IN­TER­NET HEALTH LIES YOU MUST STOP SHAR­ING

LOW-FAT DI­ETS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEART, AND OTHER DAN­GER­OUS LIES THAT CAN HURT YOU.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE -

I NEVER THOUGHT SOME­ONE WITH LUKE’S BACK­GROUND AND IN­TEL­LECT COULD DE­FEND BELIEFS THAT SCI­ENCE HAD THOR­OUGHLY DE­BUNKED.”

I met Luke at a pro­fes­sional con­fer­ence. I’m a pub­lic health and be­havioural sci­ence ex­pert; Luke’s a statis­ti­cian for a hospi­tal sys­tem in New York City. I thought he was bril­liant--two Ivy League de­grees, decades of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with top med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, mar­ried to a car­di­ol­o­gist. We stayed in touch. A few months later, af­ter I be­gan speak­ing out about ir­ra­tional health beliefs, in­clud­ing the myth that vac­cines cause autism,

I ran into Luke again.

“I read your piece,” he said. I smiled awk­wardly. His son had autism, but we’d never dis­cussed it. What came next shocked me. “How can you say vac­cines don’t cause autism?”

At first I thought he was jok­ing. But no: Luke is an anti-vaxxer, con­vinced that child­hood vac­cines are a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­spir­acy. He blames vac­cines for his son’s autism. He mis­trusts doc­tors in gen­eral, and he and his wife (a

car­di­ol­o­gist, re­mem­ber) fol­low a nat­u­ral life­style that min­imises in­ter­ac­tion with them. He also be­lieves eggs and milk cause can­cer.

I didn’t know what to say. I never thought some­one with Luke’s back­ground and in­tel­lect could de­fend beliefs that sci­ence had thor­oughly de­bunked.

Luke isn’t alone. Thou­sands of well-educated peo­ple share such er­ro­neous beliefs. With the help of my fa­ther, Jack Gor­man, M.D., I be­gan to ex­plore why peo­ple de­velop these mind­sets and wrote the book Deny­ing to the Grave: Why We Ig­nore the Facts That Will Save Us. You’re about to learn the neu­ro­log­i­cal ba­sis for how such thinking “nar­rows” the brain and how to re­verse the process in your­self and oth­ers. But first, let’s take a look at six pre­vail­ing health myths that some peo­ple still be­lieve.

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