12 Diet Facts Revealed

Authors of the bestselling You: The Owner's Manual help sort fact from fiction.

By Michael F. Roizen | M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz from Reader's Digest

12 Diet Facts RevealedRDA/Carroll & Brown/Jules Selmes
Think of your body as a home: Your bones are the two-by-fours that support it; your lungs are the ventilation system; your brain is the fuse box; your intestines are the plumbing; your mouth is the food processor; your heart is the water main; your hair is the lawn (some of us have more grass than others!); and your fat is all the unnecessary junk you’ve stored in the attic that your spouse has been nagging you to get rid of. You generally don’t call an electrician if a light bulb burns out, nor do you summon a plumber if you just have a little backup in the pipes. When something really goes wrong, though, it’s easy to panic. But you can become an expert on your body. Here, we separate myth from reality to give you a more solid foundation.

     

  • 1.

    You can work out your brain with weights.

    True. Your sense of balance is one sign of brain strength, and you can use free weights to develop better balance. Try this: Stand on one leg and close your eyes. The longer you can stand without falling, the better (20 seconds is very good if you are 45 or older). Working out with dumbbells develops your proprioception, the complex action of body orientation that helps you balance and stimulates neural pathways. Weight machines don’t have the same effect because the weights are attached to a fixed surface, so you don’t develop your balancing abilities as you lift them.

  • 2.

    Coffee is good for your brain.

    True. Enough studies have been done that we can say that drinking about 20 ounces of coffee a day could significantly decrease your risk of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. No one is quite sure why, but the effect of caffeine seems substantial, whether it’s in coffee, tea or soft drinks. Warning: For some people, too much caffeine may cause health problems.

  • 3.

    Pampering can speed recovery from back pain.

    False. If you’ve ever strained your back, you know that on a scale of 1 to 10, the pain ranks a 692. It can be paralyzing — making it difficult to walk, sit, get up, sleep or anything else. All you want to do is lie down, prop your head on some pillows, flick on reruns and remain still. You can think of nothing better than having your spouse deliver ice packs, ibuprofen and the latest issue of Reader’s Digest directly to your bed. But your spouse shouldn’t play nurse. Why? Attentive mates may be doing the right thing emotionally, but by encouraging you to stay in bed they’re doing the wrong thing physically. If you stay in bed more than two or three days, your back muscles weaken and can slow your recuperation. In order to recover from strain, your muscles need to grow stronger and stay active, and the only way they’ll do that is by working, even if it’s just a little bit. The best method: walking.

  • 4.

    You'll know if you're having a heart attack.

    Not necessarily. About half of all people who have had heart attacks never felt a symptom — or didn’t recognize it. The most common signs are:
    • chest discomfort (pressure, fullness or squeezing)
    • discomfort in upper body (arm, back, neck, jaw or shoulder)
    • shortness of breath
    • cold sweat
    • nausea
    • sudden extreme fatigue (without lack of sleep).
    Symptoms can be unpredictable. For example, talk show host Larry King felt intense pain in his right arm, not the usual side for heart pain. Why? The heart’s nerves don’t feel pain directly. But when something goes wrong, its nerves may become electrically unstable. When they cross the spinal column, they may short-circuit other nerves — so your arm aches, or your chest, or even your jaw. But if the nerve fibers don’t cross, you may not have any discomfort at all.

  • 5.

    Erectile dysfunction is inevitable as men age.

    False. Maintaining the health of your sex organs not only improves your longevity, but also helps support a rich and fulfilling life. The most important thing is to follow guidelines for decreasing arterial aging, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and watching your blood pressure and cholesterol. A clear and well-flowing vascular system promotes blood flow to every part of your body.