Lifestyle / My Story

Medical Myths

By Kerstin Hall

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Fat = Bad

Fat is in fact an essential nutrient which is necessary in a well-balanced diet. Avocado, salmon, coconuts and a variety of other foods contain what are known as unsaturated fats. These are very good for people and can lower the risk of heart disease. On the other hand, saturated fats have an effect in raising cholesterol levels in the blood, which is bad because it clogs arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. However this has recently been contested, with some evidence demonstrating that saturated fats are not as unhealthy as previously believed. Recent studies have even found evidence that dietary cholesterol, found in red meat, eggs and bacon, is not a significant factor that contributes to circulatory and heart diseases. Certain people’s bodies react differently when they ingest cholesterol and saturated fats and some individuals might never encounter raised cholesterol levels.

Generic = Inferior

Generic drugs are different versions of a patented medication. The company that originally invented the drug is entitled to sell it exclusively for a period of time in order to earn back the costs of research and development. After that, other companies can produce very similar drugs without infringing on the rights of the original developers. These ‘knock-offs’ are known as generics.

There is a widely held perception that because they are usually far more expensive the non-generic medication is more valuable and effective. This is often not the case. The generics are very often almost identical, but are sold more cheaply because they lack the authority of a brand name.

Cold Weather = Sickness

This is a myth, but it has some links to the truth. Cold weather itself will not make you sick. The common cold is caused viruses, not blasts of chilly air or rain. But if you are already sick, the additional stress placed on the body by extreme conditions will probably slow down your recovery.

Additionally (and ironically) because people stay indoors in the colder seasons, they are exposed to a greater number of viruses because they come into closer contact with more people. Connected to that, people have less exposure to the sun, which means less Vitamin D, which means their immune system becomes weaker.

Bacteria = Bad

Antibacterial soaps and cleaning agents are available in every supermarket. In television advertisements for toilet cleaners, bacteria are often portrayed as tiny little monsters. The perception is created that bacteria are nasty organisms that make people sick. But without bacteria, all life of earth would cease.

Bacteria are everywhere and many of them serve vital functions, such as Cyanobacteria, which breaks down water in hydrogen and oxygen, allowing organisms, including humans, to breathe. They also serve other less important but still useful functions, such as being necessary components in both yoghurt and cheese. Some bacteria are damaging to human health, but the vast majority does us no harm at all.

Detoxing = Slimming

Detox diets are a popular fad. The idea behind them is that the body has a multitude of toxins that it needs to flush out. Once these toxins are removed from the body, weight loss will occur. Many of these diets involve only consuming liquids or supplements.

There is, however, no evidence that the diets do anything to remove these mysterious toxins. The body is already equipped to handle the removal of harmful substances, either mechanically through the digestive system or chemically through the immune system. Detox diets generally only serve to starve the body of nutrients. Initially, this may result in some weight loss because the dieter is taking in very few calories. But to this, the body responds by producing stress hormones that may cause the metabolism to slow down – in effect, the body ‘hangs on’ to whatever calories it can get.

It can also result in low blood sugar levels, leaving the person tired and not inclined to exercise. Over the long term, some detox diets can be very harmful to the health of a person.

Cracking Joints = Arthritis

A surprisingly common misconception is that the cracking of one’s knuckles can cause arthritis. This is not true.

Synovial fluid lubricates a person’s joints and tendons to prevent them from grinding together and damaging the bones. The cracking or popping sound some people produce is merely the noise of bubbles inside the fluid bursting. There has been no evidence to suggest this increases the risk of arthritis at all, though it may annoy others in the vicinity.

Chronic knuckle crackers may experience a weakened grip and swollen hands.

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