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Health Is Not About How Much You Weigh: 10 Popular Health Myths You Probably Believe, Debunked

You'll be surprised to learn what's good for you and what's not.

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Old medical wives’ tales never die. We hear them all the time. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” (uh, uh, light, balanced nutrition for both, please). “Chocolate causes acne” (nope, bacteria cause acne). Here are 10 more medical myths that need to be put to rest.

1. Avoid dairy when you have a cold

A long-time perceived “truth” is that dairy products like milk and cheese are to be avoided when you have a cold because they increase the mucous your body is already over-producing. Add this to the long list of medical myths that are just that, myths. The truth is there has not been any scientific connection found between milk products and runny noses.

Jennifer Collins, an assistant professor and a doctor specializing in allergy, asthma and immunology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary says, "I have patients who swear that milk makes them produce more mucous." Despite this, Collins has never been able to find a single piece of credible research supporting this perception. Indeed,  a study in Australia of 60 cold sufferers found no relationship between drinking milk and increased production of mucous. 

2. Vaccines cause autism

The mother of all medical whoppers. Can we put this dangerous and erroneous claim to bed once and for all? The study that got this myth rolling has been unequivocally  shown to be flawed. Vaccines do not cause autism, or any other developmental disorder.  They  do prevent potentially serious illnesses like polio, measles, mumps, and whooping cough. People buying into this anti-vax myth, by avoiding vaccines for their children or themselves, are contributing to the comeback of diseases once thought conquered.

3. Cold weather causes colds

Many kids have heard it: “Bundle up! It’s freezing outside!  You’ll catch your death of cold!” Actually, mom or dad, no. Cold weather does not cause colds. Cold viruses cause colds. The truth is that you are more likely to catch a cold  indoors than outdoors. When it is chilly outside, people stay indoors, in closer proximity to other people. The heat is on, drying up your mucous membrane, the lining in your respiratory system that helps protect you from viruses and germs. 

Your dry mucous membrane makes you more susceptible to the virus your co-worker just inadvertently left on the doorknob to the conference room. You turn the knob to get into the room, unconsciously touch your face, and boom. You are about to have a runny nose. It wasn’t the cold weather outside that gave you that runny nose, it was the doorknob virus. 

So go on outside, dress for your own comfort. In fact, take a long walk in the cold weather, because exercise helps strengthen your immune system, which will help protect you from those sneaky doorknobs. (Don’t forget to wash your hands a lot and keep your hands away from your eyes and nose, which are the most common entry points for the cold virus.)

4. Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker and darker

Debunking this one is going to make your teenage son, who is trying to grow that hipster goatee, frustrated. Nope, shaving does not make your hair grow back any thicker or darker or faster. As far back as 1928, tests were conducted on shavers that zapped this  myth, yet still it persists. When you shave, the hair grows back with a blunt edge which, as it wears down, may give the appearance of being thicker. Also, because the new hair has not been bleached by the sun, it may at first seem darker. But it isn’t thicker or darker (at least not for long) than the hair it replaced. So Junior can stop shaving so much. His whiskers will get there with time, not razor burn.

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