Top 7 Health Myths


It is surprising but true that even doctors who are so well qualified often believe in certain myths and find it difficult to provide rational explanations. While it is understandable for people who do not have a medical degree to believe in certain popular myths such as reading something in the dark causes vision problems or that we use only 10 per cent of our brain power, it is indeed strange that even MD qualified doctors believe in some of these misconceptions. The British Medical Journal has looked closely at seven common myths in its December issue and has tried to debunk them by offering some logical explanations. Aaron Carroll who has initiated this activity and is the assistant professor in pediatrics feels that parents as well as patients must not hesitate to get their doubts clarified and must not belief myths blindly.

Let us look at them.

Myth #1. Doing any reading in failing or insufficient light leads to the eyesight losing its sharpness.

This is one myth that most parents have believed in since generations, but the fact is it cannot be proved scientifically. Though reading in failing light or in dark does lead to tremendous strain on the eyes, the strain disappears the moment you switch on the light or move into a lighted place. This belief has also been attributed to many people suffering from myopia. However Carroll feels that these are not supported by hard evidence living as we do today in the best of lighting conditions. Moreover, she goes on to add that seven decades back, when people were studying or reading by the light of a candle, there was no sharp increase in the number of people going blind due to that habit to support her argument.

Myth #2. Use of mobile phones in hospitals is hazardous

While most hospitals and health care centers continue to display signs prohibiting the use of mobile phones due to the interference they might cause with the working of the various sophisticated medical equipment, the reality is that this interference is pretty miniscule as proved by the tests conducted by the Mayo Clinic in the year 2005. The Clinic ran about 510 tests with the help of 16 medical equipment devices along with 6 mobile phones and found that the interference impact was a rather innocuous 1.2 percent. Yet another study of about 300 tests conducted across 75 medical treatment rooms that was done in the year 2007 and which made use of mobile phones in the normal mode, again found no significant impact.

Myth #3. There is fresh growth of fingernails as well as hair after the death of a person

The normal process of growth of fingernails and hair depends on a number of hormones to take place and that is obviously not possible once an individual dies. So it is indeed surprising as to how this myth became so popular? One possible explanation could be that since after death, the skin starts contracting; it could be leading to an optical illusion of the nails growing longer.

Myth #4. Only ten per cent of our brains are put to use

The impression or myth that a normal human brain is not being fully utilized does not hold water since many brain imaging exercises have conclusively proved that no part of the brain is inactive at any time. Very detailed studies have not been successful in highlighting the fact that 90% is inactive and have always shown the brain to be fully functional at all times. Carroll along with Rachel Vreeman – another professor of pediatrics doing duty at Indiana University School of Medicine believe that this myth has been perpetrated by glib talking salesmen way back in the early part of the twentieth century, when they wanted to sell snake-oil which supposedly improved brain power and stimulated sharper memory faculties.

Myth #5. A minimum of eight glasses of water must be drunk daily

This myth has its genesis in the article published by the National Research Council way back in 1945 which recommended an intake of 2.5 liters of water a day for adults. The article though clearly mentioned that much of the required water is already present in the food we take during the day, but people have conveniently omitted that statement and have stuck to the eight glasses of water quota over the years. It is a fact that we do get a good amount of the required water from our daily intake of milk, fruit juices, and aerated drinks and so on. Taking too much water on the other hand can have its own drawbacks in the form of electrolyte imbalance that can even lead to the death of cells because of excess fluid buildup.

Myth #6. When you shave off hair, it tends to grow back much faster and also has a coarser feel

Irrespective of what you do to your hair – waxing, cutting or shaving, you will not be able to change the pace of growth or the texture of the hair. The hair on the legs will be much coarser as it grows back and will also appear much darker to start with. With continued exposure to the sun, it will begin to look the way it was. Find out more about this particular myth in one of the recent NEWSWEEK stories.

Myth #7. If you pick up food dropped on the floor within 3 seconds, its still clean

Or the commonly known, ‘3-second rule’ is of course rubbish. I guess most people have the mental image of germs having to gather their ‘forces’ and get ready to ‘jump’ onto any food particles that come dropping by. Unfortunately, germs and dirt gets on the food due to sticking to the food as it comes into contact with them on the floor. So yeah, nice try, I’m sure germs will be quite happy with you continuing to think that they are not there.