Busting 7 Common Health Myths

Many people still believe they’re true.

We hear scientific tidbits on the news and from friends and if we hear them often enough we begin to believe that they might be accurate. But, the truth is that many of these headline-making statements have since been proven wrong. In some cases these myths stem from old wives’ tales, and in other cases the studies or publications that spread these ideas are decades old and used outdated modes of research. So here are 7 health myths that people once believed -and have since been busted.

Varicose Veins are Caused by Walking

Many people used to think that walking is what caused varicose veins. It was also though that exercise in general could also cause them. First Lady Jackie Kennedy hated going on walks because she found them boring, but she was also worried that regular strolls would give her varicose veins in her legs.

woman walking in park
Via: Arek Adeoye/ Unsplash

New research actually shows that not exercising can cause these purple veins. Regular moderate exercise strengthens the circulatory system which can keep varicose veins at bay.

You Can’t Change Your Cholesterol Levels

When cholesterol was first studied many papers on the subject claimed that one could lower their numbers simply by eating more fruits and vegetables. Then in the late early 2000s reports that diet doesn’t change one’s numbers got out. In truth the findings were that some people don’t respond to a diet high in heart-healthy foods. This doesn’t mean that for most people eating better won’t help their cholesterol.

avocado cut in half
Via: Thanti Nguyen/ Unsplash

Eating good cholesterol as found in olive oil, avocados, and other plant foods can help, as does consumption of higher fiber foods like whole grains and beans. Reducing foods high in saturated fats also can reduce one’s cholesterol over time as well.

You Need 8 Hours of Solid Sleep

We’ve been told our whole lives that older children and adults need a solid and uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep a night. While many people have become completely adjusted to this way of life, in pre-industrial Europe it was common for people to sleep in 2 cycles. The lack of electric light meant that once the sun went down families of modest means often went to bed early since they couldn’t see in the dark and candles were expensive.

person sleeping in messy bed
Via: Ginger Mias/ Unsplash

It was common for adults to have a first sleep and second sleep with a “break” in the middle of an hour or more. During this time they might have gotten up to read or even gone to visit neighbors. You won’t find people striving for this ideal today since we can can smoosh all our sleep cycles into one after using electric lights to keep us up for as long as we want.

Studies of how other animals sleep shows that mammals and monkeys in particular often get in naps or segmented sleep, with great apes preferring to bed down on sleeping platforms for a night of deeper sleep. As for the hours needed in total some people need more than that and some people need less. 8 hours is a rough goal.

Coffee Stunts Your Growth

You may have been told that coffee stunts your growth and it may have been offered as a reason why your parents wouldn’t let you have any. But, new evidence shows that coffee given to youngsters doesn’t have those effects.

young woman drinking coffee
Via: Gian Cescon/ Unsplash

It was mistakenly thought years ago that coffee consumption caused osteoporosis which in turned affected people’s height and this is where the myth came from. Height is determined by overall diet and inherited genes, not by one of two foods.

Cracking Your Knuckles Is Bad for You

If you’re a chronic knuckle cracker then you’ve most certainly been told by your elders that if you keep it up the result will be arthritis in your hands. But, it turns out that this belief is simply an old wives’ tale.

elderly person's hand
Via: Daniele Levis Pelusi/ Unsplash

Some joint cracking noises are caused by the release of nitrogen gas built up over usage, but other cracking sounds are simply the rearrangement of tendons or other soft tissue at the joint. In any case, cracking your joints will not damage them as long as you’re not pressing or pulling hard enough to cause pain.

Blueberries and Carrots Will Help Your Night Vision

This myth dates back to World War II when a British press release claimed that fighter pilots were eating lots of carrots to help their night vision and help defeat the Germans. This was a propaganda tactic, but the public believed it. In reality eating carrots will only improve the night vision of a person who has a vitamin A deficiency.

woman looking up in dark light
Via: Eric Ward/ Unsplash

In more recent years the phytonutrients in blueberries (and some other dark berries) have been thought to help night vision. But, studies show that eating blueberries does not increase normal nighttime sight to above average levels. However, dark berries can help reduce recovery time when our eyes are exposed to the sun.

Chocolate Causes Acne

Starting in the 1940s up into the 1990s many of us heard that chocolate caused acne. But, new studies show the link is not with chocolate but with the sugar that so often accompanies it. People who have increased insulin resistance can often suffer from acne. One solution would be to only eat dark chocolate will less sugar in order to get one’s chocolate fix without as much sugar.

stack of chocolate pieces
Via: Nathana Rebouças/ Unsplash