-free chewing gum delicious. Sure, you’re not consuming good old-fashioned sugary calories, you’re not rotting your teeth and clogging your arteries, but there’s a cost to that deliciousness that has to be paid somewhere. You can’t have something for nothing.

We have to wait a couple of weeks for the final WHO report, but that it’s taken this long to define aspartame as possibly carcinogenic is yet another great example of how stunningly little we seem to actually understand about the science of nutrition. Aspartame is in 6000 products worldwide. It’s been studied and studied and studied. Diet Coke is 41 years old! And yet if the reports are true, it’s taken until 2023 for the WHO to finally decide aspartame meets the carcinogenic threshold.

The good news, if there is any, is that it’s likely you’ll need to consume a huge quantity of the stuff for it to have a significant effect. I don’t think anyone is suggesting aspartame is on the scale of leaded petrol or tobacco.

I occasionally have a diet fizzy drink. I used to be addicted but I weaned myself off it for exactly this reason. I figured it had to be bad for me, somehow.

But really, the thing for me is chewing gum. I chew gum like an Australian cricketer. And will this news stop me? Of course not. Because like I said... it’s not news to me.

Whether carcinogenic or something else, for sugarfree gum to taste that delicious, I’ve always known there had to be a cost. I knew, and I will always know, that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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