There’s so much misinformation in the world, especially when it comes to health science. Sometimes, research on this subject can be a little contradictory as nutrition isn’t the easiest of subjects to study.
However, most of the time, there’s just quacks or vested interests trying to spread lies and pseudoscience at the cost of other people’s health and lives. Or in most cases, our parents or grandparents heard it from theirs, and everyone takes it as the truth.
Sagan disapproves of pseudoscience.
Of course the world will never going to be completely free of baseless pseudoscience, but what we can do is educate people, have open discussions, and always ensure everyone is well-informed about their own health and lives. So here’s a list of some health myths that need to die with 2016:
1. Myth: Exercise & eating breakfast will help you lose weight
We’ve been conditioned to think exercise = most important factor in losing weight. And I know 9/10 people have “Join the gym” as their New Years resolution… every year to ensure they reach their New Year’s weight loss goal.
But the truth is that there is accumulating evidence for years proving exercise isn’t actually all that important when it comes to weight loss – even though it’s great for health. But not all good for health things = weight loss either.
After Julia Belluz, senior health correspondent and evidence enthusiast from Vox.com, read through more than 60 studies – which includes high-quality systematic reviews of all the best-available research – she learned that the extra calories burnt only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure. She concluded that the most effective method to lose weight is to cut down on food intake instead.
Exercise has amazing benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart diseases and Type 2 diabetes, it can also strengthen your bones and muscles whilst also helping with weight management but it just isn’t the most efficient way to lose weight.
It’s 2017. We need to start understanding that public-health obesity policies need to prioritise fighting the over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the food environment instead.
2. Myth: GMOs are unsafe. Go ‘organic’
Give me a raise of hand of how many people just rolled your eyes at that!
This is one myth that should’ve died many many years ago. The first GM crops hit the market in 1990s and billions of people have been consuming it without any devastating health problems, yet anti-GMO groups today still insist that these foods are dangerous.
The National Academy of Science has released a comprehensive report on GM crops and found that it is just as safe to eat as their conventional counter parts. Other than that, scientists have not found any correlation between obesity, cancer, gastrointestinal illnesses or allergies and the introduction of GM foods anywhere in the world. There also isn’t a reason to think that GM crops could pose a health risk by ‘transferring’ their modified genes to animals or humans. Lol.
The report also has plenty to say about the other aspects of GM crops, from their environmental to their economical effects and their potential to handle our ever-growing global population. One should read the report as it covers the good and the not-so-good. But the idea that they’re unsafe to eat is a notion that needs to die.
3. Myth: Homeopathy is a genuine medical treatment.
Homeopathy has to be one of the most enduring forms of alternative medicine, duping people since 1814, yet the US government has only decided to clamp down on these treatments recently with a policy from the Federal Trade Commission which explains that the agency will now ask homeopathy drug makers to provide reliable scientific evidence if they want to sell them. And I really want Malaysia to follow suit because Malaysia has been making good progress on science with their ban on ozone therapy recently.
The main idea of homeopathy is that an animal or plant extract that causes symptoms similar to the ones a person is suffering from can cure the symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are just basically extremely diluted versions of plant or animal extracts believed to help relief symptoms.
The scientific community is monumentally against homeopathy, calling it quackery and many studies, books, and investigations have demonstrated that this type of therapy is utterly bogus. In fact, it’s so ridiculous that researchers are trying to put a stop to investing government researching funding on homeopathy and to start investing in treatments that might actually help people.
Even with all these ridiculousness, it doesn’t mean these ‘treatments’ will disappear. Just because a government says it’s bogus doesn’t mean people are going to stop selling it nor does it mean people will stop buying it. So, let’s start educating the masses.
4. Myth: You need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
There is no need to count cups. Research has proved that people who drink water whenever they’re thirsty is enough to stay healthy and hydrated. Water-rich foods such as soup, fruit, vegetables and drinks such as juice, tea, or coffee can also keep you hydrated. However, if your pee is dark yellow, you don’t pee regularly, you’re an active person or you live in a hot climate, you should be drinking more water. Here’s a video from Adam Ruins Everything to shatter this myth to bits and pieces:
5. Myth: Microwaving food kills nutrient
Nowadays, many people believe that the microwave often ‘nukes’ your food. Does it really? The truth is that whenever you cook food, you’ll have some lost of nutrients. For example if you boil it on the stove, and it can lose up to 70 percent of its folic acid. Dr. Nadolsky explains:
“Microwaving can kill some nutrients (sulforaphane from broccoli, for example) but this does not extend to all nutrients. Unfortunately, we need to look at this stuff on a case by case basis to see which foods you should microwave and which you cannot since there is no rhyme or reason to which compounds are damaged or inactivated. In general, microwaving is not a serious concern.”
Though microwaves definitely do not have a monopoly on nutrient death, we can all agree that we just dislike that it heats meals unevenly and creates a disappointing texture.
6. Myth: Gluten-free means it’s healthier
There’s been a gluten-free craze happening but the question is; will you benefit from eating them? Well it depends on what your body actually needs. Just because it works for some people, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. If you’re celiac or gluten-sensitive, gluten can be problematic for you. However if you’re not, your body is technically able to process gluten. People need to understand that the absence of gluten does not make it healthier for you – I mean soda’s gluten-free too. Many gluten-free breads are also made with refined starches which are also pretty unhealthy.
Dr. Carly Stewart, a medical expert, says:
“Gluten-free foods are only healthier for you if you are allergic to gluten. If you aren’t, eating a gluten-free diet restricts the amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals you are able to consume. A variety of foods that are high in whole grains (such as foods containing wheat, rye, or barley) also contain gluten, and these foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. Most people have no trouble digesting gluten.”
Like everything else, eat it with balance in mind.
7. Myth: Antibiotics cure colds
This myth is actually something that is slowly making the world sicker everyday. For many years now, health experts have desperately tried to tell people to stop taking antibiotics for the flu and the common cold.
The facts: Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, and the cold/flu are caused by viruses, making antibiotics entirely futile and wasteful but more importantly, the more you take antibiotics unnecessarily, the more you increase the changes of helping develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
These “superbugs” have become a massive threat all around the world, killing thousands of people every year, and with many people still taking antibiotics for the smallest of the sniffles, researchers expect many million more deaths coming. Scary? Well, antibiotics also damage the gut microbiome, wiping out all the good bacteria in the body that keeps us healthy.
Despite all the warnings, the message just isn’t getting through and researchers have found that antibiotic over-prescription is getting crazier. In the US, 305 of antibiotics given out are unnecessary, which amount to about 47 million prescriptions every year – with the majority of it being for respiratory illnesses caused by viruses such as cold, sore throat, bronchitis, sinus and ear infection which don’t even respond to antibiotics! Can you imagine the numbers in Malaysia?
When I was younger, I remember antibiotics being given out like free candy and that every time I got the flu, I was told to eat some antibiotics and I’ll be fine. I’m a well-informed adult now and have stopped doing that, but I know so many others, despite me desperately telling them not to, still practicing the whole “Oh I’m sniffling. Better get some antibiotics” practice.
For the sake of the human race, can we all just stop taking antibiotics for the sniffles? Or viral infections? They’re VIRAL, not bacterial. Stop the abuse of antibiotics and spread the facts. Don’t contribute to the death of millions in the future. Stop it.
8. Myth: Flu shots are problematic, and you don’t need it.
This is another cold-related myth. Think the flu is ‘trivial’? Well, you’re not alone as only 1 in 3 US adult got a flu shot in the past 12 months. The truth is that influenza is a serious illness, says Dr. Susan Rehm, MD, vice chair of the department of infection disease at Cleveland Clinic.
According to US’s national statistics, not only sis 3,700 die from the flu in 2013, but a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that about 200,000 hospitalizations a year in the US happen due to flu complications.
There’s also another myth that the fly shot will give you the flu. This is untrue as the shot is made with an ‘inactivated’ virus hence it can’t possibly trigger the illness. Dr. Rehm states that “the virus is killed” and that after the shot, your immune system will recognise the bits of proteins that still remain in the dead virus and start gearing up to fight them should you ever encounter a real flu bug, “it’s like a practice run” she adds.
There can be some small side effects such as swelling, redness, and soreness, however Dr. Rehm states that it’s a good thing as it proves the vaccine is working. If you’ve caught the flu after the shot, it means you’ve caught the flu before the shot itself as the shot takes about two weeks before the vaccine’s protection kicks in. Also, there might be a slight chance that the vaccine wasn’t affective as viruses are constantly evolving.
“We know the vaccine isn’t 100% effective… but if you don’t get it, then you have zero protection” – Dr. Rehm.
Another myth is that pregnant women shouldn’t get the flu shot. However, if you’re pregnant, you should definitely get a shot. It’s not just safe, but the national health organisation states that pregnant women should get a flu shot no matter what trimester they’re in because their bodies undergo changes in their immune and respiratory systems which increases their risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu. Pregnant women are also more likely to get complications from the flu which rang very true during the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) season where pregnant women had a greater chance of dying from the flu (2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association).
There’s also a whole lot of fear-mongering about vaccines but we’ll get to that at a different time. In the mean time, you can read this insightful comic about vaccines.
9. Myth: Sugar makes people hyper.
Mostly children. However, even though sugar isn’t very good for kids, research shows that it doesn’t cause them to act out, not do their schoolwork, or lessen their attention spans. Here’s a great video from SciShow about it:
10. Myth: MSG (monosodium glutamate) is bad for you.
Many people look at it as a dietary problem or even a silent killer. However, in reality, if MSG does pose a problem, it doesn’t stem from the flavour enhancer itself but where you tend to find it; highly processed foods. Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, a medical editor at Examine.com, also explains further that most of our knowledge about MSG doesn’t add up to much:
“MSG is commonly demonized as giving people headaches, and it’s possible that some people are more sensitive to MSG or currently unknown reasons; these people can avoid MSG and treat it like some manner of allergen, but this doesn’t mean that it is inherently bad (we don’t know). MSG is often cited as causing obesity, but that is induced in mice with direct injections into the brain and ‘supported’ by binges at Chinese food establishments.
So, should you avoid it? Yes, if you’re allergic to it, however in small amounts, MSG should not have any impact on most people.
Which debunked health myth(s) from this list blew your mind?
Of course there are more myths to be debunked, but here are 10 for now.