Health myths, old wives’ tales, call them what you want.

Medicine, like nearly everything today, is subject to an abundance of rumour, speculation and wild conspiracy theories regarding what is and is not true.

The rise and impact of social media has given everyone on the planet a voice and it takes quite some dexterity and research to separate fact from fiction.

Some health myths date back decades, even centuries and remarkably, some seem to hold true.

But others are nothing more than a fragile falsehood and if observed can actually do more harm than good.

In medicine as with everything, the reality is rarely black or white but lies in some shade of grey.

It pays to remember, too much of nearly anything is not a good thing.

Moderation is key.

Here are some health myths that don’t pass the pub test. 

“Eating eggs causes high cholesterol”

Eggs, shellfish and lean meats are all high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat.

Eating foods high in cholesterol does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels.

Rather, it is the excessive consumption of foods high in saturated fats and sugar which tends to do this.

Eggs and shellfish were seen as the villains of this story as far back as the 1960s but the myth has since been well and truly debunked.

A Harvard University study now suggests eating eggs may actually improve heart health.

“Natural sugars are better for you than refined sugar”

The simple fact is, sugar is sugar.

Your body identifies and processes all sugar the same way.

So whether you are dealing with honey, molasses, sucrose, raw sugar or table sugar, it all really isn’t that sweet for your body.

The World Health Organisation recommends adults should consume no more than 12 teaspoons or 50 grams of sugar.

That’s no more than 10 per cent of your daily energy intake.

Other studies suggest even less – six teaspoons for women and nine for men.

Check how much sugar is in everything you buy at the supermarket.

And remember fruit is laden with sugar too but at least comes with additional benefits such as fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”

You were probably taught this one in school.

Eating breakfast does break your overnight fasting period and give your body vital fuel for the day ahead.

But a 2019 Monash University study found that eating breakfast serves no purpose for a person trying to lose weight.

It also found total daily calorie intakes were higher in people who ate breakfast.

There is even fresh evidence that skipping breakfast as part of intermittent fasting could be more beneficial than eating it.

“Being out in cold weather causes colds”

The cold, hard fact is this is not true.

However, there are significant links between cold weather and the potential to fall sick.

This is because viruses spread more easily in cold, dry air.

They spread through tiny droplets when someone with a cold sneezes or coughs.

They can also be shared through hand to hand contact.

Cold weather may also inhibit your immune system, especially if you are deficient in Vitamin D from not having seen enough sunlight, something in shorter supply in the winter months.

Your body is also less effective at fighting a virus when cold air enters your respiratory system.

“Everyone needs eight hours of sleep”

It would be nice if we could guarantee sleeping eight hours would recharge our batteries to 100 per cent.

The reality is everyone’s needs are different.

Quality of sleep is now seen as a superior metric than quantity of sleep.

And not everyone can get eight hours of quality sleep, especially as they age.

We all have a unique circadian rhythm which determines how much sleep is ideal.

Some need an hour or so more, others get by with less.

Listen to your body clock, live life accordingly and try to improve your quality of sleep.

You can do this by:

  • more regular sleep patterns
  • daily exercise
  • daily sunlight 
  • avoiding alcohol 
  • reducing screen time before bed

“Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis”

That sound is actually made by nitrogen gas bubbles compressing and bursting in the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints.

But if cracking your knuckles causes pain, it is best to see a doctor to ensure you don’t already have arthritis or tendonitis.

“You need a multivitamin daily”

Vitamins and supplements are only necessary if your daily intake is not at the necessary levels.

The best way to attain these levels is by eating a balanced diet.

If for whatever reason this is not happening, then you may need to top up.

If your doctor recommends you take a daily multivitamin for whatever reason, then best to listen.

But a fit, healthy person taking a multivitamin willy-nilly is usually overkill.

“Never sit on a public toilet seat”

Bizarrely, the actual seat is normally the least of your problems in a public toilet.

Of greater concern are the doors, handles, taps and floors which are far more likely to be hiding nasty bugs like E. coli and a swag of other viruses.

Avoid touching these wherever possible and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly upon exiting.

Book an appointment

If there are any health myths you believe and adhere to strictly, why not discuss them with your GP at your next visit?

You might be surprised by what you learn.

Always consider that there are two sides to every story and by being bullish about one viewpoint, you may be depriving yourself of a much needed health benefit.

Remember too that even today, our knowledge of medicine and best practices is constantly evolving.

Talk to your GP about your eating, sleeping and exercise habits to ensure you are maximising your chances of a long and healthy life.

Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.