10 Health Myths You Thought Were True

Eating chocolate causes acne. Cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis. It takes seven years for gum to digest in your stomach. We’ve all heard these old wives’ tales relating to our health and well-being in the past and, while some may be half-truths rooted in fact, others are downright myths. Read on to explore some of the widely-held beliefs regarding your health that have been debunked by doctors — some might surprise you.

Swallowed gum takes years to digest: We’ve all stared horrified at a friend who swallowed their gum while we discretely spit ours out, reminding them it will sit in their stomach undigested for a long time. While it’s true that the stomach cannot digest some ingredients of chewing gum, the myth that gum stays in the stomach for an extended period of time is false. According to Duke University School of Medicine, the undigested bits of gum, similar to corn kernels and seeds, pass through the stomach and into the digestive system 30 to 120 minutes after eating.

image: Northpark Dental

Crossing your eyes will make them stay that way: Feel free to cross your eyes to amuse your friends, as this myth is false. While crossing your eyes for an extended period of time may fatigue the eye muscles, there is no medical evidence to support the myth that crossed eyes could get stuck in that position. According to the American Optometric Association, crossed eyes, or strabismus, is a real medical condition affecting the eye muscles and nerves. Risk factors for developing crossed eyes include family history, medical conditions such as stroke, head injury, or cerebral palsy, as well as uncorrected sever farsightedness.

You lose the most body heat through your head: For years, people have been instructed to wear hats during cold weather in order to stay warm, as the head is where the most body heat is lost. This idea, however, is false. According to Anesthesiologist and hypothermia expert Dr. Daniel Sessler in a New York Times article, the amount of heat released by the body on a cold day is dependent on the surface area exposed to the cold. Therefore, an exposed leg would lose more heat than an exposed head. The idea that the head loses the most heat began in the 1950s as a result of a military study in which soldiers were dressed in high-tech cold-repelling clothing without headwear.

Drinking coffee affects growth: Children should never drink coffee or it’ll stunt their growth! There is no evidence to prove this widely-held belief, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Some believe this idea originated from a study in which people who ingested large amounts of caffeine were more likely to have less bone mass. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, others note an advertising campaign for a coffee substitute product called Postum in the early 1930s may have played a role in developing the myth. The advertisements touted the benefits of the grain-based Postum beverage, while denouncing coffee as unhealthy and dangerous.

image: The Smithsonian

Humans only use 10% of their brains: If only we could tap into the latent, unused portions of our brains, we would be infinitely smarter and more talented. According to the British Medical Journal, the idea that humans only use a small portion of the brain to think and function is completely inaccurate. This myth has been attributed to a variety of unconfirmed sources, including an early 20th-century psychology author and Albert Einstein. In reality, however, scientists have confirmed that we use the vast majority of our brains, and that there are no inactive areas.

image: Society for Science

Sitting too close to the television harms vision: Several generations of parents have scolded their children for sitting too close to the television in fear of ruining their eyesight. However, according to research by Scientific American, this myth, although based in some fact, is false. Specifically, early televisions from the 1950s and 60s emitted high levels of radiation that over time could potentially contribute to eye problems. Since that time, however, television technology has advanced, making radiation and other electronic emission worries a thing of the past. Doctors note, however, that extended periods of television watching, no matter how close one sits, may cause eye strain and fatigue.

image: CBS News

Eating chocolate causes acne: Teens around the word, rejoice! Several studies have found that there is no direct link between chocolate or other foods and acne. According to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, factors such as genetics, hormones, and environmental exposures are more likely causes of acne, not one’s diet. Nutritionists point out, however, that diet may have an indirect role in some acne, due to the way in which the body releases chemicals to metabolizes certain foods.

image: Prevention

Take vitamin C to prevent colds: Although taking a daily dose of vitamin C is certainly not a bad idea to promote a healthy immune system, studies have found that taking vitamin C alone will not reduce your chances of catching a cold. According to one study published in the Cochrane Library, vitamin C won’t prevent a cold; however, taking a regular dose of vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.

image: Healthy Way

You don’t need to wear sunscreen in the winter: While much attention is paid to frostbite, chapped lips, windburn, and other cold-weather skin conditions in the winter, sun protection is often forgotten. However, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the sun is equally as damaging to skin in the winter as in the summer, and can cause particular damage to snow-sport enthusiasts who are out in snowy conditions for long periods of time. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on exposed skin in the winter, and reapply often.

image: Outpost Sunsports

Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis: Although the popping noises made by cracking your knuckles may make those around you cringe, studies have shown knuckle cracking will not increase your odds of developing arthritis. According to a report by the Harvard Medical School, habitual knuckle crackers were no more likely to develop arthritis than non-knuckle crackers. However, the report found that those who cracked their knuckles often exhibited swollen hands and reduced grip strength.

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