Year-End Clearance: All Medical Myths Must Go!

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Sorry, moms: it turns out that reading in low light won’t make you go blind; going hatless in the winter won’t make you freeze to death; and you could eat poinsettias all day and not be poisoned.

All this holiday medical myth-busting and more is courtesy of our somber friends at the British Medical Journal (part one and part two).

Of course, you probably didn’t need the British Medical Journal to tell you that — a quick Google search would have popped the bubble on each of the three myths we mentioned.

The internet may be good at slaying old myths. But if myths can spread like viruses, do they also respond under the pressures of natural selection by evolving?

Google might cure you of the myth that turkey-borne tryptophan is what makes you sleepy at Thanksgiving. But WebMD might give you imaginary Restless Leg Syndrome.

Happy New Year to all and feel free to share your favorite medical myths in the comment section below.

(Hat tip: Chris Blattman)


Tony Williams

Whew, glad my mom was wrong. I didn't go blind!

jep

Vitamin c cures colds.

Joseph

Cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis-despite what your mother told you.

di

I'm not sure "evolving" is the right word but email health warnings do sometimes connect and build on previous ones.

I received the lead-in-your-lipstick warning a while back, and it was clearly cut and pasted over the dioxins-in-your-water-bottle-cause-breast-cancer warning, a few scraps of which were still included.

Nikki

A teaspoon of dry white sugar cures hiccups...my mom really thought this would work when I was a kid!

Ben_Wraith

I read in a recent book that water with meals interferes with digestion. The sad thing is it would have taken the authors all of a two minute Google search to learn this was false.

Jesse

Has anyone else noticed a resurgence in the ideas of physiognomy. There have been research articles and articles in the economist. Not sure how this could possibly be statistically sound.

King Politics

We just had a baby and I'm drowning in baby myths. Anyone know of a good site where baby related medical myths are disabused?

http://kingpolitics.com

cirby

The body heat thing is pretty pedantic, though.

They base their "disproof" on "well, if you went out naked, wearing a hat won't make much difference."

For a non-insane person who goes out into winter conditions wearing warm clothes and gloves, the head represents pretty much all of your exposed skin. Therefore, you can cut excess heat loss by about half by wearing a hat.

Don Hulbert

That to remain hydrated, all caffeinated beverages must be followed by an equal volume of water. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/health/nutrition/04real.html?_r=1
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/health/22brod.html

hazbeen

The grand-daddy of all mom myths: you'll catch a cold if you go outside in just that shirt.

Also: you'll drown if you go in the water without waiting 45 minutes. (I don't even know how that one ever got believed).

Mike Smith

Homeopathy cures stuff.

Mila

http://milab.wordpress.com/

I was making fun of restless leg syndrome one time (because I definitely have symptoms of it) in a group of about 10 people. 3 of them didn't find this amusing and let me know that RLS is "not a laughing matter". Yeah okay, my imaginary friend Lettuce agrees...

Nadav Zohar

Some of these are common sense, and some come as a bit of a surprise, but it is worth noting that with a lot of them, there are still other undesirable effects.

For example, you might not lose all your body heat through your head, but wearing a hat certainly will help keep your ears warm and possibly keep hair pressed against your neck. Or, eating late at night might not make you gain weight, but it can complicate other bodily functions such as those of the pancreas. (Or perhaps that, too, is a myth?)

Doranne

if you sleep on a full stomach you will die in your sleep of "bangungot"

JF

Going on vacation will not cure infertility.

Charlotte Williamson

As a child, my friend's mom convinced him that eating warm cake would make you sick. He didn't learn that this wasn't true until he was 24 or so when he warned us not to eat the cake we just made!

dnm

Going into water right after eating won't make you drown, but the issue is that high activity immediately after eating can cause cramping, which makes it tough to stay afloat.

That said, unless you're going into the deep depths of the ocean with waves you can only stay above of with severe physical exertion, you should be OK to have a sandwich and lounge in the family pool.

nbdeer

Vitamin C does cure colds

Bilberry is good for the eyes!

Onions is bad for your health lol

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Paul

A quick Google search will find far worse medical advice than moms ever gave to us.