Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Some Health Myths (Mostly) Debunked

 

I love lists like these because a) they confirm things I was pretty sure I knew already; and b) they simplify life in the service of common sense, which is always cause for celebration. Herewith Business Insider’s official lowdown on twenty popular health assumptions:

  1. Does olive oil prevent heart disease? Yes.
  2. Do cough syrups work? No (with the possible exception of Dimetapp).
  3. Does sugar cause hyperactivity? No.
  4. Do sugary soft drinks lead to diabetes? Yes.
  5. Do I need sunscreen with more than 30 SPF? No, just remember to use broad spectrum and apply lots.
  6. Is the MSG in Chinese food likely to give you a headache? No.
  7. Do nuts make you fat? No.
  8. Is walking as effective as running? Yes.
  9. Is drinking fruit juice as good for you as eating fruit? No.
  10. Are all wheat breads better for you than white bread? No.
  11. Can a hot tub make you sick? Yes.
  12. Does coffee cause cancer? No.
  13. Do eggs raise cholesterol levels? No.
  14. Can you drink too much water? Yes.
  15. Can yogurt ease digestive problems? Yes.
  16. Do whitening toothpastes whiten teeth more than regular toothpastes? No.
  17. Is it safe to microwave food in plastic containers? Yes.
  18. Can watching TV ruin your eyesight? No.
  19. Is red wine better for you than white wine? Yes.
  20. Is bottled water better for you than tap water? No.

Have a look at the full article for links to explanations. Medical Ricochetti, you can let us know if they got any of this wrong. In the meantime, I’m going to go knock back some shiraz and pistachios while marathoning The Hollow Crown on TV. Catch you later.

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  1. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge

    I’ve heard the running vs. walking thing. I think the assumption there is that it’s based on calories burned, and you burn as many walking as running. You might have to walk farther, but the effect is the same.

    At least, that’s the theory. Lower blood pressure is a benefit to running, due to sustained heart rate elevation, which you get less of from walking.

    And for the completely unscientific anecdote – I feel much more vigorous and youthful when I’m running on a regular basis. Walking (and I’ve done both) just does not kick back the same benefit, and if I’m going to spend the time, I’m going to run.

    All you walkers can just catch up to me when you can.

    • #1
    • December 26, 2013, at 4:30 AM PST
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  2. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think there is a bell curve for benefit from exercise. If you can stay in the middle bump, there are maximised benefits in return for the costs.

    If one has twenty minutes a day for exercise, doing something more vigorous is generally going to have more benefit than just walking. But it must be within the range of the person’s overall age and health: octegenarians should be walking; people who are very out of shape need to ramp up gradually. etc.

    • #2
    • December 26, 2013, at 4:59 AM PST
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  3. Skyler Coolidge

    Walking and running are both good, and whether one is just as good as another depends on a lot of things. First, this can only apply to a vigorous walk. Second, it mostly applies to calories burned. If your purpose is to run faster for a race, then walking is close to useless. If you’re in poor shape from age or injury, then walking is better. Also, it applies to distance, not time. That is, if you run three miles, then you’d better power walk three miles or more likely more to make any comparison valid.

    • #3
    • December 26, 2013, at 6:25 AM PST
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  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Walking raises the metabolism, and so burns calories well enough. It also exercises the muscles enough to keep them fit. The extra benefits of running include improved stamina, muscle tone and the expelling of toxins. Jogging, so the biological engineer of my family assures me, is harder on the joints and muscles than running, and should be limited.

    I am generally skeptical of dietary science because it is impossible to control for the many, many variables. But I can believe that part of America’s high rate of obesity is related to ubiquitous use of corn syrup, glutens and other additives in processed food. Cooking with fresh ingredients is best.

    Different genetic ancestors merit different diets. Thank God mine thrives on bacon!

    • #4
    • December 26, 2013, at 6:50 AM PST
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  5. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    I think the research is saying that it is the time spent in these two activities that counts, not the distance. Hard to understand, isn’t it? Especially when you scrutinize the actual representation made: “Studies have shown that how long you exercise — and thus how many calories you burn — is more important than how hard you exercise. Running is a more efficient form of exercise, but not necessarily better for you.”

    If running is “more efficient” exercise, but walking and running for the same amount of time equalizes the “most important” health benefit, you have an apparent contradiction, no?

    Skyler: Walking and running are both good, and whether one is just as good as another depends on a lot of things. First, this can only apply to a vigorous walk. Second, it mostly applies to calories burned. If your purpose is to run faster for a race, then walking is close to useless. If you’re in poor shape from age or injury, then walking is better. Also, it applies to distance, not time. That is, if you run three miles, then you’d better power walk three miles or more likely more to make any comparison valid.
    • #5
    • December 26, 2013, at 7:33 AM PST
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  6. MLH Inactive
    MLH

    “. . . I’m going to go knock back some shiraz and pistachios while marathoning The Hollow Crown on TV. “

    Sounds absolutely delightful!

    • #6
    • December 26, 2013, at 7:41 AM PST
    • Like
  7. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Do I need sunscreen with more than 30 SPF? No, just remember to use broad spectrum and apply lots.

    I’ve heard that the liberal (ahem) use of sunscreen has led to an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. Yes, you want to prevent skin cancer in the long run, but you need some regular sun exposure in the short run. 

    It’s like everything: balance and common sense. Easier said than done.

    • #7
    • December 26, 2013, at 7:55 AM PST
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  8. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    I explained this badly below. Let me try again (seeking enlightenment):

    This statement, “Studies have shown that how long you exercise — and thus how many calories you burn — is more important than how hard you exercise.”, by itself, is contradictory. The “harder you exercise”, almost by definition, means the “higher one’s caloric burn rate”. “How long one exercises” seems to be immaterial, if “how many calories you burn” is the real criteria for the degree of health benefit conferred by exercise.

    So which is it, 1) how many calories burned, or 2) how long exercise lasts??????

    Manfred Arcane: I think the research is saying that it is the time spent in these two activities that counts, not the distance. Hard to understand, isn’t it? Especially when you scrutinize the actual representation made: “Studies have shown that how long you exercise — and thus how many calories you burn — is more important than how hard you exercise. Running is a more efficient form of exercise, but not necessarily better for you.”

    If running is “more efficient” exercise, but walking and running for the same amount of time equalizes the “most important” health benefit, you have an apparent contradiction, no?

    Skyler: …
    • #8
    • December 26, 2013, at 8:08 AM PST
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  9. dittoheadadt Inactive

    Funny how Number 8 got the most initial comments…and is why I’m commenting as well!

    It’s misleading. From a calorie-burned perspective, it’s correct but only in context. Walking and running a particular distance provides the same caloric benefit. You’re moving a particular mass a particular distance, and the means of effort is irrelevant to the calories burned.

    However, from a cardio-vascular perspective, walking and running the same distance do NOT provide the same benefit. Running provides a far greater benefit in that context.

    And when you change distance to time, there’s a huge benefit to running over walking, from both caloric and cardio-vascular perspectives. Walking for an hour pales in comparison to running for an hour.

    The problem with Number 8 is it doesn’t define what “effective” means in its intended context. Which makes it a meaningless “fact” debunking an unidentified “myth.”

    • #9
    • December 26, 2013, at 8:12 AM PST
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  10. Foxfier Inactive

    Is it possible to find sun screen under 30? I’m getting annoyed at only being able to find SPF75 and such for my kids.

    This means we generally don’t put sunscreen on, and– this toasts me– the kids are less likely to get burnt without than I am with. (Obviously, there’s behavior modification involved.)

    • #10
    • December 26, 2013, at 8:14 AM PST
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  11. Tuck Inactive

    I think a lot of those 20 “debunkings” are myths, or at least such gross-oversimplifications as to be indistinguishable…

    For instance: “Can watching TV ruin your eyesight? No.”

    The best evidence I’ve seem for what causes myopia is not spending enough time outdoors. So if you spend too much time indoors watching TV, then the answer is “Yes”. Too much time reading, or writing will have the same effect. But the ultimate cause is not spending enough time outdoors…

    Or this one: “Does olive oil prevent heart disease? Yes.” I’ve spent the last few years reading up on this topic. Correlation does not equal causation. “Prevent” is a strong word, and we don’t have any causal evidence for this one.

    “Is walking as effective as running? Yes.” Effective at what? Extending health and longevity? The best study we have on that indicates no. Walking is as effective at running at slightly increasing fitness in unfit people, but TANSTAFL. Go for a run.

    Most of the rest are equally problematic. The most harmful health myth isn’t even on the list:

    Will following a health “expert’s” advice increase your health? No.

    • #11
    • December 26, 2013, at 8:21 AM PST
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  12. Diogenes Inactive

    I have finally reached the point in my life where I’m confident to listen to what my own body says it needs and cheerfully ignore the experts. If I take the time to truly pay attention, my body tells me too much sugar makes me feel sick, repetitive pounding exercise is bad for my arthritic knees, lifting weights is great, and the occasional glass of red wine is an okay treat. It’s also just fine with some red meat, lots of fresh veggies, and fruit with yogurt.

    • #12
    • December 26, 2013, at 8:24 AM PST
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  13. ctlaw Coolidge

    Some depend on how the question is phrased.

    ‘Is the MSG in Chinese food likely to give you a headache? No.”

    If less than half the population is sensitive, then we have the “No” answer even if a substantial minority get headaches.

    The debunking source was even more odd, talking about how the headaches did not require hospitalization.

    I get MSG headaches from some Chinese food and beef jerky with MSG. In my youth there was more of a problem with Chinese restaurants. Chinese restaurants now routinely deny use of MSG, but some of those still produce minor headaches.

    I am a beef jerky abuser. When I have accidentally gotten some with MSG I have paid the price.

    • #13
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:17 AM PST
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  14. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ultimately, I don’t think anyone lives a long and healthy life by running or dieting. They do it by forgetting about themselves, keeping busy (which is different than frantically fretting) and really living.

    • #14
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:28 AM PST
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  15. ctlaw Coolidge
    Foxfier: Is it possible tofind sun screen under 30? I’m getting annoyed at only being able to find SPF75 and such for my kids.

    This means we generally don’t put sunscreen on, and– this toasts me– the kids are less likely to get burnt without than I am with. (Obviously, there’s behavior modification involved.) · 1 hour ago

    If memory serves, the FDA banned sunscreen greater than some low number like 15 on the ground that most people would not benefit from higher numbers. A court struck that. As a borderline albino who requires higher SPF, I can say the court was clearly right.

    The FDA came back with a higher limit and some specific labeling issues.

    Go to walmart.com and search “spf 15”, “spf 10”, etc. for low spf products Many of those products are sold as moisturizers, etc. rather than as “sunblock” or “sunscreen”.

    • #15
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:51 AM PST
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  16. Snirtler Member

    Is it better to walk or to run? It depends. The article has links to various 2012 and 2013 studies.

    • #16
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:53 AM PST
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  17. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    dittoheadadt: …

    It’s misleading. From acalorie-burnedperspective, it’s correct but only in context. Walking and running a particulardistanceprovides the samecaloricbenefit. You’re moving a particular mass a particular distance, and the means of effort is irrelevant to the calories burned.

    However, from a cardio-vascular perspective, walking and running the same distance do NOT provide the same benefit. Running provides a far greater benefit in that context…

    Except the reports seem to suggest they do:

    “It takes longer to walk a mile than to run a mile. But if you match them up on the energy expended, they are comparable,” Williams said in a telephone interview. “If you do the same amount of exercise – if you expend the same number of calories – you get the same benefit.”…

    “They measured their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol at the beginning, and then watched for six years to see who got diagnosed with high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol or diabetes.”

    “People who exercised equally in terms of energy output got the same benefit, regardless of whether they ran or walked, Williams and Thompson report in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.”

    • #17
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:53 AM PST
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  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Tuck: “Is walking as effective as running? Yes.” Effective at what?

    That was my reaction, too. Effective at what? And for whom?

    And, for that matter, what kind of running? Jogging? Sprinting?

    I suspect that for most unfit people, the most important thing is for them to find an exercise routine they’ll actually do on a regular basis, even if it’s less effective than other routines in a theoretical sense.

    Me, I hate jogging – it’s moving too slow to expend energy quickly, but too fast to enjoy the scenery properly. But a few short sprints with a chance to catch my breath in between, that I can do. At least when the sidewalks aren’t covered with ice. And I enjoy running up flights of stairs for some reason.

    • #18
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:55 AM PST
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  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Even movement studies are muddled by an abundance of variables. Is the ground even or uneven, hard or soft? What shoes? How much weight? How long before or after eating, and eating how much of what? Before or after a normal day’s stresses? What hydration level? Alone or while interrupting breathing and taxing the diaphragm in conversation? On a straight track or constantly turning? Over hills or steps? So many variables are why fitness study conclusions are always educated guesses at best.

    • #19
    • December 26, 2013, at 9:55 AM PST
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  20. PJS Thatcher
    PJS Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Midge! Great to see you! How have you been?

    • #20
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:03 AM PST
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  21. dittoheadadt Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    dittoheadadt: …

    However, from a cardio-vascular perspective, walking and running the same distance do NOT provide the same benefit. Running provides a far greater benefit in that context…

    Except the reports seem to suggest they do:

    “People who exercised equally in terms of energy output got the same benefit, regardless of whether they ran or walked, Williams and Thompson report in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.”

    I suppose I should’ve used a term like “endurance” rather than “cardio-vascular.” My intent was to say that if you’re trying to “get in shape” for something – a marathon, a triathlon, Wednesday night men’s basketball… – walking is not as effective as running, contrary to Number 8 in the list. That was my point about context, and its absence in Number 8. 

    If I need to get in shape to play singles tennis, walking won’t do the trick. Running will. Interval training especially (HIIT).

    • #21
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:08 AM PST
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  22. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    PJS: Midge! Great to see you! How have you been?

    Short answer: not awesome.

    But I took care of some important stuff while I was away. And it’s good to be back!

    • #22
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:09 AM PST
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  23. Eric Hines Inactive
    MLH: “. . . I’m going to go knock back some shiraz and pistachios while marathoning The Hollow Crown on TV. ”

    Sounds absolutely delightful! · 2 hours ago

    I’ll be having lots of the most healthful dish known to man: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Every one of them has all of the four major food groups: bread, peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

    Eric Hines

    • #23
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:14 AM PST
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  24. Mike H Coolidge
    Western Chauvinist

    I’ve heard that the liberal (ahem) use of sunscreen has led to an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. Yes, you want to prevent skin cancer in the long run, but you need some regular sun exposure in the short run. 

    This is true, but you would benefit even more from getting more Vitamin D than you’re likely to get from the sun. Especially now in the winter when you can’t make any in most of the US and not enough even in southern climates. I opt for broad spectrum sunscreen year-round on my face (since skin damaging UVA is always around), sunscreen on all exposed skin when I’ll be outside more than an hour, and taking Vitamin D supplements. I’m taking 7000 IU/day for winter. Most people would benefit from at least 4000 IU year round. That should stave off most long term vitamin D deficiency diseases. One rule of thumb is 40IU for every pound of weight or 1000IU for every 25 pounds. Blood tests are helpful and the recommended range is 40 – 80 ng/ml depending on who you talk to.

    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

    • #24
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:23 AM PST
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  25. tabula rasa Member
    tabula rasa Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Do cough syrups work? No(with the possible exception of Dimetapp). [I agree, I’ve never seen an OTC cough syrup do a thing]

    Can a hot tub make you sick?Yes. [Totally aside from bacteria, I’ve seen a few people in bathing suits who, if they got in my hot tub, would induce nausea].

    Can watching TV ruin your eyesight?No. [But it can make your brain atrophy if taken in doses that are too large].

    • #25
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:24 AM PST
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  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Tuck:

    The best evidence I’ve seem for what causes myopia is not spending enough time outdoors. So if you spend too much time indoors watching TV, then the answer is “Yes”. Too much time reading, or writing will have the same effect. But the ultimate cause is not spending enough time outdoors…

    I’ve read that spending insufficient time outdoors during childhood causes nearsightedness in later life, but I was unaware that lack of sunlight could damage adults’ eyes. Can it?

    And how reversible is it? Can an adult who has been confined to indoors for several months regain clearer vision by getting outdoors again?

    • #26
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:43 AM PST
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  27. Tuck Inactive

    “…I was unaware that lack of sunlight could damage adults’ eyes. Can it?”

    I don’t know that what causes myopia is a lack of sunlight, and I didn’t say that was the case. You’re jumping to a conclusion…

    “And how reversible is it?”

    Don’t know. There’s an interesting old book about this: if you’re will to work for several years out-of-doors you might be able to reverse it.

    Spending more time outdoors can allow you to arrest the progression of myopia: that’s what I’ve done myself.

    • #27
    • December 26, 2013, at 10:53 AM PST
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  28. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    Eric Hines
    MLH: “. . . I’m going to go knock back some shiraz and pistachios while marathoning The Hollow Crown on TV. ”

    Sounds absolutely delightful! · 2 hours ago

    I’ll be having lots of the most healthful dish known to man: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Every one of them has all of the four major food groups: bread, peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

    Eric Hines · 50 minutes ago

    Agreed! The grain and legume make a complete protein. Crunchy or smooth?

    • #28
    • December 26, 2013, at 11:09 AM PST
    • Like
  29. Eric Hines Inactive
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Tuck:

    The best evidence I’ve seem for what causes myopia is not spending enough time outdoors. So if you spend too much time indoors watching TV, then the answer is “Yes”. Too much time reading, or writing will have the same effect. But the ultimate cause is not spending enough time outdoors…

    I’ve read that spending insufficient time outdoors during childhood causes nearsightedness in later life, but I was unaware that lack of sunlight could damage adults’ eyes. Can it? · 14 minutes ago

    It’s not so much the lack of sunlight that causes the damage as it is the lack of exercise at looking/seeing into the distance. If all the eyes do is look into the near field–whether it’s the TV, a book, or the projects in the workshop–eyes lose some of their flexibility of focus.

    Eric Hines

    • #29
    • December 26, 2013, at 11:09 AM PST
    • Like
  30. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Tuck

    “…I was unaware that lack of sunlight could damage adults’ eyes. Can it?”

    I don’t know that what causes myopia is a lack of sunlight, and I didn’t say that was the case. You’re jumping to a conclusion…

    Well, the stuff I’ve read speculated that it’s specifically the lack of sunlight that causes children raised too much indoors to be more nearsighted. You’re right that that speculation could well be wrong (and I haven’t the expertise to tell whether it is or not), but at any rate, I didn’t jump to that particular conclusion unaided.

    I did wonder whether the vision benefits of being outdoors might be due more to the opportunity to focus on far-away objects than to sunlight.

    [Edited to include links.]

    • #30
    • December 26, 2013, at 11:20 AM PST
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