99 Body Myths That Have Survived Too Long

We grow up hearing myths about our bodies, change our habits accordingly, and before long, we’re swearing by fiction instead of the facts. Today we separate the truth from the myths.

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The Diet Myths You Have to Stop Believing (3:32)

1. Certain foods can trigger increased sexual desire.

Food does not induce a physical reaction that leaves you hungry for sex. But it can be psychologically suggestive.

2. Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker and darker.

When you shave, you cut your hair at an angle. It looks thicker as a result, even though it isn't. It isn't darker either.

More: Shave, Wax or Laser?

3. Late night eating guarantees weight gain.

If you consume a meal before bed with more or less the same amount of calories as other meals you typically have during the day, then you’re not likely to gain weight. Late night binge eating, however, will get you in trouble.

Watch: How to Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating

4. Alcohol kills your brain cells.

Alcohol does not kill brain cells; irresponsible consumption can cause enough damage in other ways.

Watch: Smoking Alcohol

5. You're able to sweat out toxins.

Sweat is mostly water, sodium, chloride, and small amounts of potassium. There are only trace amounts of toxins that exit the body through sweat.

Watch: The Science of Sweat and Stink

6. We have only five senses.

We've got many senses beyond sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Here's one: equilibrioception, or our sense of balance.

7. If you go outside with wet hair in the winter, you'll catch a cold.

Wet hair isn't to blame for your winter cold—if you catch a cold, you've caught a virus.

8. To stop a nosebleed, you should tilt your head back.

Rather, you should tilt your head forward while pinching just below the bridge of your nose to prevent the blood from rushing out (make sure you breathe through your mouth).

Watch: Bleeding: Life Saving Do's and Don'ts 

9. The perfect hair product can mend your split ends.

No shampoo or conditioner, however fancy, can mend a split end.

10. It's best to leave a wound uncovered at night.

Leaving your wound uncovered at night exposes it to a dry environment, and that can cause cells to die. You want to the opposite effect. Thus, you should keep your wound covered.

11. A longer workout is always a better workout.

In fact, you build momentum over the course of a lengthy workout, so that by the end, your muscles aren't being tested as much as you'd like them to be. Of course, this depends on your particular workout routine on a given day. One way to ensure that you get the most out of your trip to the gym is to do sets of slow, drawn-out exercises. Adam Zickerman, founder of InForm Fitness, and author of Power of 10: The Once A Week Fitness Revolution 57, is a strong proponent of quality over quantity when it comes to working out.

12. When you sneeze, your heart skips a beat.

This one isn't necessarily a myth. It's just unremarkable. Your heart rate can slow or skip a beat while you're gagging, coughing, or any other bodily process that affects what doctors call the vagus nerve.

13. If you don't have a fever, then you're not contagious.

A fever is a pretty reliable indicator that you're sick and potentially contagious. But there are many ways to be sick and contagious without a fever.

Watch: All About Immunity Boosters

14. Sleeping in a closed room with a fan is fatal.

Plain and simple, this is not true.

Watch: Quiz: What Is Your Chronotype?

15. Popcorn, nuts, and seeds stick to the lining of your stomach.

These don't linger in your stomach any longer than gum does—all exit the same way.

16. If your mucus is green, then you've got a sinus infection.

This is an unreliable way to distinguish between a viral and bacterial sinus infection.

17. To sober up, you ought to take a cold shower.

A shower might provide a burst of energy, but it will do nothing to lower your blood alcohol content (BAC).

18. Swallowed gum gets stuck in your stomach.

It doesn’t. Gum doesn’t even stay in your gut any longer than food or beverages do. Yes, your body can’t digest it—just as it can’t digest the outer shell of corn, for example—but gum will exit your body in a day or two the same way everything else does.

19. Men cannot get sex off their minds.

We've all heard that men think about sex every seven seconds. There's no research to support this, although there is research that suggests men think about sex more than women do.

20. We use only 10 percent of our brain power.

In one capacity or another, we use almost all of our brain power.

21. If you crack your knuckles too often, you'll develop arthritis.

It's not exactly clear, somewhat surprisingly, why joints crack. One explanation: when you crack your knuckles, you exert a negative pressure on the joint, which fills with gas.

22. Writing or reading in low light can damage your eyesight.

Working in low light can cause eye strain, but not eye damage. Because muscles within the eye work harder to allow more light to enter the eye in low light, these muscles can become strained and cause a headache.

23. A slow metabolism is the reason for weight gain.

There's not a perfect correlation between metabolism and weight. In fact, very thin people often have a slow metabolism, because they have smaller muscle mass with which to burn calories.

24. There's no wrong way to breathe.

There is. Many of us breathe from our chest. The proper way to breathe is from the stomach.

Watch: How to Practice 10-Minute Step Breathing 

25. Yellow teeth are a sign of poor dental hygiene.

Teeth can certainly turn yellow without proper maintenance. But discoloration can occur even with ideal maintenance—from having a high fever as an infant, excessive exposure to fluoride, or by using the antibiotic tetracycline before age 8, to name a few. All things being equal, their color is largely determined by your genes.