A myth is a traditional story, idea, or belief, especially one concerning early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon. It is a widely held but false belief or idea. In medicine, health myths are also widely held beliefs about health issues such as medicines, herbs, treatments, cures, antidotes, etc. which are partially or totally false and unsubstantiated in the scientific literature. This is a partial list of the most common health myths.
You don’t need to search very long to find copious information purporting the value of water to maintain good health. Sources suggest between 8 and 15 cups of water per day! Despite the plethora of contradictory information, there is no research to support an exact amount. In fact, most scientifically validated research suggests that healthy adults do not need to count cups and those who drink water when thirsty receive adequate hydration for good health. Remember, there are many water-rich foods to provide hydration; soup, fruit, vegetables, juice, coffee, and tea. However, be aware that if your urine is dark yellow you need more hydration. And, if you are very physically active or live in a warm climate, you may require more water.
In the late 70’s, eggs received a bad reputation when high cholesterol in the blood could increase the risk of heart disease. The love-hate relationship with eggs and egg products has continued to grow since. However, recent findings suggest that eating an egg or two a day will not raise the risk of heart disease in healthy adults. While egg yolks do contain cholesterol, the amount is relatively small and is offset by the fact that eggs also have many nutrients such as omega-3’s which are associated with lowering the risk of heart disease.
Some research attempted to link the preservatives (parabens) used in some deodorants and antiperspirants with the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells because these parabens are found in breast tumors. However, there is no scientific evidence that parabens cause breast cancer. So, don’t sweat it!
Sometimes “old wives tales” are true…but not this one! Grandparents and parents have been telling their grandchildren and children to button up and don’t spend too much time in the cold. In fact, one study found that healthy men who spent several hours a day in cold temperatures (just above freezing) had an increase in virus-fighting activity in their immune systems. Moreover, it is well documented that spending too much time indoors, especially during winter flu season, puts you at risk for getting the flu…so circulate fresh air or get outdoors!
While it is commonly believed that everyone needs a multivitamin to supplement for nutrients not in your diet, research does not supported this theory. In fact, most medical experts agree that healthy adults receive all necessary nutrients and vitamins from a well-balanced diet including; fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy oils. However, if your physician recommends a vitamin, do so. It may be that you are insufficient or at risk due to other medical conditions. If you are pregnant, for example, you will need to take folic acid to lower the risk of birth defects.
Some diets purport that eating breakfast is necessary to stimulate your metabolism in order to lose weight. This theory is not confirmed, and for those who enjoy breakfast, it may limit hunger sensation and prevent unhealthy snacking. However, a study from Cornell University found that those who did not eat breakfast did not overeat at lunch and dinner and consumed approximately 400 fewer calories per day. So, for some healthy adults, eliminating breakfast can help lose weight…the premise of “intermittent fasting.”
Most would agree, the slimy green mucus in your tissue is disgusting. However, without a lab test, it is not a sure sign of an infection or need for antibiotics. Often, a sinus infection is associated with clear mucus and a common cold presents with green mucus.
Sugar making your kids hyper? Maybe it’s just kids being kids! It is widely accepted that sugar is not good for kids (unhealthy calories leading to obesity, etc), but, believe it or not, research shows that it is not the cause of hyperactivity (caffeine or chocolate may). It may be that parents are so focused on their behavior after sugar intake that they expect their kids to be wired when it may just be attributed to the normal behavior of kids just being kids!
Believe it or not, toilet seats are not the most unsanitary item in the bathroom. So, if you can’t cover it, don’t sweat it. Bathroom doors, door handles, and floors, however, are covered with bugs such as E. coli, norovirus, and other flu viruses. Thorough hand washing is essential and use a paper towel for door handles.
One thing is certain…cracking your knuckles is annoying to everyone around you! But studies show that it is not harmful to your joints or causes arthritis. The popping noise is not because the bones are grinding together; it is due to movement of gas bubbles in the joint capsule.
Total elimination of fat from your diet is not only unnecessary to be healthy and lose weight, but is unhealthy and harmful. Fat provides essential nutrients and is an important component of a healthy diet. Due to the fact that fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, limiting fat intake is necessary to avoid extra calories. Instead, chose low fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese) and consider eating small amounts of food with healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, or nuts.
Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy, there is no scientific evidence that supports a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that started the debate years ago has been disproven and retracted. Fact: childhood vaccines protect children from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases.
SOURCES: WebMd; National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic
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Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.