Experts, family, and friends mean well when they share health tips. They hope to inform us so that we can be well and safe. Often, we pass along this advice, assuming our sources are solid. In recent years, though, breakthroughs in research have fostered a growing realization that many of these handed-down concepts are false; unenlightened fluff, or even unintentionally harmful fiction. It’s time to turn these popular health myths on their heads.
Muscle tissue turns into fat when you stop exercising.
Muscle tissue is made up of muscle cells, and fat tissue derives from fat cells. These cells do not convert from one into the other. The truth: muscle does decrease in size and become flabby if you stop working out. This myth might also come from the fact that when people quit exercising, they often fail to adjust their calorie intake, which may cause weight gain.
We have five senses.
We learned about the five senses — sight, hearing, taste, touch, and scent — from our parents and preschool teachers. Scientists disagree on exactly how many senses we have, but many believe that we have between 14 and 20, including proprioception, the capacity to discern where our body is in relation to the space around us. A 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with a certain gene mutation have poor proprioception and are clumsier than those without the mutation. We depend on many more than the five senses taught since early childhood. Equilibrioception is the sense of balance that helps us walk upright and straight. Thanks to chronoception, we can sense the passage of time. Thermoception enables us to tell whether it’s a hold or cold outside.
Cleansing or detox products facilitate weight loss and remove toxins.
Masses have attempted cleanses and flushing to shed pounds or remove toxins from their bodies. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, research does not confirm that detoxification programs really remove toxins — the body does a very good job of this on its own. While weight loss is a common side effect of these practices, it is more likely because people consume fewer calories during a cleanse. The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have come after several detox product manufacturers because of illegal and potentially harmful ingredients, false claims, and misleading marketing of medical devices.
Juicing is great for your health.
The market for fruit and vegetable juices was worth $154 billion in 2016 and is steadily growing. Juicing appeals to people seeking a quick, easily digestible nutrition fix. However, valuable fiber gets discarded in the process, with potentially somber consequences. Research gathered over a 20-year period found that fruit juice consumption correlated with a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes. Consuming large amounts of some juices may aggravate kidney problems for individuals with kidney disease, due to high amounts of oxalate.
Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis.
You can crack this warning up to a myth, too. This habit, which eases the nerves for some and irritates the nerves of others, appears to be harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The cracking is actually mislabeled. It is not the sound of bones, but rather the popping of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid between finger joints. There are rare reports of tendon injuries or dislocations from excessive knuckle cracking, but research has not found any link between the practice and the increased risk of arthritis.
Turkey makes you sleepy.
Turkey is the scapegoat for grogginess following a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The meat is a well-known source of tryptophan, an amino acid associated with hormones that promote relaxation. It is interesting that cheddar cheese escapes blame for inducing sleepiness, although it contains more tryptophan than turkey. Nutritionists believe the combination of heavy eating, carbs, and alcohol is the true culprit when it comes to post-family meal fatigue.
Chewing gum stays in your stomach for seven years.
Chewing gum has been around for thousands of years, but it does not stay in our systems for long if we swallow it. This myth doesn’t stick with gastroenterologists, who maintain that gum passes through the system like any other indigestible substance. It’s still a good idea not to swallow gum, though, especially for small children who may ingest other objects with it.
Urine cures jellyfish stings.
If you are a victim of a jellyfish sting, please hold your water. The chemical composition of the personal liquid can vary greatly and could have compounds that cause even more stinging. Seawater is no better at treating a jellyfish sting; it just spreads the pain. A University of Hawaii venom scientist suggests forgoing pee for this three-step sting treatment:
- Rinse the affected area with vinegar to deactivate the stinging cells.
- Pluck away any embedded tentacles with tweezers; scraping or rubbing may encourage active stingers to secrete more venom.
- Apply heat, which permanently deactivates venom; ice may increase the venom load.
Losing weight is all about willpower.
Many people who are overweight lose hope of losing pounds after trying program after program. Though many products, companies, and individuals point to a lack of self-control as the overriding factor in weight gain and plateau, obesity is often the culmination of multiple physiological factors. Medications and medical conditions such as PCOS, hypothyroidism, and clinical depression can trigger weight gain. Sometimes, weight-regulating hormones are not functioning correctly, which makes it difficult for individuals with obesity to shed excess fat. These people may require medical intervention, but weight management is still possible.
Honey is just as bad for you as sugar.
Yes, honey is a carbohydrate, just like refined sugar. Sugar is about half glucose and half fructose. These simple carbohydrates break down quickly, prompting a spike in blood glucose levels in the blood. Honey is only 30% glucose and less than 40% fructose. The other 30% is made up of around 20 other, more complex sugars that require more energy to break down. Minimally processed honey is also a source of vitamins and trace elements such as selenium and zinc. As such, honey can be a healthier option than table sugar for sweetening in moderation.