Top 10 True Old Wives’ Tales

We spent last Tuesday explaining why the top 10 health myths were…well…myths. Today we present you the top 10 health-based old wives’ tales that actually are true.

1. The Tale: An apple a day keeps the doctor away

And you thought Mark’s Daily Apple was just a kitschy name! Turns out, we were actually onto something! While some experts say the only way an apple will keep a doctor away is if you throw it at them, several recent studies have suggested that the high levels of phenolics contained in apples work as a potent antioxidant that can reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer. In addition, a recent study from researchers at Ithaca, NY-based Cornell University suggests that apples may also stave off Alzheimer’s disease.

2. The Tale: Seizures are brought on by a full moon

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Patras Medical School in Greece of 859 patients treated for seizures, there was “significant clustering of seizures” around the time of a full moon. How come? Well…that has yet to be determined!

3. The Tale: Gain a child lose a tooth

As nice as children are, the bad news is they are actually bad for your chompers! In a New York University College of Dentistry analysis of 2,635 women aged 18 to 64 who had borne at least one child, the researchers found that pregnancy raises the risk of developing the gum disease gingivitis, with women who had repeated outbreaks of gingivitis increasing their risk of developing periodontal disease. Although researchers have yet to determine the cause behind the link, they hypothesize that mothers may be snacking on the junk food they give their children!

4. The Tale: Draino can help determine the gender of your unborn child

Even passing along this piece of folklore makes us nervous – please know that we DO NOT ENDORSE this experiment (although midwives swear it is highly accurate), but if you must, do this in a well-ventilated area or preferably outside. For the…uhh…experiment, you’ll need a glass jar, a cup of fresh urine (they recommend cultivating it from your morning pee) and a cup of Draino. Pee in the jar, take it outside (for the ventilation), add a cup of Draino and wait 15 seconds. If the concoction stays blue, you’re having a girl. If it turns tea color, it’s a boy! Dashing out to pick up some Draino? Don’t bother – the company in recent years has changed the liquid from blue to yellow, so the experiment won’t work anymore! (By the way – Who was the first odd person to discover this?)

5. The Tale: Don’t drink the water that comes out of the hot tap

According to an article in the New York Times, “[H]ot water dissolves contaminants more quickly than cold water, and many pipes in homes contain lead that can leach into water.” So what’s the deal with too much lead? It can lead to brain and nervous system damage, especially among children. But what if you boil? According to Environmental Protection Agency officials, “boiling water does not remove lead but can actually increase its concentration.”

6. The Tale: Eat your crust – it’s good for you

Although the benefits of eating your bread crust varies depending on your mother – with some saying consuming crusts will give you curly hair, put hair on your chest or just make you big and strong – there is some truth to this old wives’ tale. Although we don’t advocate chowing down on bread, a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that the crust of the bread actually contains eight times the antioxidants of any other part of the bread, so if you must, go for a crusty loaf and opt for the ends!

7. The Tale: A bar of soap in the bed prevents nighttime leg cramps

If you’ve ever woken in the night – even once – with a charley horse, chances are you’ll do just about anything to prevent a repeat episode! Turns out keeping a fresh bar of soap under your bottom sheet near where your legs are actually works to reduce the frequency of charley horses and is also much buzzed about in online patient forums as a “cure” for restless leg syndrome. However, users agree that the bar must be kept relatively fresh and recommend that you replace it at least every six months. As for brands, users swear that just about “anything but Ivory” will do the trick!

8. The Tale: Don’t let a person with a head injury sleep

For years, it was recommended that people who have sustained a decent head injury – specifically one that led to a loss of consciousness – should be kept awake, when in reality, sometimes a nap or a good night’s rest will make them feel better. What the experts do continue to agree on is that the person should be checked on frequently to make sure they remain arousable and their condition is not worsening.

9. The Tale: Heartburn during pregnancy means a hairy baby

Of all the old wives’ tales out there, most pertain to pregnancy. Whether it be about how you carry the baby (high for a girl, low for a boy) or that wearing a Hawaiian lei can choke the baby (it can’t, nor can raising your hands above your head!) one that is freakishly true is that mothers who experience heartburn during pregnancy tend to have hairier babies. In an analysis of 64 pregnant women (granted, not a very large study) conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers, women that experienced the most heartburn while pregnant gave birth to babies with average or above average newborn hair coverage. Exactly how it works is not clear, but researchers speculate that it is less a case of one causing the other and more that they share a common cause.

10. The Tale: Chicken soup is good for the soul (and the odd cold too!)

The trouble with old wives’ tales and urban health myths? There’s a ton of conflicting research – so even though we last week suggested that this was a myth, there is actually a grain of truth to the old saying! According to a study published in the journal Chest, chicken soup can help mitigate the inflammatory response associated with colds and other upper-respiratory infections. Under further examination, the researchers determined that the vegetables and chicken included in the soup each individually had inhibitory activity, although they note that the potency of the effects determined very much on how the soup was made, with commercial soups differing the most in their inhibitory activity. (Thanks to Ari for the heads up!)

We know some of these old wives’ tales sound way too wacky to be true. We’d love to hear you weigh in with your personal experience and anecdotal evidence, or by simply refuting any of the top 10 as utter nonsense. Hit us up with a comment!

fernando, Fort Photo, Kaptain Kobold, mag3737, *Kitto, ulterior epicure, picalogue, Mrs. Maze, sergis blog, * Sandra * Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Top 10 Wackiest Health Myths

When Do Foods Really Go Bad?

Dumb Little Man: How to Spot Myths or Old Wives’ Tales from a Distance

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