9 Health Myths Even You Thought Were True

In 2016, with so much health advice constantly circulating and ready to be plucked out of cyberspace with a thumb and a smartphone, it can be difficult to know what to believe. Often, it seems like you can “scientifically” justify any health and fitness choice as long as you search hard enough for the right information.

In this article, we shed a little light on some of the most common misconceptions about health. From old wives tales that have mutated into ill-informed Facebook posts, to the latest fitness fads, we’re debunking nine of the most pervasive myths of 2016


#1:MSG is Bad for You

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, has got a lot of bad press. It’s been accused of causing everything from headaches to brain damage, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and more.

However, countless studieshave proven that MSG – which mostly consists of salt and glutamate (a common amino acid that occurs naturally in everything from tomatoes to human breast milk) – is harmless.

The problem isn’t with the MSG itself: it’s with the food that it is usually put in. Generally, the foods that need the umami “flavour enhancement” MSG offers are low quality, highly processed foods that are bad for you anyway.

And, while some people swear that they know the effects MSG has on their systems, scientists suggest that this might just be an allergic reaction to the chemical.

The verdict: MSG is fine.


#2: Diet Soft Drinks Cause Cancer

Chances are, you’ve read an email or social media post explaining why a governmental/multinational conspiracy has been covering up the fact that drinking diet soda causes MS, cancer, lupus and more.

However, comprehensive reviews of all of the studies on diet soft drink have proven over and over that the artificial sweetener used in most diet soft drinks – aspartame – is completely safe.

“The weight of existing evidence is that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener,” one of the most recent of such reviews states.

Verdict: Many studies have shown that diet soft drinks don’t cause cancer. Articles that say otherwise are usually anecdotal, unverified, or misinformative.


#3: Drinking Fruit Juice is as Healthy as Eating Fruit

There are a number of reasons why you might think fruit juice is healthy. After all, it has fruit in it, and fruit is full of the vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants our bodies love.

However, there are a few reasons why drinking fruit juice is just not comparable to eating whole fruits, and they’ve all got to do with sugar:

  1. The sugar content of fruit juice (and fruit drink, which is often packaged identically to real juice) is often on par with or in excess of the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks like Coca Cola
  2. Chewing through multiple pieces of fruit in quick succession would be quite difficult for most people. Drinking large amounts of sugar-laden juice, on the other hand, is quite easy. The liver is the only organ that can metabolise fructose (the main sugar found in fruit juice), and once the liver gets overloaded, it’ll turn that sugar into fat build-ups and may eventually start resisting insulin.
  3. A lot of the fibre that should be in fruit juice is in the fruit’s pulp, which is not included in your average glass of juice. With fibre out of the equation, it’s harder to justify the sugar intake vs. nutritional value gained from drinking juice.

Verdict: Fruit juice is a treat, not a replacement for actual fruit or vegetables.


#4: It’s Possible to Contract Sexual Infections from a Toilet Seat

Good news! You cannot contract sexually transmitted diseases and infections from a toilet set.

Why? According to doctors, these bacteria and viruses aren’t able to survive out of the warm, moist environment that is the body for very long - and they definitely can’t live on the cold, hard surface of a toilet seat. Plus, the parts of your body that are susceptible to contracting these things aren’t actually in contact with the seat when you use the bathroom.

Verdict: Forget about contracting STDs and STIs from toilet seats. The real concern is getting sick from coming into contact with door handles, flush buttons and other surfaces that have been touched by people with unwashed hands.


#5: Sun Protection Makeup Can Replace Sunscreen

This is a tricky one. Theoretically, foundation or moisturiser with SPF qualities (preferably SPF 30) will protect your skin from the sun. However, in practice, most women don’t apply enough of it to be fully protected, nor do they reapply throughout the day.

Sunscreen takes two to three hours to lose its effectiveness, so unless you’re going to reapply your foundation at least twice a day, sun protecting make up just isn’t as good as sunscreen.

Verdict: Chances are, you’re not applying enough makeup frequently enough to get sufficient sun protection. When you consider that so many skin cancers are found above the neck, it makes sense to incorporate regular sunscreen into your skin care routine.


#6: Chewing Gum Stays in Your Gut for Years

Most of us were told as children that we’d better not swallow our gum because it will take seven years to digest and/or it will collect with the other gum you’ve swallowed and create a disgusting gum ball that will eventually clog your internal organs and kill you.

Fortunately, scientists agreethat these rumours are completely unfounded. Chewing gum doesn’t “stick” to your insides, and your body can usually pass foreign bodies out of the stomach with ease as long as they’re less than 2cm in diameter. So you can expect swallowed chewing gum to take just as long to get out of the digestive system as regular food.

However, “chronic” gum swallowing (several times a day over a long period of time) can cause constipation, and in very rare cases gum may collect and create blockages.

Verdict: Your body will pass gum just like it passes other indigestible foods (popcorn kernels for instance) – but becoming a compulsive swallower is still not recommended.


#7: You Can Burn Fat in Specific Areas if You Target Your Training

On the surface, it makes sense to think that focusing your exercise regime on certain areas of your body will help reduce the fat in those areas.

Sadly, according to exercise physiologist John Stevens (and the vast majority of fitness professionals), that’s not the way weight loss works. Spot training will strengthen the muscles underneath the fat you are trying to burn, but will not, in fact, eliminate that fat. This is because fat is burned evenly throughout the body, and it is cardiovascular exercise – not weights or crunches – that leads to fat loss.

And, before you rush to get liposuction, it’s also worth knowing that fat’s amazing redistribution powers aren’t limited to regular weight loss. Many people who have had localised fat loss surgery (read: liposuction) have been disappointed to see the fat in other parts of their body moved back to the area they got cosmetic surgery on, thus rebalancing the body’s fat distribution.

Verdict: Cardiovascular exercise is the only way to reduce body fat, and the body will remove fat evenly.


#8: Yoga Will Help You Lose Weight Quickly

Yoga has long been the wonder child of the fitness industry. Strengthening, toning, improving flexibility, reducing back pain and lessening symptoms of a host of diseases (depression, diabetes, arthritis)… is there anything yoga can’t do?

Yes. Yoga is not great at getting you slimmer – efficiently, anyway. Yoga is not an aerobic workout. It doesn’t burn very many calories. And, in terms of resistance training, it is less effective than a simple weight lifting routine.

Verdict: Yoga has many benefits, but if you’ve got a weight loss deadline to meet, supplement your yoga with cardio and/or weights.


#9: Toner Shoes Burn Extra Calories & Tone Your Legs

“Toning shoes” have been touted as a fast way to tone your legs, glutes, and burn those extra calories without really changing your daily routine at all. So, it should come as no surprise that they don’t actually work.

In fact, these shoes can cause foot, leg, and hip pain in wearers that stops them from walking as much as they usually do – having an overall negative impact on their fitness!

What is surprising is that these shoes are still for sale five years after they’ve been proven ineffective, and this is despite the fact there have been so many successful lawsuits against the manufacturers that there are even law firms dedicated solely to toning shoe injury claims.

Verdict: Don’t waste your money on expensive toner shoes. They can do more harm than good.


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