10 Common Medical Myths Debunked

We all remember our mothers’ favorite warnings and their silly superstitions about our health.  Even in this day and age of free-flowing information on the internet, myths still abound, and perhaps their continued existence is helped along by the wonders of cyberspace.  Here are ten of the most common medical myths.

Medical Myth #1: Sugar can make kids go on overdrive

Studies have been conducted to see if sugar in a kid’s diet can make them more hyperactive than normal.  The results showed that children, who had lower levels of sugar in their diet or none at all, acted no differently than children who had higher sugar levels.  The study used both artificial and natural sources of sugar.  There were even cases wherein children who didn’t get sugar in their diet behaved more hyperactively.  So when your kids are on overdrive, it’s not because they are high on sugar.

Medical Myth #2: Most of your body heat is lost through your head

This myth was born from a study of loss of temperature in soldiers who were exposed to very cold temperatures.  It showed that heat was lost rapidly through their heads.  However, the study did not consider the fact that the soldiers’ heads were the only part of their body that was not covered.  Completely naked, the body actually loses only 10% of it’s heat through the head and 90% through other parts.

Medical Myth #3: You should drink eight glasses of water a day

This famous statement is actually in its original form.  The original statement, which was released by a government agency in 1945, stated that the human body needs around eight glasses of fluids a day.  Fluids, being the operative word, mean not just water but including those we get from food and other liquids we consume.  Overtime, “fluid” was changed to “water.”  And it would not be far fetched to say that bottled water manufacturers had something to do with this myth.  You should listen to your body instead; drink if you feel thirsty and don’t if you’re not.

Medical Myth #4: It takes 7 years for chewing gum to pass through your system

There was a time when adults told children not to swallow seeds because these will grow into trees in their stomachs.  It was probably around the same time when the gum-swallowing myth was also born.  Both are simply silly beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation.  It is true that the stomach cannot digest gum, the same way it cannot digest other foods, especially some fibers.  But it is not true that the gum sticks to your insides and takes years to pass through your system.  The gum passes through your digestive system, along with any other food it came with, and goes out the opposite end.

Medical Myth #5: You will develop arthritis from cracking your knuckles

When knuckles are cracked, what actually happens is a gas bubble is formed by the moving bones and the cracking sound is made by the bubble bursting.  Arthritis, on the other hand, involves pain in a joint or joints caused by the loss of fluid that reduces friction between the joints, which is brought about mostly by old age.  Knuckle crackers won’t develop arthritis as a result of their compulsive habit, although the joints in their fingers may weaken over time.

Medical Myth #6: Teething causes fever

It has not been medically proven that teething causes fever in babies.  If your baby is growing a new tooth and is also running a fever, this is just a coincidence and you should find out what is actually causing the fever.  Always consult with your doctor when it comes to your baby’s health.

Medical Myth #7: Cancer is incurable and treatment is painful and pointless

Three decades ago, this was medical fact.  However, with all the advances that have been made in the field of medicine, cancer can be curable.  It is still true that there isn’t one drug that can cure all forms of cancer, but modern cancer treatment is highly effective and causes less suffering.  Additionally, there are also various medicine available nowadays that work with the other forms of cancer treatment and which are also very effective.

Medical Myth #8: Bed rest is the cure for back pain

Reality cannot be farther from the truth.  Bed rest can actually aggravate back pain or cause significant delay in recovery. Engaging in ordinary activities is more helpful to your back and can actually reduce recurrence of back troubles.  It has also been shown that other medical problems can be made worse by bed rest rather than making us feel better.

Medical Myth #9: You will get sleepy from eating turkey because it has Tryptophan

It is all in your head.  You are probably getting sleepy not just from eating turkey during Thanksgiving, but from eating turkey along with all the other foods laid out on the table that you helped yourself to. Eating a very heavy meal slows down blood flow which may result in drowsiness.  The fact of the matter is, chicken and ground beef have almost the same amount of Tryptophan as turkey, and cheese and pork have more.

Medical Myth #10: Having snacks late at night will make you fat

The facts are simple: you lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat; you gain weight if you burn less calories than you eat; and you maintain your weight if you burn the same amount of calories as you eat.  Of course, there are other factors, but snacking late at night is the same as snacking at any other time of the day.  As long as you burn the same amount of calories that you eat each day, you will not gain weight.  There are plenty of benefits to having only three meals a day at the same time each day, but you don’t have to feel guilty about keeping a secret stash of cookies in your bedroom drawer anymore.

Bonus Myth: Losing weight is harder than gaining weight

Here’s the simple math that disproves this myth: for every 3,500 calories you eat that you don’t burn, you gain 0.3 lbs; and for every 3,500 calories you burn, you lose 1 lb.  Math and science will work in your favor as soon as you get your head around a healthier eating pattern and as long as you stick to it.  Additionally, you can do more things to speed up your metabolism, like exposing yourself to significant changes in temperature, and embracing a healthy lifestyle of course 🙂

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1 Response

  1. David Clay says:

    Oooh, great article! I love stories of lists and it’s great to see many of these stories debunked. I know I crack knuckles, and especially when I was younger…it was an issue with me as I was afraid of hurting my knuckles but, it’s interesting to read that you say that arthritis has no cause and affect with popping of the knuckles.
    Losing heat through your head, is also an interesting myth debunked as well.
    I would though, love to see a list of articles that back these myths. Not that I do not believe you, but because I have grown up with all of these “myths” as well.

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