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What is a myth?

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:

  1. 8 GLASSES OF WATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR GOOD HEALTH
    • 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.
  2. EATING EGGS WILL LEAD TO HEART DISEASE
    • 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.
  3. ANTIPERSPIRANTS CAN LEAD TO BREAST CANCER
    • 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!
  4. SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME IN THE COLD AIR WILL LEAD TO A COLD
    • 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, documentation supports 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!
  5. EVERYONE NEEDS A MULTIVITAMIN TO BE HEALTHY
    • Research does not support this theory that everyone needs a multivitamin to supplement for nutrients not in your diet. 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. 
  6. EATING A GOOD BREAKFAST IS NECESSARY TO LOSE WEIGHT
    • 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.”
  7. GREEN MUCUS IS A SURE SIGN OF INFECTION
    • 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, clear mucus indicates a sinus infection, while green mucus represents a common cold.
  8. TOO MUCH SUGAR MAKES KIDS HYPERACTIVE
    • 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). However, 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!
  9. A TOILET SEAT IS A COMMON AREA TO SPREAD DISEASE
    • 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. Bugs such as E. coli, norovirus, and other flu viruses cover bathroom doors, door handles, and floors. Thorough hand washing is essential and use a paper towel for door handles.
  10. CRACKING YOUR KNUCKLES OR OTHER JOINTS WILL LEAD TO ARTHRITIS
    • 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.  
  11. ELIMINATING FAT FROM YOUR DIET WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER AND HELP YOU LOOSE WEIGHT
    • 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. 
  12. CHILDHOOD VACCINES LEAD TO AUTISM
    • 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

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article does not intend as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

What is an Ice Bath?

Ice baths have become a new trend or fad in health and fitness, especially among elite athletes and some celebrities. However, it is far from a new treatment modality. In fact, the Ancient Greeks employed cold-water immersion for fever, pain relief, relaxation and socialization. In addition, Hippocrates documented the use of cold for medicinal purposes for its analgesic benefits. 

Ice baths, a type of cryotherapy, is also referred to as cold water immersion (CWI) or cold water therapy. This involves immersing your body in ice water for approximately 5-15 minutes from the neck down at 50-59 degrees. The ice baths are commonly used for pain, delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and inflammation and mood elevation. 

In theory, the cold water lowers the temperature of your skin and body by vasoconstriction (narrow) of the blood vessels. When you get out of the cold, water the vasodilatation (widen) of the blood vessels. Immediately, this brings fresh oxygen and nutrient-rich blood back to the tissues to warm the body and in the process, reduce pain, inflammation and promote healing.

Types of Cold Water Therapy

Purported Ice Bath Benefits

Potential Side Effects of Ice Baths

If you have the following health conditions, ice baths may not be the best therapeutic modality for you. Before you consider trying an ice bath, consult with your physician to avoid potentially serious problems:

In Conclusion: What the Science Says

While some studies have shown that subjects report less muscle soreness following CWI when compared  to rest, most studies suggest that the reported effects are placebo. Also, reports of improved circulation, reduced inflammation and improved recovery or performance has not been scientifically validated. In view of this, it is recommended that those considering the use of CWI for pain and inflammation management, reduced muscle soreness, and mood elevation, should consult their physician to determine if the potential risks are worth the purported benefits.

SOURCES: nih; health.com; health.clevelandclinic.org; prevention.com

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

During a recent “lunch-and-learn” meeting at our office, several younger staff members were discussing the use of supplements to compliment their fitness routines. One such staff member, Lily Smith, a physical therapy student aid at our clinic from the University of Scranton, is also a serious weight training and fitness enthusiast and shared her experience with creatine supplements with the hope of educating others, especially those preparing to “get fit” in 2024!

A National Health Interview survey found the creatine use among adolescents and young adults to be 34%. It is also very popular in the military with 27% average usage. While athletes and exercise enthusiasts use protein shakes and creatine supplements with hopes to improve size, strength and performance, it appears that most users do not have a full understanding of the risks and benefits. In view of this, today address the use of creatine in strength training and make recommendations based on the literature.

Introduction

As long as I can remember, young athletes would take or do anything that they believed would improve their speed, strength, agility and athletic edge in order to succeed in sports. Running with weights wrapped around the ankles, drinking raw eggs and whole milk, and consuming copious amounts of beef, pork, and chicken were not unusual. Today, it may not be much different. However, the products do not come from our kitchen cabinet and tremendous misinformation is associated with it. Creatine is one example that was purported to enhance performance as early as the 1970’s but only gained popularity in the 1990’s. 40% of all college athletes and 50% of professional athletes admit to using creatine at some point, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or safety.

Creatine

This supplement is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for muscles to contract. While the body produces some creatine, it can also be found in foods rich in protein such as meat and fish. Manufacturers claim that creatine use will improve strength, increase lean muscle mass and aide in the recovery from exercise induced fatigue.

Research

While creatine is popular among young people due in part to its availability, very little research has been done in people under 18 years of age.  Even in the few studies conducted on adults, the results regarding efficacy are mixed. Some studies show that creatine may improve strength performance due to the recovery cycle of ATP. In theory, the use of creatine is purported to allow one to recover more quickly from exercise. For example, shortly after lifting heavy weights to failure, a quick recovery might allow the weight lifter to lift an additional set of repetitions to increase the duration of intensive training. Therefore, based on this theory, one must work out to complete failure during training to benefit from creatine. However, it is important to remember, there is no evidence that this purported benefit is realized in performance improvement in weight training or endurance sports.

Furthermore, no studies support the notion that it improves performance in endurance sports. Also, research does show that not all users are affected by creatine the same way. Most users fail to find any benefit at all. More concerning to this author is the fact that there are no guidelines for safety or disclosure of side-effects from long term use. Make no mistake, based on the research and current wisdom, CREATINE IS AN UNPROVEN TREATMENT SUPPLEMENT!

Manufacturers Recommended Usage

If one decides that creatine is a product they would like to use, despite the lack of evidence for its effectiveness, there are recommendations that one should follow for proper use. But there is no consistently established dose. Some studies have found 25 grams daily for 14 days as a “kickstart” dose or “loading” phase followed by 4-5 grams (or 0.1 g/kg of bodyweight) daily for 18 months with few side effects such as: muscle cramps, dehydration, upset stomach, water retention/bloating with weight gain. It is important to remember when establishing a dosage that many weight training supplements already contain creatine and in high doses excess creatine is excreted by the kidneys. It is also recommended that creatine users “wean off” the product when they decide to discontinue use.

Remember, an average adult in the United States receives 1 to 2 grams of creatine each day from a normal, well-balanced diet. Creatine is naturally found in meat, poultry and fish and theoretically, one could increase their creatine intake through dietary changes. Some manufacturers recommend 10 to 30 grams per day with a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams per day for athletic performance. Creatine is available in many forms; tablets, capsules and powder. It should be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Side Effects

Creatine use is not recommended if you are pregnant, breast feeding, have kidney disease or bipolar disorder. There are many reported side effects associated with creatine use such as; water retention, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, muscle pain and high blood pressure. It is recommended that users consume large quantities of water when taking creatine to prevent dehydration. It may be very dangerous to use creatine when dehydration or weight loss is associated with an activity such as wrestling or summer sessions during football. 

Furthermore, some studies show that large amounts of carbohydrates may increase the effects of creatine and caffeine may decrease the effects. Users are warned that using creatine with stimulants such as caffeine and guarana (a Brazilian plant extract similar to caffeine found in energy drinks) can lead to serious cardiac problems. The effects of creatine supplements on the many organ systems of the body are unknown. High doses may cause kidney damage. Although no cases have been reported in the literature, it is not known how it may interact with other supplements, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the lack of scientific evidence that creatine is more effective than proper nutrition and effective weight training, it remains a popular, easily available supplement purported to improve strength, endurance and performance in athletes. While relatively safe if taken as directed, it is always wise to consult your physician, especially if you have a history or risk of kidney problems. And, by the way, Lily did not feel that creatine supplements made any significant difference, positively or negatively. She no longer uses it due to the expense, inconvenience and lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy.

Sources: University of New England; Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; NIH and Lily Smith, PT student, University of Scranton, Student PT aide, Mackarey Physicla Therapy

.Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

What is a myth?

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.

8 GLASSES OF WATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR GOOD HEALTH

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.

EATING EGGS WILL LEAD TO HEART DISEASE

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.

ANTIPERSPIRANTS CAN LEAD TO BREAST CANCER

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!

SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME IN THE COLD AIR WILL LEAD TO A COLD

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!

EVERYONE NEEDS A MULTIVITAMIN TO BE HEALTHY

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. 

EATING A GOOD BREAKFAST IS NECESSARY TO LOSE WEIGHT

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.”

GREEN MUCUS IS A SURE SIGN OF INFECTION

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.

TOO MUCH SUGAR MAKES KIDS HYPERACTIVE

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!

A TOILET SEAT IS A COMMON AREA TO SPREAD DISEASE

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.

CRACKING YOUR KNUCKLES OR OTHER JOINTS WILL LEAD TO ARTHRITIS

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.  

ELIMINATING FAT FROM YOUR DIET WILL MAKE YOU HEALTHIER AND HELP YOU LOOSE WEIGHT

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. 

CHILDHOOD VACCINES LEAD TO AUTISM

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

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – Every Monday. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Read all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

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.