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When it comes to your health, it’s often difficult to tell fact from fiction. After all, according to a variety of online sources, egg yolks will kill you one day but save your life the next. It can be difficult to sort out the misinformation, so we’ve put together a list of the top eight health myths that may put your mind at ease and change the way you live your life each day.
If there’s one thing you’ve been taught since you were old enough to make your own choices about what you eat, it’s the myth that saturated fat is the worst thing you can put in your body. A recent editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has turned that idea on its head and proved this to be one of the most common health myths of all time.
A team of cardiologists from the UK, US, and Switzerland found that there is absolutely no correlation between the intake of saturated fats found in meats, dairy products, and other foods and an increased risk of developing heart disease. If you’ve cut out read meat, eggs, or even heart-healthy saturated fats like those found in coconut oil to reduce the buildup of plaque in your arteries, you may want to think again. These same experts found that swapping simple carbs for foods high in healthy saturated fats is the best way to decrease your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
For years now, people have been led to believe that being even slightly overweight was taking a tremendous toll on their health. While it stands to reason that a poor diet filled with unhealthy fats, simple carbs, and refined sugars may cause health problems, not everyone who is overweight eats poorly. In some cases, people are simply genetically predisposed to carry some extra weight around.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine proved that being overweight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy, but it does increase your risk of developing health problems at some point in your life. The study found that those who are overweight have about a 50/50 chance of developing problems like high cholesterol or high blood sugar; people within the normal weight range have a 75% chance at having normal results for these same tests. While you should always work to maintain a healthy weight, carrying a few extra pounds doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop health problems.
This is one of the most widely-believed health myths of all time. People often go into public restroom stalls and avoid touching anything for fear of contracting some sort of infection. While it may seem less-than-sanitary to use a public restroom without lining the seat, there are some good arguments that prove your aversion to the public toilet is the result of mass paranoia.
If you’re one of those people who uses a liner or spreads toilet paper on the seat before doing your business, you may want to think again. When a toilet is flushed, it literally sprays bacteria into the air, and that bacteria (including E. coli) covers everything within six feet. This is where things get interesting. A public toilet seat is specifically designed to prevent the adhesion of bacteria, whereas toilet paper and seat liners provide the perfect breeding ground. What’s more, there’s no evidence to suggest that sitting on a public toilet increases your chances of catching a disease. Just avoid using obviously soiled public toilets and wash your hands when you’re finished.
Last year, 39.9 million people were diagnosed with high blood pressure in the United States alone per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). What’s more, it’s safe to assume that most of these patients were advised to drastically reduce their sodium intake to help bring their blood pressure back to normal. A recent study published in Experimental Biology proves that this is another of the most shocking health myths.
Researchers followed some 2600 people for 16 years and found that their sodium intake had no impact on their odds of being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Each of the participants had normal blood pressure at the start of the study, but as time went on, some of the participants developed hypertension. The findings were jaw-dropping. The participants who consumed less than 2500mg of sodium each day had higher blood pressure than those who consumed lower-sodium diets. The researchers suggest that other minerals – such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium – may play an even bigger role in hypertension than sodium.
According to Migraine.com, it’s estimated that 13% of the US adult population deals with migraines, and of these, 2% to 3% have chronic migraines, or migraines that recur several times per month. When it comes to migraines, patients are often told to avoid certain triggers; of these, the most notorious is known as monosodium glutamate, or MSG. This is a flavor enhancer that brings “umami” to dishes, and it’s most commonly found in Chinese foods sold to the American public.
Unfortunately, the idea that MGS causes migraines is one of the most believed health myths of all time. Back in 2006, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners attempted to demonstrate MSG sensitivity of any kind. The study looked at research accumulated over 40 years and, despite their best efforts, the authors discovered that placebos were just as likely to trigger migraines.
One of the longest-running health myths centered on a very popular food item – eggs. Once upon a time, the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, claimed that eggs should be consumed in extreme moderation, lest you raise your cholesterol levels and increase your odds of a major heart attack. In 2015, though, the USDA changed their tune following a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Per this study, while eggs are certainly high in cholesterol, that cholesterol doesn’t necessarily make it into the bloodstream where it can build up in your arteries and cause problems. The researchers looked at 40 studies published between 1979 and 2013, and they found that dietary cholesterol did not influence patients’ odds of developing coronary artery disease, ischemic stroke, or hemorrhagic stroke.
When it comes to health myths, the idea that you can’t drink too much water is one of the most dangerous. While you’ve likely heard since you were very young that it’s important to stay hydrated (and it certainly is), drinking too much water can have adverse health effects. This is especially true if you’re consuming several bottles of water while exercising aggressively.
As you drink water, your kidneys process it and send it out to the various parts of your body that need it most. When you consume more than your kidneys can handle, it quite literally dilutes your blood, which reduces the amount of minerals and vitamins your individual cells can carry. Over time, your sodium levels can drop dangerously low; the medical term for this is hyponatremia. If you’re losing a lot of fluid due to sweat, make sure you’re not just chugging limitless amounts of water. Electrolyte-replacing drinks, including Gatorade and even Pedialyte, are better choices. Read out article on whether a Gallon of Water a Day is Good for You.
Finally, health myths surrounding tap water are endless. People believe that they must avoid drinking tap water to limit their exposure to harmful minerals and even heavy metals like lead, so they purchase bottled water thinking they’re doing themselves a tremendous favor. In all actuality, they may be doing more harm than good if they’re skipping the tap water altogether.
In most places, tap water is perfectly safe. In fact, your tap water is probably your most abundant source of fluoride, which is a mineral that has been scientifically proven to prevent tooth decay. While your toothpaste has fluoride, this exposure alone is not enough, especially in small children. If your tap water is deemed safe, it’s healthier for you than bottled water. If you live in an area where the quality of your tap water is questionable and you drink only bottled water, look for brands that include fluoride, or talk to your dentist about adding a fluoride supplement to your daily routine.
While there are some health myths that don’t really have much of an effect on your daily life, the eight listed here certainly do. For example, you can enjoy your favorite Chinese restaurant without fear, stop spending money on bottled water, and stop worrying about how much salt you just put in your favorite dish.