59 Rampant Health Myths That Need to Die
Your mother lied to you: Carrots will not improve your eyesight. We’re setting the record straight about the health myths you’ve heard your whole life.
Myth: Alcohol warms you up
“Perception versus reality can cause people to report things that simply aren’t true. For example, if you ask a study participant ‘Does alcohol warm you up?’ the answer may very well be yes. But that’s not what’s really happening in your body. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving warm blood closer to the skin and making you feel warm. But in reality this causes you to actually lose body heat faster.” —Matthew Amsden, expert in research protocol and analysis and CEO of ProofPilot. Check out some more widespread health myths that make doctors cringe.
Myth: Deodorant causes cancer
“That makes a great headline, but a few researchers used techniques that show correlation—not causation, and there’s a big difference. Humans and the world we live in are complex, so it’s very unlikely that one particular behavior causes cancer. It’s likely a complex combination of genetics, environment, and behaviors. In addition, follow-up studies haven’t been able to corroborate a link.” —Amsden. Read about some more things that you think cause cancer but don’t.
Myth: Carrots are good for your eyes
“While carrots are a healthy snack, and they do contain a vitamin A precursor (beta-carotene), the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A in the body is limited. Almost everyone in America already has plenty of vitamin A stored in their liver. And even if we supplement with beta-carotene or vitamin A, it won’t change the ‘refractive error’ or glasses prescription needed to see clearly.” —Jeff Anshel, OD, FAAO, E Street Eyes and founder, Ocular Nutrition Society. Forget these 6 vitamin myths (but find out which 2 vitamins you do need).
Myth: Bottled water is better than tap water
“Global bottled water sales have skyrocketed over the past several decades thanks to the misguided belief that ‘spring water’ is healthier or cleaner than the water that comes out of your tap. Bottled water is generally not worse or better than tap water because over 50 percent of it is just tap water. Plus, the EPA publishes detailed data about water quality, while most bottled water companies won’t tell you anything.” —Morton Tavel, MD, clinical professor emeritus of medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine
Myth: You should put butter or ice on a burn
“Most of the damage from a burn actually comes from the skin’s inflammatory response to it. The best way to keep a partial-thickness burn from going to full thickness is to immediately immerse the burn in cool water. Makes sense, right? That feels good, and the body has learned how to protect itself. Butter, however, spreads heat very effectively, so it will actually make a burn worse. Ice can damage cells and has also been shown to make burns worse.” —Amy Baxter, MD, emergency pediatrician, founder and CEO of MMJ Labs LLC. Check out 14 health myths even doctors believe.
Myth: Vaccines cause autism and are dangerous
“Parents understandably feel really weird about their kids getting so many injections at once. That said, the immune load of the current vaccines is a fraction of what it was 30 years ago—we’ve gotten much more precise at teaching the immune system what it needs to know to fight disease. Some people have worried that thimerosal, a preservative used in older vaccines, causes autism, but the truth is it wasn’t the dangerous kind of mercury; it was the naturally occurring kind. And regardless, it was removed from all vaccines in 2002. The true risk of vaccines is children becoming afraid of getting health-care when they’re older—and parents’ anxiety doesn’t help. For more information I have done TEDx and TEDMED talks about misconceptions about vaccines.” —Baxter. Find out what your doctor wishes you knew about vaccines.
Myth: You can “detox” your body with special diets
“People are obsessed with finding a quick fix or the one cure for all their health problems, but the truth is, there isn’t one. So-called detoxes with juices or other liquids don’t have unique powers to help you lose weight, clear up acne, or even purge toxins from your system—that’s your liver’s job, and it does it quite well. Instead of seeking a brief detox regimen, try incorporating a few small but meaningful life changes. My favorite ‘detox’ is to plan a trip somewhere outdoors with bad cell phone reception.” —Elizabeth Trattner, AP, doctor of oriental and integrative medicine
Myth: The flu shot can give you the flu
“The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Minor side effects—including soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; a low grade fever; and/or aches—may occur. These side effects begin soon after the shot and usually last one to two days. Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no serious problems as a result of receiving it.” —Jeremy Blais, PharmD, CVS Pharmacy. Don’t believe these other common myths about the flu shot, either.
Myth: Humans use only 10 percent of their brains
“This is categorically false. We use the majority of our brains the majority of the time. For instance, a simple task like getting a glass of water requires neuronal activity from at least five distinct areas of the brain to signal thirst, coordinate the movements, signal satiety, and keep us upright throughout. If such a simple task requires this much effort and coordination, one can imagine how much more brainpower quantum mechanics requires. Therefore, we use the majority of our brains for most tasks—simple or involved.” —Abhishiek Sharma, MD, a neurosurgeon practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also note other popular myths about the brain that just aren’t true.
Myth: Going outside with wet hair will make you sick
“It’s the virus, not the cold air, that makes you sick. Without exposure to the common cold virus, you can go outside in the extreme cold with your hair drenching wet and it would be impossible to catch a cold. In fact, there’s a whole group of people today that seek out cold temperatures to improve immunity and performance. Is there a correlation? Yes. But according to recent research, it is because rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, thrives in low temperatures. But the cold doesn’t cause the virus.” —Amsden. Another reason colds are more widespread in the winter is that people do tend to be inside more often, which means more contact with people, more time spent in recycled air, and more exposure to the cold virus. Watch out for some actual signs a cold is coming.
Myth: If you’re logical, you’re left-brained; creative types are right-brained
“There is no significant evidence to support the notion that certain people are left-brained and logical, while others are right-brained and creative. The myth is based on early surgeries in seizure patients where, in an attempt to attribute different functions to different parts of the brain, it was found that visuospatial information was processed better in the right hemisphere, while verbal information was processed better in the left hemisphere. But brain scans of healthy people have found that both creative and logical activities cause widespread activation of neural networks on the left and right hemispheres of the brain.” —Sharma
Myth: You must drink eight glasses of water daily
“You should drink to your thirst, not to meet an arbitrary number of cups or ounces. And if you’re worried about your skin, you would have to be drastically and dangerously dehydrated (not having any water for many days) before your skin would show any signs of suffering or distress. Skin dries out from the outside due to low humidity and moisturizer much faster than from the inside.” —Neal Schultz, MD, New York City dermatologist, founder of DermTv.com, and creator of BeautyRx. Get up-to-date on 10 health “facts” that are no longer true.
Myth: Getting a base tan will prevent sunburns
“No amount of tanning is safe or a good idea. A tan is actually the earliest sign of sun-induced DNA damage in our skin. Studies have shown that the additional melanin produced while tanning provides very minimal protection overall, roughly equivalent to applying a sunscreen with a SPF of 3 or less. Moreover, tanning has been shown to cause premature aging (skin discoloration, fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging), and significantly increases our risk of skin cancer. At the end of the day, it’s best to avoid tanning altogether and to apply a good, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before any sun exposure.” —Faiyaaz Kalimullah, MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Center for Dermatology and Aesthetic Medicine. Also check out 10 antiaging myths dermatologists want you to stop believing.
Myth: If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way
“This is utter hogwash designed by moms to scare kids out of doing this intentionally. You cannot make your eyes ‘stick’ by making any kind of face.” —Anshel
Myth: Erectile dysfunction is mental
“Erectile dysfunction is not ‘all in your head,’ and can be a sign of more serious issues, such as vascular disease. Researchers have found strong links between ED and diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. It’s not a situation in which you can think your way better.” —Harland Thomas Holman, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group
Myth: Vaccinations are just for kids
“Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have all your vaccinations. The tetanus shot was updated to include the pertussis vaccine, which is recommended every 10 years. While tetanus is rare, pertussis outbreaks have been increasing, and preventing it is particularly important if you have young children in the family. Anyone who smokes, has a chronic health condition, or is over 65 should consider the pneumonia vaccine and the shingles vaccine. And don’t forget the yearly flu shot.” —Holman. Avoid these common health mistakes that people make every day.
Myth: If you can walk on it, it’s not broken
“Just because you can move your foot, ankle, or other body part, or walk on it, after an injury does not mean that it is not broken. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles hold the bones together, and a broken bone can still move. Moving a broken bone in some cases can cause it to shift, separate or displace, necessitating correction by an orthopedic surgeon with a cast or even surgery.” —Steven Neufeld, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics
Myth: Sunscreen causes cancer
“Some patients believe that the chemicals in sunscreens cause cancer. However, this has never been proven, and the studies linking the two are greatly flawed. If you take a sample of people, the ones that wear sunscreen are far more likely to be at risk for skin cancer and have lighter skin types. These people are naturally more prone to skin cancer and also wearing sunscreen, as they burn easily, but this does not mean the sunscreen is causing the cancer—without it, they’d have far more cancer!” —Eric Meinhardt, MD, a dermatologist at California Dermatology Specialists. Do make sure you know the truth about these 15 skin-cancer myths.
Myth: Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis
“Recent research hasn’t been able to show a link between knuckle-cracking and arthritis. Most early studies on this topic rely on participants self-evaluating their knuckle-cracking habit over many years, and then correlating that with reports of arthritis. Studies based on people’s memories are not very accurate, and the risk of arthritis naturally increases as we age.” —Amsden
Myth: Barefoot is the best way to walk
“There’s a popular trend now that says not wearing shoes is good for your feet, but that is not necessarily true. Walking barefoot makes your feet susceptible to cuts, scrapes, wounds, and even fungal nail infections.” —Neufeld. Check out 17 science “facts” that aren’t true.
Myth: If someone is having a seizure, you should put a spoon in the person’s mouth so he doesn’t swallow his tongue
“Seizures can be very scary to watch, but following common wisdom like putting a spoon in the person’s mouth or blowing in their face doesn’t help a seizure and can even cause inadvertent harm. Instead, the best thing to do is to turn the person on his or her side to let spit or vomit drain, and just wait for the seizure to stop.” —Baxter
Myth: You can tell a baby’s gender based on the heart rate
“Sorry, moms, but babies’ heart rates are affected by many different variables, including the development of the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems as the fetus develops, as well as many other nondevelopmental factors, such as maternal fever and fetal movement.” —Jim Betoni, MD, maternal fetal medicine specialist and developer of the Pregnancy Power App. Don’t believe these other myths about pregnancy, either.
Myth: If you have a period, you can have a baby
“Many women think they will be fertile until menopause, but this is wrong. As we age, our fertility decreases. A woman with a regular menstrual cycle can experience infertility due to the age of her eggs. “— Jane L. Frederick, MD, reproductive endocrinologist and medical director at HRC Fertility. Also check out these 22 myths gynecologists want you to ignore.
Myth: You can train your hair to need less washing
“This is not how the scalp works. Oil glands in the scalp produce oils that need to be distributed along the hair shaft (aka, by brushing), and the excess must be washed out with an oil-dissolving cleanser. Oil buildup on the scalp can lead to scalp irritation, itching, pimples, and dandruff. You simply cannot train your scalp to stop producing oils and to require less frequent washing.” —Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California
Myth: Poison ivy is contagious
“Poison ivy sometimes appears to spread as it evolves over several days. But the only way to get poison ivy is to come in contact with the plant or the sap from the plant yourself. You cannot catch it from someone else.” —Todd Minars, MD, a dermatologist in Hollywood, Florida. Don’t buy into these 8 myths about happiness.
Myth: Going gluten-free will help you lose weight
“The only individuals who need to consume a gluten-free diet are those diagnosed with celiac disease. Dieters who follow a gluten-free meal plan inevitably lose weight because they are eliminating food from their diet, resulting in a reduced daily caloric intake.” —Suzanne Fisher, MS, RD, LDN, a nutrition consultant with Fisher Enterprises. This reduced caloric intake can actually have a negative impact on your health. Unless you have a gluten intolerance, avoiding gluten won’t provide any health benefits. Take note of these things that happen to your body when you give up gluten.
Myth: Sit up straight to avoid back problems
“Your mom wasn’t totally wrong; hunching can certainly be bad for your back. But the opposite is true too. Sitting up straight for too long without a break can also cause strain. If you work in an office setting, make sure your chair is at a height where your knees are at a 90-degree angle, your feet can rest flat on the floor, and you have proper lowe- back support. Make sure to stand up, stretch, and take a quick walk several times a day to keep from getting stiff or causing injury.” Neel Anand, MD, clinical professor of surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center
Myth: If you’ve had the flu this season, you won’t get it again
“Are you sure it was the flu and not some other virus? In addition, there are multiple strains of influenza circulating every year; getting one strain doesn’t protect you from the others.” —Daniel McGee, MD, a pediatrician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
Myth: You need to rinse after you brush your teeth
“Most toothpastes contains levels of fluoride that help reverse the early stages of tooth decay by remineralizing the tooth enamel. If you rinse with a mouthwash or water, you don’t give the toothpaste enough time to work, so you don’t get the full benefit. I see too many patients with this issue, and they all look at me with a shocked face when I tell them they’ve been doing things incorrectly almost all their life.” —Eugene Gamble, periodontal surgeon. Watch out for these other common toothbrushing mistakes.
Myth: Carbs make you fat
“Many people are avoiding carbs trying to lose weight, but carbs are part of a healthy diet and necessary, especially if you work out. It’s the type of carbohydrate that is important. Whole grains such as oats, barley, whole wheat pasta, bread and brown rice, and beans and lentils, for example, supply a tremendous amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Not to mention that these types of carbs help decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancer, and metabolic syndrome. They also help maintain a healthy weight.” —Kim Melton, registered dietitian. Don’t wreck your health by believing these 8 carbohydrate myths.
Myth: If you work out, you can eat whatever you want
“When it comes to weight loss and maintenance, diet is king. Many people justify eating unhealthy foods because they’ve worked out that day. Unfortunately, most people (and exercise machines) overestimate the number of calories burned during a workout, which gives people a false sense of ‘I can eat anything,’ which can actually lead to weight gain. If you really want to lose weight, you need to take a good look at your diet and focus on filling up on nutrient dense foods; exercise alone won’t do the trick.” —Tory Tedrow, RD, CNSC, head of nutrition for ContentChecked. Learn about 50 fitness myths that can seriously damage your health.
Myth: You can’t get skin cancer if you have dark skin
“Although people with darker skin may rarely burn, the sun’s UV rays can still cause premature aging, skin cancer, and age spots. That’s why it’s important for people of all skin types and colors to use sunscreen.” —Anthony Youn, MD, plastic surgeon and author of The Age Fix
Myth: Sit-ups are the key to a flat stomach
“You can’t ‘spot train’ to tone or burn excess fat off a specific area of your body. Crunches or ab work have not been shown to be effective in getting a flat stomach, but a comprehensive diet and exercise program will help you lose excess weight all over, and then you’ll see a flatter tummy.” —Jessica Arber, certified workplace wellness manager and personal trainer
Myth: Probiotic supplements will cure all your stomach woes
“There’s zero science to support many of the claims made by probiotic supplements. Patients would be better served simply eating fermented foods—yogurt, kefir, and kombucha—rather than buying these expensive, unregulated, and probably useless supplements.” —Neil Stollman, MD, a gastroenterologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Don’t be suckered by these 20 worst pieces of health advice on the Internet.
Myth: Addiction means you’re weak, with no self-control
“Addiction is a chronic brain disease. It has been acknowledged as such by the American Medical Association (AMA) and other medical organizations since 1987. The disease has nothing to do with morality or choice but, rather, brain chemistry. Addiction creates changes in the brain that affect an individual’s decision making and impulse control.” —Joseph Garbely, DO, medical director and vice president of medical services at Caron Treatment Centers
Myth: Dental X-rays will give you cancer
“You will not get cancer from dental X-rays or any medical X-ray. Standing outside in the sun for an hour exposes you to more radiation than you’d get from a full set of dental X-rays. And if I don’t take an X-ray, I worry that I might miss something serious not visible to the eye.” —Gary Glassman, DDS. Check out what your dentist wants you to know.
Myth: Small meals throughout the day are better than three big meals
“The most important factor to consider in your meals is not how many of them there are but how well you balance macronutrients at every meal. Ideally you need plant fibers, greater than 50 grams per day. That’s more important than ‘keeping your blood sugar consistent’ with smaller meals. The primary goal is to keep the gut happy by providing it with macro-meals rich in plant fibers and healthy fats.” —Stella Metsovas, a nutritionist and the author of Wild Mediterranean
Myth: Bar soap grows bacteria; liquid soaps are cleaner
“People think bar soaps are dirty and foster germs, but there are no reputable studies that say there’s more bacteria growing on bars. However, there are some brands of soap that can be harmful to skin if they contain harsh, aggressive cleansing ingredients that strip skin of natural oils and lipids. It’s more important what is in the soap than what form it comes in.” —Terrence Keaney, MD, Dove expert dermatologist
Myth: Eating sugary treats makes cancer grow
“There is no evidence that eliminating sugar from one’s diet will treat cancer, and there have been no studies showing that eating sugar will make cancer worse. Research has shown that cancer cells do consume more glucose (sugar), but this is not indicative of ‘feeding’ the cancer or causing the cancer to progress. All cells depend on glucose for energy, but giving more sugar or less sugar will not affect the rate of growth of the cancer cells. A high-sugar diet can contribute to weight gain, and obese patients do have an increased risk of developing certain cancers, but the sugar itself does not directly affect one’s cancer risk.” —Shikha Jain, MD, a hematologist and oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Make sure you know these 9 dangerous diabetes myths.
Myth: Foods eaten after 8 p.m. turn directly into fat
“This ‘diet tip’ isn’t true; food eaten at night isn’t metabolized any differently than food eaten earlier in the day. This is really just a way to gepharmt you to stop eating junk at night when willpower for the day has been depleted. But I actually recommend a healthy pre-bedtime snack for people trying to lose weight.” —Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, CNS, a nutritional biochemist and author of Best Future You. Be sure you’re not being misled by these 15 food myths that can make you gain weight.
Myth: Medications belong in the bathroom medicine cabinet
“It’s common to store medications in a place that’s convenient and that you visit many times a day. For many people, this is the bathroom. However, many medications can lose their strength and even break down when stored in a damp environment such as a bathroom or near a kitchen sink. It is therefore best to store your medications in a dry place, away from heat, direct light, or any source of dampness.” —Mary Jayne Kennedy, MD, department chair of clinical sciences in High Point University’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy. Learn the 10 most important questions to ask before you take a prescription drug.
Myth: Oral and anal sex are safe alternatives to “regular sex”
“Both oral and anal sexual practices are risky behaviors for several reasons. The human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection, is spread through semen. HPV is known to cause cancer of the cervix and penis, but it also can cause cancer of the anus and the mouth and throat. Other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, can also occur in the mouth and throat. In addition, repetitive anal sex can harm the muscles that help control defecation, causing a condition called anal prolapse, where part of the rectum sticks out of the body.” —Elyse Watkins, MD, assistant professor of physician-assistant studies at High Point University. Raise your sex IQ by reading about 8 common sex myths.
Myth: Running is bad for your knees
“There is plenty of scientific research which has found that recreational runners are not at increased risk of having symptoms of knee arthritis or other orthopedic problems. In fact, running may strengthen muscles that stabilize the knee, which may help prevent injuries and arthritis.” —James Smoliga, MD, associate professor of physiology in the Congdon School of Health Sciences at High Point University
Myth: Children are the best sleepers
“You’ve heard the expression ‘sleeping like a baby’ as the epitome of peaceful slumber, but children have several unique challenges when it comes to breathing during sleep. Growing bodies often haven’t caught up with large tonsils and tongues, which can cause breathing difficulty at night. Things like diet, use of sippy cups, length of breastfeeding, and allergies can also impact the child’s sleep quality.” —Mark Burhenne, MD, DDS, author of The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox. New moms, make sure you don’t believe these 9 postpartum myths.
Myth: Chocolate is a health food
“While eating a square of dark chocolate does provide antioxidant benefits, the detrimental effects [from large portions] can far outweigh the benefits. Unfortunately, it is one of those feel-good foods that tends to get overeaten. Since it’s high in fat and sugar, chocolate can be the perfect storm for weight gain. If you want to get the benefits of the antioxidants (and the taste!) without hurting your weight-loss efforts, keep it to one square a day and look for dark chocolate that is comprised of at least 70 percent cocoa solids.” —Robert Ziltzer, MD, FACP, FAAP, obesity medicine specialist at the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center. Learn more about the health benefits of chocolate.
Myth: High heels wreck your feet
“Wearing high heels constantly can shorten your Achilles tendon, causing pain and injury. But just because a shoe is flat does not mean it will not irritate your feet. And no shoe can prevent or cause bunions, as they are mainly hereditary. It’s best to vary your heel heights and shoe type throughout the week. And if they hurt, take them off!” —Joan Oloff, MD, a podiatrist and shoe designer. Do take note of the shoe mistakes that are killing your feet.
Myth: If you don’t work out, your muscle will turn into fat
“Many people believe that if they gain muscle from working out but then stop working out, that the muscle turns into fat. Muscle and fat are two very different tissues made up of very different types of cells, just like bone and skin are two very different tissues. When muscular people get out of shape, they often gain some excess fat, and because of the extra fat over the muscle, an out-of-shape muscular person looks less toned, and it looks like the muscle has turned into fat, but it really has not.” —Smoliga
Myth: Juice is a healthy alternative to soda
“Whole fruits and vegetables are very good for you, but the problem with fruit juice is that it’s high in sugar and lacking in fiber, leaving you with a rapid rise in insulin. Sugar then gets pumped into fat cells and ultimately converted to fat. The ingestion of juice also increases food intake. Water, on the other hand, reduces food intake. Instead of swapping soda for juice, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, black tea, or coffee.” —Ziltzer. Read about 21 other food myths that are wildly untrue.
Myth: You should exfoliate before shaving
“I am more passionate about the benefits and virtues of exfoliation than anyone you have ever met, but I can’t say this enough: Do not exfoliate before shaving. It can lead to increased irritation. And do not shave after exfoliating. Shaving is a good technique of exfoliation, so any additional exfoliation will only lead to irritation.” —Schultz
Myth: No pain, no gain
“There may be parts of your life where this applies (though I can’t think of any), but it is definitely not true for your body. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Especially when you’re trying to recover from an injury or disability, you should not suffer through additional pain. Of course, we like to differentiate ‘good pain’ from ‘bad pain.’ Getting normal exercise soreness is fine, but having an increase in pain or new, sharp, severe pains is not part of the process of getting healthier.” —Matt Likins, PT, OCS, a physical therapist and founding partner of 1st Choice Physical Therapy in Metro Detroit. Don’t be too disappointed to read these 51 beloved “facts” that are just false.
Myth: Eggs are bad for your heart
“In previous years we were led to believe that the dietary cholesterol in egg yolks would raise our blood cholesterol, leading to heart disease. But more than 40 years of research has shown that healthy adults can enjoy eggs without significantly impacting their risk. In fact, eggs contain nutrients that may help lower our risk of heart disease. This nutrient-dense food contains six grams of high-quality protein, all nine essential amino acids, choline, selenium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, phosphorus, riboflavin, and folate. Eggs absolutely can be part of a healthy diet.” —Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, nutrition consultant at Triad to Wellness
Myth: Arthritis is just a part of getting old and creaky
“Arthritis is not just a disease of the elderly. Many types of arthritis occur in younger individuals, including infants. An example might be juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or neonatal lupus. And there are many things you can do now to prevent or lessen arthritis before it gets bad. Do not accept it as an inevitability of aging.” —Nathan Wei, MD, clinical director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Maryland
Myth: You shouldn’t salt your food
“High sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, but it’s not because of sprinkling table salt on foods. Only 5 percent of the sodium in the American diet comes from salt added at the table, and 5 percent comes from salt added during cooking. The majority of hidden sodium comes from packaged and processed foods and dining out. Other big offenders are condiments and flavor enhancers such as ketchup, mustard, and soy sauce that are packed with salt. Over time, high blood pressure can cause heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.” —Dara Huang, MD, nephrologist and founder of New York Culinary Medicine. Don’t be surprised if these 20 food facts change the way you eat.
Myth: Mentally ill people are all dangerous
“First of all, there is no such thing as ‘the mentally ill’ as one group of people. That would be like referring to everyone with cancer as ‘the cancerous.’ Also, people are people first, and a diagnosis much later. According to ample research, someone with a mental illness is far (far, far) more likely to be a victim of violence than they ever are to be violent themselves. Even if they are, they are much more likely to be violent toward themselves (through self-harm and suicide) than toward anyone else.” —Mark Henick, MS, mental-health advocate and speaker. Learn more about 10 myths surrounding mental illness.
Myth: Depression is incurable
“Recovery from the vast majority of mental-heath problems, including depression, is not only possible, it’s actually likely and expected when people receive the specific kind and amount of help that they need. This is true even in many seemingly chronic, severe, intractable situations. When you combine medication with psychological therapy as well as social supports like housing, employment, and community engagement, that’s the gold standard for recovery.” —Henick. Read what psychologists wish you knew about depression.
Myth: Coffee can dehydrate you
“In a healthy body, it’s very unlikely that a few cups of coffee are the cause of your dull skin, or headaches, or overall feeling of dryness—at least, not through the mechanism of dehydration.” —Jennifer Haythe, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Columbia University’s Center for Advanced Cardiac Care, to marieclaire.com. It’s not true that drinking coffee drains the moisture from your body. While caffeine does have a diuretic effect (meaning that it causes you to urinate more often, potentially dehydrating you), it’s not enough to have more than a negligible effect on the volume of water in your body. Plus, coffee has enough water in it to counterbalance any mild dehydrating effects. That doesn’t mean you should drink coffee to excess, though. Check out 8 myths about how coffee affects your health.
Myth: Weight training will make you “bulky” and won’t help you lose weight
Many people, women in particular, shy away from lifting weights because they fear that it will make their bodies look “bulky” rather than helping them slim down. “Building muscle does not equate to bulking muscle,” writes Heidi Powell, a trainer and transformation specialist on ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss. She says that you’d have to lift weights for hours on end to see a noticeable increase in bulk. Instead, lifting weights and building muscle will actually help your body burn calories more effectively. “Since muscle burns around three times more calories than fat, adding as little as 2-4 pounds of muscle can equal an extra 100 calories burned every day,” Powell writes.
Myth: Sitting is as dangerous as smoking
A Lot Of People/Shutterstock
You might hear “sitting is the new smoking” and think that, for every time your butt touches a chair, you lose a year off your life. That is not the case. Working at a desk job where you sit a lot, but still making sure to stay active outside of work, is very different from staying sedentary pretty much all day, every day. As long as you’re getting the right amount of exercise and getting up after every half an hour or so of sitting, you should be fine, according to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic. Try out these ways to help your body recover from a day of sitting.
Myth: All cholesterol is bad for your health
There is a big difference between LDL, what we think of as “bad” cholesterol, and HDL, or “good” cholesterol. As their nicknames suggest, only one of them is hard on your heart. Your body actually needs cholesterol to help produce hormones and vitamin D and to break down fat. When you hear about the dangers of cholesterol, that’s LDL: It can form plaque in your arteries, a primary cause of heart disease. Good cholesterol, however, can counteract the effects of bad cholesterol and strengthen your blood-vessel walls. Read on for some more myths about the human body that could seriously damage your health.