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Health myths busted
June 3, 2018, 11:44 am
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Health myths have played an important role in people’s lives over the centuries. Even though many of these myths have been debunked over time by scientific tests, they continue to hold sway over public discourse. Here, we examine some of the myths on health care to find out whether they are fact or fiction.

Eight glasses of water a day: Health officials are unambiguous in stating that "drinking enough water every day is good for overall health." But how much is ‘enough’ water?

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the US says that women require 2.7 liters and men require 3.7 liters of ‘total water’ per day. Total water refers not to the number of glasses of water you must drink, but to the combination of water intake from the different foods and drinks you consume in a day.

Many people believe, however, that the recommended daily amount of water is eight 300ml glasses, or nearly 2.5 liters, straight from the faucet. This figure does not take into account the amount of water we get from other drinks or foods.

The average person's total intake of water from drinks — including caffeinated drinks — forms about 80 percent of their total water intake, with the remaining 20 percent actually coming from foods. The myth of 8 glasses per day is probably being perpetuated by water bottling companies. In general, 1 milliliter of water per calorie intake could be a better reference scale; and here too, a significant proportion of water would come from foods

Being cold leads to colds: Although people are aware that they catch a cold from a virus, the notion that being outside in cold weather leads to cold still holds sway.

People become infected with cold viruses, known as ‘rhinoviruses’, through physical contact or being in the same space as infected people. This is especially true if the infected person is coughing or sneezing, or if we have touched some of the same objects as that person.

However, there is some truth to this as being out in the cold for extended periods may actually make us more susceptible to coming down with a cold.

Cold viruses try to enter the human body via the nose, but they usually get trapped in mucus there. Normally, the mucus is passed back into the body, swallowed, and the virus is neutralized by stomach acids. But when we continuously inhale cold air, the nasal passage cools down and this slows the movement of mucus, allowing the live rhinoviruses more opportunities to break through the mucus barrier and into the body.

 

Studies have also found that cold viruses thrive in colder weather, because they are less able to survive at normal body temperature. So, it is largely due to viruses and not just a consequence of cold weather. But the cold weather myth is not just an old wives' tale, after all.

Cracking knuckles leads to arthritis: Contrary to popular belief, cracking your knuckles is unlikely to give you arthritis. Several studies have investigated this anecdotal association and found it to be false.

So what happens in your joints when you hear that sound? A study in 2018 found that when we crack our knuckles, we are slightly pulling apart our joints, which causes pressure to decrease in the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints, and leads to bubbles forming in the fluid. The variations in pressure cause the bubbles to rapidly fluctuate, which creates that characteristic cracking sound.

Using underarm deodorant causes breast cancer: Despite there being no scientific evidence to prove this, there has been a persistent myth about a link between the use of underarm deodorant and the development of breast cancer.

This is based on the notion that chemicals from the deodorant affect the breasts' cells, given that they are applied to nearby skin. Nearly all of the studies that have tested this link have found little evidence to support the claim that deodorant can cause breast cancer.

One retrospective study, however, revealed that breast cancer survivors who used deodorants regularly were diagnosed younger than the women who did not regularly use them. But because this is a retrospective study, its results cannot conclusively prove a link between deodorant use and the development of breast cancer.

Eggs are bad for the heart: Since the 1970s, cholesterol has had a bad image in healthcare. Eggs, which are rich in nutrients, also have the highest cholesterol content of any common food.

Because of this, some have recommended that we should eat only two to four eggs per week, and those individuals with type 2 diabetes or a history of heart disease should eat fewer.

But new research suggests there is no link between eating lots of eggs and cholesterol imbalance or increased risk of heart problems and type 2 diabetes.

The study noted that occasionally, people who eat more than seven eggs per week have increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, but this is almost always matched by a similar increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which has protective properties.

The evidence suggests that eating even as many as two eggs every day is safe and has either neutral or slightly beneficial effects on risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

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