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Dispelling Health Myths

By Dr. Brian Stone, MD, CEO, Clinical Diversity Solutions

2020 should be a year of clarity, a time for a clear vision of what is fact and truth versus information that is fantasy and fiction. We are in an era where false information (“fake news”) has been weaponized and used to mislead the general public. People are quick to take a friend's or neighbor's advice when it comes to health issues. Current technology has put information at our fingertips, but how often do you ask yourself: What is the source of this information? Is this information based on facts? Has this herbal remedy been scientifically studied?



Misinformation has always existed, but the Internet has allowed many health myths and bogus treatments to propagate, and many people are too lazy to fact-check. False information won’t hurt you when it is political information, but inaccurate health information can physically hurt or even kill you. I constantly interact with patients who abruptly stop a treatment based on “something they heard from a friend or read on the Internet.” I’m going to review some of the crazy health myths that have been accepted by many a fact:


Myth #1: Egg yolks are bad for you.

The nutritious yolk of the egg has gotten a bad rap and is often associated with an increased risk of heart disease or elevated cholesterol. The truth is that the yolk is loaded with the “good” cholesterol HDL. Therefore, eggs in moderation are good for you!


Myth #2: Starving yourself is a good way to lose weight.

In my younger years, I was even dumb enough to try a “lemonade” diet for ten days. I lost 17 lbs. but was so undernourished that I was literally dizzy. A starvation diet does lead to the loss of a lot of pounds, but it actually results in “rebound” weight gain.


Myth #3: Cracking your knuckles can result in arthritis.

Many of us have engaged in this annoying activity and were likely told by older people to “stop because you were going to end up with arthritis.” This is actually not true. The popping sound is simply the popping of bubbles in the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints.


Myth #4: Eating that turkey at Thanksgiving makes you sleep.

It has been generally thought that the tryptophan in the turkey meat makes you take a nap after that big meal. In reality, turkey has no more tryptophan than other meats. The high carbohydrate content of the other items on the menu, like the bread, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc., is likely the source of the nodding or the “it is.”


Myth #5: Chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

While many of us have always believed that giving your “honey” some delicious treat might help you get lucky, sadly, according to the Mayo Clinic, “research has shown them to be ineffective in producing a sexual response in men.” Early evidence is more encouraging for improved libido in women.


Myth #6: Starve a fever and feed a cold.

This adage is nonsense. Even if you are experiencing a loss of appetite, your body requires increased calories to mount an immune response when you are sick.


Myth #7: Cold and wet weather will cause you to get a cold.

These conditions can result in hypothermia, but the cold or flu requires exposure to the virus or bacteria that causes the cold. One study found that healthy men who had prolonged exposure to temperatures just above freezing increased their anti-viral immune response. It definitely makes sense to dress appropriately for the weather; it's more important to sanitize one's hands. This is especially true when around those who are sick.


Myth #8: Deodorants can cause breast cancer.

Some researchers believe that some of the chemicals found in antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin. However, the National Cancer Institute says there is no evidence that connects these products to breast cancer.


Myth #9: Sugar makes kids hyper.

We all know that too much sugar is not good for kids, but research has shown that sugar does not cause them to act out, adversely affect their ability to complete homework, or make them more distracted.


For more information on this topic, watch this video by the Healthcare Triage


Myth #10: Touching a toilet seat can give you an infection.

It has been shown that toilet seats are pretty harmless. The more dangerous structures are the bathroom doors, door handles, and floors. It would help if you covered your hand with paper before touching the door handles and always wash your hands.


Myth #11: Bottled water is safer than tap water.

The companies that bottle the water would like you to believe this. Others have suggested that the fluoride that has been added to the water by the government is part of a larger conspiracy. Studies of most municipal water in the United States have shown that it is pretty safe, often containing valuable minerals, magnesium, and calcium.


Myth #12: Apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss.

Some believe that apple cider vinegar cures just about everything. The truth is that it may help with digestion and even help decrease cholesterol, but it won’t help you lose weight. In fact, it could damage your teeth in large amounts due to acidity.


Myth #14: Activated charcoal is good for cleansing.

One of my daughters called me about this one. She lives in Los Angeles, and this is the new trend. Unfortunately, no scientific evidence supports any of the myths on the street. Activated charcoal has been used in cases of specific ingestion emergencies; otherwise it can cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

 

There are millions of medical myths circulating. My only advice is to arm yourself with knowledge based on actual medical facts that can be corroborated and verified. Most of all, don’t get your health information from a friend or relative; seek the advice of someone knowledgeable. If you are not a fan of western medicine, seek options from individuals who are “well educated” in whatever path you choose. Definitely avoid the remedies offered in the barbershop or beauty salon!

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