If you’ve spent your fair share of time on the Internet, you’ll have come across many oft-repeated health “facts” that are anything but. From the bogus five-second rule for dropped food to the sugar high, many of these myths are now thoroughly debunked. Because of them, we’re all now skeptical of anything we can’t immediately verify with online search, which is honestly how it should be.
Some of those myths, however, have more truth to them than you might think, as some recent studies have discovered. These are the health myths we tell other people about to sound cool, though if we took some time to look into them, we’d realize that they aren’t actually myths at all.
It has been a while since the “carrots are good for the eyes” myth was debunked, as anyone who has been online anytime in the last ten years would know. We now know that it was all because of a false campaign by the British Ministry of Information back in World War II, which purposefully propagated the myth across German-held territory to hide their recently developed radar technology.
Now, we’re not saying that the Brits didn’t do that—as they absolutely did—but if that made you completely give up on carrots for being utterly useless, it’s time to reconsider. The popularly held association between good eyesight and carrots may have been based on a lie, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s false.
Carrots contain many compounds that do improve the health of your eyes, including beta-carotene. It helps the body make Vitamin A, which helps our eyes to convert light into signals understood by the brain. Vitamin A is directly responsible for our ability to see in low light, and deficiency in it can lead to a degeneration of the cornea, which may even cause permanent blindness.
“Eating a late meal can give you nightmares” sounds like inaccurate advice from that one guy we all know who recently got into fitness and can’t stop talking about it. The timing of the dinner should have no effects on dreams, as dreams aren’t influenced by our diet in any way. It’s something most of us won’t even look up because of how stupid it sounds, though if we did, we’d find that it’s actually pretty good health advice.
Many studies have found a link between eating late and bad dreams, though we don’t understand the exact mechanisms behind why that is. It might be due to our metabolism being overly active when we go to sleep immediately after dinner, which would make the brain more restless and result in increased activity. It’s not just when you eat but also what you eat. Some food items are especially good at inducing nightmares, like dairy and spicy foods.
The cinematic trope of the guy giving his coat to the girl because she’s feeling too cold is probably as old as romantic movies themselves. It’s meant to signal growing trust between the couple, and if we ignore the question of why women in movies always forget to bring appropriate clothing for the weather, it makes for a rather sweet moment.
It’s not just movies, either, as it happens quite a lot in real life, too. So, what gives? According to science, it’s not because women are more unprepared for the cold than men; their threshold for cold is just different.
In a Dutch study, researchers found that comfortable temperature for women is about 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 °F) warmer than it is for men, falling somewhere around 24 to 25 degrees Celsius (75–77 °F). It’s because of the hormone estrogen, which slows down the flow of blood to the tips of the toes and fingers during cold months. That’s also why ovulating women tend to feel colder than usual.
There’s no doubt that exercise does a lot of good things for the body. It keeps you in shape, strengthens the immune system, and generally improves the quality of your life. But if someone told you that it also makes you smarter, you’d probably dismiss them as wanting to feel superior about going to the gym.
If you look into some recent research on the subject, though, you’d find that they aren’t wrong. One study published in Nature Medicine found that exercising releases a protein called irisin, which improves the neural connections between different parts of the brain, as well our memory and thinking skills. Moreover, it also reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Another recent study found that sustained exercise—like running and cycling—improves our memorization abilities and produces a type of protein that helps with the production of new brain cells.
If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are that you’ve heard of pretty much every possible fix under the Sun. From drinking warm water before bed to sacrificing to the gods, the ridiculousness of these pieces of advice depends on who’s giving them to you.
Per scientific research, though, one of those is less ridiculous than the rest and may even actually work: eating spicy food. In a study by researchers from the University of Wyoming, they isolated a chemical found in chilies called capsaicin and fed it to mice. When they raised the rodents’ fat intake, they found that the mice were unable to gain weight, as long as the chemical was in effect.
When you eat spicy foods, especially chilies, the capsaicin in it raises the metabolism rate and triggers thermogenesis, which is just a fancy word for the production of heat inside the body. Essentially, it works the same way as old wives’ tales say it does—by burning the fat away—except now it’s backed by peer-reviewed research rather than hearsay.
A toothache is a pretty infuriating thing to have, which is less because of the pain and more because of the fact that it may necessitate a visit to the dentist, which would potentially involve even more pain. If you’ve ever had it around an old person, you may have heard of the old “bite a garlic clove” technique to relieve the pain. While most of us would have ignored that due to how wrong it sounds, those who actually took their advice would have realized that the old folks weren’t kidding around with that one.
Studies have shown that garlic is actually effective in relieving toothache due to its antibacterial properties. Garlic can also provide quite a few other benefits to the body, like fighting infections, reducing blood glucose levels, and even anti-tumor properties.
When you’re in college, you tend to hear all sorts of claims that can’t possibly be true, like, “Wine doesn’t have any alcohol,” or, “You can party through the week and catch up on sleep on the weekend.” While we can verifiably say that the former isn’t true, the latter does hold some scientific weight, regardless of how ridiculous it sounds.
According to one study that looked at sleeping habits of over 38,000 Swedish adults, people who didn’t get enough sleep every day had a higher mortality risk, because of course they did. Surprisingly, however, the people who caught up on their lost sleep during weekends had the same mortality risk as those with a regular sleep schedule.
Now, it doesn’t mean that you can stop sleeping during the week altogether and make up for it by sleeping in for 48 hours straight over the weekend, though it does prove that college kids know at least a bit of what they’re talking about.
Talk to old people with arthritis, and they’ll tell you all about how it gets worse during the monsoon. Some of them even claim to predict the change of seasons by the pain alone, and doctors have never been able to explain it. After all, how can weather affect pain in the joints?
Thanks to science, we now know that it’s not just old people being old people; weather does have a definite impact on joint pain, especially arthritis.
A study found that changes in barometric pressure, room temperature, and humidity have a noticeable impact on arthritis pain, and the more they change, the worse the pain gets. These parameters vary the most during monsoon, which is why there are many more medical visits for arthritis during this time than any other time of the year.
If you’re trying to lose weight, one of the many, many pieces of advice you’ll get is the importance of keeping your dinner light, as well as not eating really late at night. It sounds bogus at first, much like all the other weight loss advice scattered across the Internet these days. According to science, however, there’s a definite connection between the timing and quantity of your dinner and that unflinching belly.
In one study, researchers found that the people who have over 33 percent of their daily caloric intake in the evening have a much higher chance of being overweight, as opposed to those who have their heaviest meals earlier in the day. Not only that, but research also suggests that a heavier breakfast—or any breakfast, really, as many people skip that—lowers your chances of being obese.
It’s another myth that we’ve previously debunked: The cold doesn’t actually make you sick. “Catching a cold” isn’t really a thing, as it’s viruses that make you sick, not the cold. While we still stand by that, we have news for those still getting sick with the cold and flu much more during the winters than other seasons: The frigid weather does have a lot to do with it, even if it’s a virus that causes the sickness. Simply put, it’s complicated.
Even if the cold weather itself can’t make you sick, flu viruses actually thrive in cooler temperatures, and they absolutely love low humidity, too. Combine that with the fact that they’re able to survive outside their human hosts for longer periods in cooler environments, and you have the perfect recipe for a good old flu epidemic.
Moreover, our bodies also react in a different way during when it’s frozen outside, making the common cold even worse. According to a study, the immune response in the nasal cavity doesn’t work as well at lower temperatures, though we don’t quite understand why.
You can check out Himanshu’s stuff at Cracked and Screen Rant, get in touch with him for writing gigs, or just say hello to him on Twitter.