Top 10 Wackiest Health Myths

Ever break a mirror and instinctively know that you’re destined for seven years of bad luck? Turns out these same urban myths run rampant in the wild world of health and fitness too! Read on to learn about some of the more bizarre health myths out there and why, exactly, they aren’t for real!

1. Gummy Bear:

The Myth: It takes seven years to digest swallowed gum.

The Truth: Although gum sticks to just about everything, your stomach is actually one of the few exceptions! While experts concede that your body can’t actually digest the gum, it is still able to pass through your digestive system at a relatively normal rate (about 24 hours for the average person). But, perhaps most interestingly, it is …uhhh… expelled just as it entered, in one sticky clump!

2. Dimly Lit:

The Myth: Reading in poor lighting damages your eyesight.

The Truth: If you’ve been switching out your bedroom bulbs for industrial-strength floodlights in an effort to preserve your eyesight, you’ll be relieved to learn that this myth – regardless of what your mother says – is false! The evidence? Back in the day, our ancestors did all their reading by the light of a flickering candle flame and their eyesight didn’t appear to suffer!

3. Cold War:

The Myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever.

The Truth: Regardless of your illness, the bottom line is that your body needs energy in order to overcome the illness. Your best bet if you’re feeling under the weather? Stay home, drink plenty of fluids and eat your normal, nutritionally-sound diet!

4. Chocoholic:

The Myth: Chocolate causes skin breakouts.

The Truth: Chocoholics everywhere can heave a collective sigh of relief, because not only is chocolate not bad for your skin, it may actually help out your complexion! You see, acne is caused by a combination of bacteria in pores, stress, skin accumulation and just plain ol’ hormones. And while it’s true that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is best for general health, adding a little chocolate – darker, purer varieties in particular – certainly isn’t going to do your skin any harm!

5. Chicken Soup for the Soul:

The Myth: Homemade chicken soup is the best cure for the common cold.

The Truth: Ok, turns out there is actually a little truth to this one “health myth.” While chicken soup isn’t an actual treatment, it can indirectly fight the ailment. Specifically, the water in hot soup helps replace lost fluids (yep, as gross as it is, that river of snot streaming from your nose definitely counts as a body fluid!) and the salt helps the body retain water and prevent future dehydration.

6. Crack up:

The Myth: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

The Truth: Although certainly a less than desirable nervous habit, cracking your knuckles is not all that damaging. To understand how you’re not doing yourself a disservice, you need to first understand the anatomy of the joint. In order to prevent articulating (touching) bones from literally grinding down into dust, each joint contains a sac (bursa) of lubricating fluid known as synovial fluid. When a person bends, cracks or pulls on these joints, tiny air bubbles form in the fluid and when they burst, you hear a pop or snap sound! Although cracking your knuckles won’t cause arthritis – which is related to factors including age, weight, genetics, lifestyle – it can overextend ligaments, leading to a small decrease in grip strength.

7. Braniac:

The Myth: The average person uses only 10 percent of their brain.

The Truth: Although some days you’d swear that your brain isn’t running full steam ahead, multiple brain imaging studies have shown that there are really no inactive parts of the brain. And, while it’s true that certain areas are responsible for certain mechanisms or respond more excitedly to certain stimuli, experiments with lobotomies (excision of portions of the brain to cure mental illness) have shown that reducing the size of the brain can have extremely damaging consequences.

8. Drink Up:

The Myth: You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day for optimal health.

The Truth: While we’re certainly not going to deny that water is important for health, there really is no hard and fast rule for how much you should be drinking. The myth is thought to have originated from a 1945 article from the National Research Council that suggested that eight-glasses of water per day was a suitable allowance for adults. However, what the general public failed to notice was that the last sentence of the report, which stated that for the majority of people, most of these fluids could be obtained from juices, milk, and even caffeinated beverages! Our advice? Water is still a great beverage (since juices and milk can contain hidden sugars) and is particularly useful for replenishing lost fluids during exercise – especially in warmer weather!

9. Late Night Binge:

The Myth: Eating after 8 p.m. prompts weight gain.

The Truth: No need to feel bad about those late night snacks! In reality, your body has no idea what the clock reads, so you’re ability to metabolize food will be no different whether you’re sitting down for dinner at 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. What is more important when dining late at night, however, is to eat healthy foods – including lean meats, healthy fats, and plenty of veggies – both to ease digestion and best fuel your body for restorative sleep!

10. Hey Fattie:

The Myth: Eating low-fat foods will help you lose weight.

The Truth: Remember in the early 90s when everything went fat free? Supermarkets stocked up on low-fat versions of all our high-fat favorites, including low-fat ice cream, fat-free cookies, low-fat salad dressing and low-fat chips (because who didn’t love the Olestra days?) Despite these endeavors, the percentage of overweight and obese Americans continued to climb. The cause? When manufacturers took out the fat, they had to add something to make the food taste good. What did they add? Sugar…and lots of it! Even though we know this, many people continue to fear the fat! Our advice? If you spend more time concentrating on eating the most nutrient-dense foods (that is, those that delivery the most vitamins and minerals per pound) you really can’t go wrong!

So you tell us – what are some of your favorite health myths and (honestly) how long did you believe them?

-Nat, radiant guy, gds, Wespionage, Rakka Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

More Tuesday Ten Posts

That’s Fit: 9 Drinking Myths Debunked

Mind Hacks: Depression, Antidepressants and the ‘Low Serotonin’ Myth

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