Medical Myths Debunked

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“Don’t swallow your gum, it’ll take seven years for your stomach to digest!” “Ah, just pick it up off the floor…

five second rule!” Most of us grew up with wives’ tales like these, and probably believed them. But, as we’ve gotten older and wiser, we’ve found that many of them just aren’t true — and that there are many health concerns that we really should be getting checked out instead. Here’s a list of 30 medical myths, both old and new, that have been debunked.


CARBS MAKE YOU FAT

Carbs are not only not bad for you — they’re essential to a healthy diet. Holland Matheson, a nutrition specialist, says, “Carbs are the essential nutrients our body needs to survive. It’s the first macronutrient we use to burn energy and survive. Cutting carbs or completely omitting your primary energy source will be not sustaining, causing many people to rebound. Go for the good complex carbs, like whole grain pasta and oatmeal, rather than carbs like potato chips or ice cream.”

Fat Makes You Fat

In fact, fat doesn’t make you fat, and the right kind of fat can be very good for weight maintenance and your heart. As nutritionist Holland Matheson says, “My motto has always been moderation. It’s what I always recommend to my clients and what I regularly practice.”


YOUR BODY TAKES SEVEN YEARS TO DIGEST GUM

While your body can’t really digest gum, it also is smart enough to just move it through your system — i.e. you poop out gum with everything else.

The 5 Second Rule

The five-second rule suggests that you can safely eat food that’s fallen on the floor as long as you quickly pick it up — within five seconds. Believe it or not, researchers did a study on the five-second rule, and it is officially untrue — germs transfer before five seconds.
Further findings from the study are that women use the rule more than men, and the rule is more likely to be invoked for cookies than for cauliflower.


COFFEE IS DEHYDRATING

While caffeine can have a mildly diuretic effect, there is no evidence that they increase the risk of dehydration. Water is still your best bet for staying hydrated, but there’s no need to be concerned about that afternoon cup of coffee throwing off your hydration.


MILK IS CRUCIAL TO A HEALTHY DIET

The US Department of Agriculture tells adults that they should drink three cups of milk a day, mostly for calcium and vitamin D. However, studies show that there isn’t an association between drinking more milk and having fewer bone fractures. In fact, sometimes milk consumption can correspond to an increased risk of fractures or of death. While correlation and causation aren’t the same thing, the benefits aren’t proven and there may be risks.


CHEESE IS BAD FOR YOUR HEART

You would think that since milk isn’t so good for you, cheese would be even worse. Counterintuitively, researchers at Penn State found that cheese uniquely has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, despite its sodium content. This study only measured the short term results of 55- to 60-year-olds eating cheese versus soy cheese and pretzels, but they are currently conducting a longer-term study. In the meantime, you can continue eating cheese snacks in moderation.


CARROTS HELP YOU SEE AT NIGHT

Perhaps as a child you heard that eating carrots would help your night vision. Alas, this myth has been around for a while and was started by WWII propaganda. Eat all the carrots you’d like, but it’s not going help you see in the dark. That said, carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A — a nutrient essential for good vision.


SUGAR WILL HELP REDUCE CRAVINGS

We now know that sugar is far more to blame than fat for many of our maladies, but in the 1960s and ‘70s, it was marketed as a healthy way to curb cravings. Ads included phrases like “sugar can be the will powers you need to undereat” or “Sugar. It isn’t just good flavor; it’s good food.”


YOU CAN SCARE AWAY HICCUPS

Hiccuping is, for most of us, an occasional annoyance. There are plenty of old wives’ tales about suggested remedies, but they don’t hold up under medical scrutiny. If you want to try one, fine; they’re pretty low risk. It probably won’t work, but can’t hurt, and the hiccups will probably go away on their own.


YOU SHOULD DRINK EIGHT GLASSES OF WATER A DAY

It’s a common saying that we need to be drinking eight glasses of water a day in order to stay healthy. The only problem is that there’s no scientific basis for that. You certainly don’t want to be dehydrated, but the best way to make sure you’re hydrated is to drink when you’re thirsty. The amount of water your body needs also depends on a variety of factors, including size, weight, activity level and where you live.


YOU CAN AND SHOULD DETOX YOUR BODY

While it’s a nice idea that you can take a remedy, fast, or consume only fluids for a few days to offset the effects of consuming something you consider unhealthy, that’s not how bodies work. There’s little evidence to suggest that detox diets effectively remove toxins from the body. Thankfully our kidneys, liver and digestive system are quite effective when it comes to filtering out most ingested toxins.


EATING TURKEY WILL MAKE YOU SLEEPY

The amino acid tryptophan does play a role in sleep, but turkey has the same amount of tryptophan as chicken or ground beef. Pork and cheese both have more tryptophan than turkey. We probably associate turkey with sleepiness because of heavy Thanksgiving meals — likely with a glass of wine or two.


CHOCOLATE CAUSES ACNE

This old wives’ tale scared a lot of teenagers, but ultimately, chocolate doesn’t cause acne. A diet high in fat and sugar can cause an inflammatory response in the body, which can lead to acne, but chocolate itself isn’t to blame.

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