You’ve heard them all before. “Don’t swallow bubble gum or it’ll take seven years to digest,” or “Don’t go to bed with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold.”
Yep, they’re the health myths that have been doing the rounds since our forevs, and – for whatever reason – just won’t seem to die.
Well, with the help of some pros that know way more about these things than we do, we’re sussing out once and for all which of these old wives’ tales are just a big old whopper of a lie.
Carrots will improve your eyesight
Apparently, this claim dates way back to WW2, believe it or not. The British Royal Air Force made up this tall tale, saying that their fighter pilots’ excellent vision was due to consumption of carrots. Instead, they were actually using radar to locate German bombers during mandatory blackouts. So to answer the question, while carrots are high in vitamin A, they won’t give you night vision.
If you swallow gum it’ll stay in your stomach for seven years
Dr Nitin Gupta, a paediatric gastroenterologist at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital, Randwick, says that for most people, nothing at all will happen if you accidentally swallow gum. “Lots of people swallow gum, but complications are pretty rare,” she says. Be warned, though, if you chow down on Juicy Fruit on the reg, you’re probably gonna have a bad time. “If it starts off as a small lump and you keep on swallowing, the gum can stick and it can grow like a snowball,” says Gupta. Yeah, no thanks.
Muscle turns to fat when you don’t exercise
As Dr Susan Jebb from the University of Oxford explains, fat and muscle are completely different types of tissues, so one can’t turn into the other. “The confusion arises because if you don’t use your muscles then you lose them because muscle tissue is broken down (as part of the normal cycle of tissue turnover) but then not replaced. And, if you eat more calories than you need, fat deposits will increase.”
Chocolate gives you acne
Chockie lovers rejoice, ‘cos it turns out that a research paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in 1969 found that chocolate doesn’t actually worsen acne, and several studies have backed that up since then. Dermatologist Dr Michael Freeman also adds that while chocolate specifically won’t have you breaking out, “a high glycaemic index diet can predispose [one] to acne.”
Sitting too close to the TV ruins your eyes
Ahh, yes. The one we heard all too many times as Mum hassled us while we were trying to watch Cheez TV before school. Fortunately, all that time in front of the box isn’t necessarily going to damage your peepers, with Lee R. Duffner, MD saying, “Contrary to popular myth, sitting too close to a TV will not damage your eyes, but it may cause eyestrain. Children can focus at close distance without eyestrain better than adults.”
Plus, if you think about it, given the amount of time we sit in front of computers for work and our Netflix binges, we should all be blind AF if that were true.
Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis
I love a good crack of the knuckles, so I’m stoked to say that this is another myth. The ‘crack’ you hear isn’t actually your ligaments ripping (or whatever people thought it was), it’s bubbles in the synovial fluid (the stuff that lubricates the joint) popping. While it’s not going to cripple you, excessive cracking can make your hands swell a bit. Maybe you’ll get sausage fingers, I don’t know.
Going outside with wet hair will make you catch a cold
Wrong, wrong, wrong. “There is no evidence, contrary to popular belief, that going outside in winter with wet hair will make you sick,” Dr Marita Long, a spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says. “However, common sense would dictate that it is not very comfortable going outside with wet hair as our dry hair is there for a reason – to keep us warm!”
Don’t swim for half an hour after eating
I’ve grown up by the beach my entire life, so I’ve heard this one a million times. “You’ll sink if you go back in the water!” Mum would tell me as I ate my post-Nippers sausage. Luckily, Professor Robert Newton, co-director of the Edith Cowan University Exercise Medicine Research Institute, has blasted the claim. “The concept that you won’t get enough oxygen and blood for the muscles so that you can kick your legs and stroke [your arms] is just rubbish,” he says. “The priority is to keep the muscles going at all costs because we’ve evolved that way… If we sat down and had a nice meal and a sabretooth tiger jumps out… we wouldn’t survive long if the body went, ‘I can’t move the muscles because I’m digesting my meal’.”
True that, doc. True that.
Shaving makes hair grow faster
“It doesn’t, and it doesn’t make it grow back thicker either,” Dr Rob Hicks says. “Removing the tapered tip of the hair leaves it with a blunt end that makes it more visible.” That’s fabulous news for our legs then, innit.
Eating after 7 pm makes you gain weight
“It’s not when – but what you eat,” says Dr Susan Jebb. “Your basic metabolism is fairly consistent over a 24-hour period and does not slow down when the sun sets, though of course, you burn off fewer calories when you are sleeping.” Back to eating my midnight snacks, then.
Words by Jessica Lynch