His­toric wis­dom, mod­ern dilemma

They are well mean­ing, but are health state­ments through the ages ac­tu­ally cor­rect? Peta Ras­dien takes a look.

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle -

We use only 10 per cent of our brain

A com­monly held be­lief for more than a cen­tury, but it is un­true.

Royal Aus­tralian Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers (WA) chair­man Tim Koh said we use most, if not all, of our brain at dif­fer­ent times.

“When speak­ing, you use a dif­fer­ent part to when you are read­ing,” he said.

“Even when you are asleep it is still ac­tive.”

You must wait half an hour af­ter you eat be­fore you swim

There is no spe­cific med­i­cal rea­son why you can’t swim di­rectly af­ter a meal.

Cramps and stitches, the thread of which are thought to be be­hind the ad­vice, are not real dan­gers.

Dr Koh said peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren, were more likely to throw up if they swal­lowed a lot of wa­ter when swim­ming straight af­ter a meal.

You can pre­de­ter­mine baby’s gen­der

There are very clear and ac­cu­rate ways to de­ter­mine your baby’s gen­der in utero.

Whether the mother craves salty or sug­ary treats, or spec­u­la­tion about how she is car­ry­ing the baby — high or low — are not among them (sweet and high for a girl and salty and low for boys, ac­cord­ing to the old wives tales).

Dr Koh said crav­ings var­ied from per­son to per­son and how you carry dur­ing preg­nancy will also dif­fer.

For those des­per­ate to find out the gen­der of their baby, the best bet is an ul­tra­sound at 20 weeks.

The flu shot gives you the flu

Not true, but it can cause symp­toms that can be sim­i­lar as the vac­cine sparks an im­mune re­sponse.

This can in­clude a raised tem­per­a­ture and feeling achy and sore.

“You can feel like that af­ter the vac­cine but not ac­tu­ally have the flu and in­deed you don’t have an in­fec­tion, you are re­spond­ing to an in­fec­tion,” Dr Koh said.

Drink cof­fee to sober up

There is no way to ac­cel­er­ate the sober­ing up process.

Your body metabolises al­co­hol depend­ing on the avail­abil­ity of cer­tain en­zymes and caf­feine does not af­fect how quickly those en­zymes be­come avail­able.

The rule of thumb is it takes about one hour to deal with the ef­fects of one stan­dard drink, ac­cord­ing to Anne Finch, LiveLighter di­eti­tian.

Rather than hav­ing a cof­fee to sober up be­fore head­ing home af­ter a night out, Ms Finch said peo­ple should in­stead catch a taxi and have a big glass of wa­ter be­fore go­ing to bed to ease the ef­fects of de­hy­dra­tion linked to al­co­hol con­sump­tion

The oral con­tra­cep­tive pill in­creases your cancer risk

Yes and no. The com­bined oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone pill has been shown to in­crease the risk of some can­cers but also to pro­vide a pro­tec­tive ef­fect against oth­ers.

One study es­ti­mated 105 breast and 52 cer­vi­cal can­cers in women younger than 49 were at­trib­ut­able to cur­rent use of com­bined oral con­tra­cep­tive pill in Aus­tralia in 2010 (0.7 per cent of all breast can­cers and 6.4 per cent of all cer­vi­cal can­cers).

Past con­tra­cep­tive pill use was es­ti­mated to have pre­vented 1032 en­dome­trial and 308 ovar­ian can­cers, re­duc­ing the num­ber of these can­cers that would oth­er­wise have oc­curred by 31 per cent and 19 per cent.

The pill was also known to have a pro­tec­tive ef­fect against col­orec­tal cancer, says Cancer Coun­cil WA cancer smart man­ager Melissa Ledger said.

Ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers cause cancer

There is no ev­i­dence that as­par­tame or any of the other ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers are linked to cancer, says Cancer Coun­cil WA nutri­tion and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity man­ager Steve Pratt.

Con­cern about a pos­si­ble link came to the fore some years ago when a study was pub­lished sug­gest­ing as­par­tame con­sump­tion caused an in­creased risk of cancer in rats. How­ever, the doses given were far in ex­cess of what would be nor­mal hu­man con­sump­tion.

“It’s an area of in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est, there are con­stantly pa­pers com­ing out about this,” Mr Pratt said.

Starve a fever, feed a cold

Rub­bish. You are bet­ter off lis­ten­ing to what your body wants in re­gard to hunger.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, if you are hun­gry it is prob­a­bly rea­son­able to start to con­sume food again when you are un­well and if you are not hun­gry, you don’t need to force food down,” Dr Koh said.

Red wine is good for your heart

This idea was born out of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the mech­a­nisms be­hind the French Para­dox, a phe­nom­e­non whereby French peo­ple have gen­er­ally lower rates of heart dis­ease than their Euro­pean neigh­bours, de­spite drink­ing red wine and eat­ing cheese, both of which were thought to be bad for heart health.

Re­search nar­rowed the search down to an an­tiox­i­dant found in the skin of red grapes called resver­a­trol.

How­ever there has been no con­sis­tent ev­i­dence to prove it can help pre­vent heart dis­ease.

Vi­ta­min C helps cure the com­mon cold

Pro­moted by No­bel prize-win­ning chemist Li­nus Paul­ing in the 1970s, the idea that high doses of vi­ta­min C could cure the com­mon cold have since been de­bunked.

The the­ory has been stud­ied closely and there is lit­tle to no ben­e­fit, and at high doses it could even be detri­men­tal.

“The rec­om­mended amount of vi­ta­min C we need in a day is quite small and we can get that from one or­ange, that’s about 60mg,” Ms Finch said.

Stay awake af­ter con­cus­sion

There is a ker­nel or truth in this one, Dr Koh says.

“If you no­tice a child is be­com­ing un­rouse­able or ex­ces­sively drowsy or a change in their be­hav­iour then that is a sign of con­cern af­ter a head in­jury,” he said.

WA Health rec­om­mends wak­ing peo­ple every four hours in the 24 hours af­ter the con­cus­sion, if ad­vised to do so by a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional.

Cho­co­late is good for your health

Sadly, cho­co­late is a some­times food and should not be eaten for any per­ceived health ben­e­fits, Ms Finch said.

Thought to be high in health-im­prov­ing an­tiox­i­dants that could re­duce risk fac­tors for car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, the truth is most com­mer­cial forms of cho­co­late and co­coa are poor sources of an­tiox­i­dants.

“It is high in su­gar and fat and that is the big­ger prob­lem for the pop­u­la­tion — not a lack of an­tiox­i­dants but an ex­cess of kilo­joules,” Ms Finch said.

“The Heart Foun­da­tion says raw co­coa pow­der can be high in polyphe­nols but re­al­is­ti­cally the stuff you get at the shops is not high in an­tiox­i­dants and the foods that you make with your raw co­coa pow­der is prob­a­bly go­ing to be high in su­gar and high in fat so on bal­ance it is not a bet­ter choice than a piece of fruit.”

A night­cap will help you get a good night’s sleep

Al­co­hol does help you fall asleep quicker but it gives you worse qual­ity sleep and the more you drink, the big­ger the im­pact.

Ms Finch ad­vised peo­ple would be bet­ter off med­i­tat­ing, spend­ing time re­lax­ing, slow­ing their breath­ing and turn­ing off screens be­fore bed­time if they wanted a good rest.

Plas­tic con­tain­ers cause cancer

There is a the­o­ret­i­cal risk that com­pounds found in plas­tics can in­ter­act with nor­mal bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cesses, but there has been no ev­i­dence to prove that this is oc­cur­ring in nor­mal doses.

Mr Pratt said there was con­cern about bisphe­nol A and as a pre­cau­tion most man­u­fac­tur­ers had vol­un­tar­ily re­moved it from their prod­ucts.

The risk lay in when the plas­tic con­tainer was heated, al­low­ing the chem­i­cals known as ph­tha­lates to leach out into food or drink.

“It’s also im­por­tant peo­ple fol­low in­struc­tions on the con­tainer, so make sure it is mi­crowave-safe,” Mr Pratt said.

“While there is no ev­i­dence these cause cancer, chuck­ing a heap of plas­tic into your food prob­a­bly isn’t great.”

Knuckle crack­ing causes arthri­tis

It sounds like it must be do­ing dam­age, the snap and pop of some­one crack­ing their knuck­les, but all the ev­i­dence points to it be­ing a harm­less but an­noy­ing habit.

Re­searchers be­lieve the noise is caused by dy­namic changes in pres­sure as­so­ci­ated with a gas bub­ble in the syn­ovial fluid around the joint.

Green snot means you need an­tibi­otics

Not nec­es­sar­ily. Green mu­cus can in­di­cate a virus or a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion.

“Ob­vi­ously an­tibi­otics are only go­ing to treat a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion so green snot is ac­tu­ally not at all pre­dic­tive of whether you need an­tibi­otics and you just need to be pay­ing at­ten­tion to what your symp­toms are,” Dr Koh said.

Its colour is caused by beta-carotene and is re­lated to the break­down of cells.

You have to drink eight glasses of wa­ter a day

A myth be­lieved to date back to the early 20th cen­tury.

In fact there is no golden amount of wa­ter that we have to drink for good health.

How much wa­ter you need can vary from per­son to per­son and de­pend on what you are do­ing.

Some­one who is ac­tive and work­ing out­doors will need to drink more wa­ter than some­one sit­ting at a com­puter in­doors.

Pic­tures: Getty Im­ages

Ex­perts say we use most, if not all, of our brain at dif­fer­ent times.

Don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing you hear about health.

An ul­tra­sound at 20 weeks is the best way to tell the gen­der of your un­born child.

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