Turns out, everything our mothers told us may not be as true as we think.
Do you always put a coat on before going outside? Or blame your Thanksgiving nap on the turkey? Turns out, everything our mothers told us may not be as true as we think. Dr. Marc Eisenberg breaks down five of the biggest health myths.
Myth: Wear a Coat or You'll Catch a Cold
Were our mothers correct in telling us to wear our winter coats out in the cold so as not to get sick? Perhaps! It is true that certain viruses do flourish in colder temperatures. It is also true that the cold air and the associated lower humidity may dry out the inner linings of our noses, making our nasal passages less effective in fighting these viruses. However, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine actually inoculated over 40 adult men to a common virus and then exposed them to cold temperatures (what people do for science). It turns out that the frigid participants were no more likely to get sick than the ones who were comfortable. For you skeptical moms out there (including mine), let's agree more research is needed.
Myth: An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Can an apple a day keeps the doctor away? If only! It is true that apples do have fiber as well as vitamin C. Unfortunately, our bodies do require more than just these two nutrients. However, they are low in calories and the fiber in them may actually keep the gastroenterologist away, as an increase in fiber may not only keep your colon healthy, but can also prevent the development of colon cancer. Of course, you should still continue with your scheduled colonoscopies, even if you live in an apple orchard.
Myth: Chocolate Makes You Break Out
For you chocolate lovers out there who have been told that eating chocolate will cause an unwanted acne breakout, this may actually be a myth. A fun study in The Journal of the American Medical Association fed the participants either a bar with 10 times the amount of chocolate of a normal chocolate bar twice a day for 4 weeks, or a bar without any chocolate in it twice a day for 4 weeks. It turns out that the study's chocoholics did not experience an exacerbation of their acne. Great news for those who can't stop indulging; although, hopefully you are also exercising to burn off those added calories.
Myth: A Gluten-Free Diet Is Good for All
Perhaps one of the biggest medical myths is that gluten-free diets are healthy for everyone. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, beer and many soy sauces. For the one percent of you who have the autoimmune disorder celiac disease, eating gluten can, in fact, wreak havoc on your intestines, causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue, and the most effective therapy is to maintain a gluten-free diet. Additionally, there are some of you who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity and feel better when avoiding gluten. However, for the rest of you, a pivotal study in The BMJ demonstrated that devouring gluten was not associated with the development of heart disease. In fact, being gluten-free and avoiding the beneficial, heart-healthy whole grains may actually be harmful and increase your heart disease risk. If you think you should go gluten-free, perhaps first see your doctor for a proper evaluation.
Myth: Blame the Thanksgiving Nap on the Tryptophan
For those of you who excuse yourselves early every Thanksgiving, claiming that you must get to bed quickly after gobbling too much turkey, this excuse may not work next year. It is true that turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is known to make people sleepy. However, it turns out that there is no more tryptophan in a portion of turkey than there is in chicken, beef or pork. In fact, many other foods, including canned tuna and tofu, contain high amounts of tryptophan (which may explain why I nap right after lunch). It may just be possible that your Thanksgiving slumber may be caused by overeating and too much booze.
By Dr. Marc Eisenberg
Dr. Marc Sabin Eisenberg, M.D., F.A.C.C. is an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. He is co-author of the book "Am I Dying?!: A Complete Guide to Your Symptoms and What to Do Next" and co-host of the "Am I Dying?!" podcast, which provides light-hearted advice for the hypochondriac in all of us. Listen to an episode below!
Can you catch a cold from going outside without a jacket? Do carrots really improve your eyesight? The doctors take on their favorite medical myths and Chris questions the healing qualities Marc's mother's chicken soup recipe.