Tomé Mor­risy-Swan

Is there any truth to the health warn­ings your par­ents loved dish­ing up? in­ves­ti­gates

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - FOOD MATTERS -

and now. She is, af­ter all, at an age con­sid­ered to be the peak for pro­fes­sional sports­peo­ple. “I’d love to keep play­ing un­til I’m 35,” she says, “but there are so many things that are out of your con­trol.” Ca­reer-end­ing in­juries hap­pen, although she never thinks of those when she’s on the field of play. “You just can’t let your mind go there.”

In a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, she said she wanted to have chil­dren and a house by the age of 27. Nei­ther has hap­pened yet and she says buy­ing a home is by far the least likely of the two. “The prices are just crazy, es­pe­cially in Dublin and I think there will be a whole gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple my age who will never get to buy their own place.”

She’s one of only 12 Sun­der­land play­ers on full-time con­tracts — the rest are part timers — but even then the money is but a frac­tion of what their male coun­ter­parts make. She lives with Zam­bra, but his earn­ings with Long­ford Town are low and he has to sup­ple­ment it with a reg­u­lar job.

There have been oc­ca­sional spon­sor­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties for her in re­cent years and the odd ‘am­bas­sador’ role. To­day, she’s help­ing to pro­mote Best Foot For­ward, an ini­tia­tive from Pamex, the Mayo-based dis­trib­u­tor of foot health prod­ucts, My­cosan and Der­ma­ton­ics Once.

“I don’t want to say yes to ev­ery­thing, but this is a good fit for me con­sid­er­ing that my feet are so im­por­tant to what I do for a liv­ing.”

She hopes to have chil­dren when she re­tires. “There are some play­ers who are moth­ers, but they tended to have their chil­dren when they were younger. At this stage in my ca­reer, I’d look to con­tinue with my ca­reer be­cause it might be dif­fi­cult to come back af­ter hav­ing a child.” Roche tends to let her talk­ing hap­pen on the pitch although, she wasn’t afraid to se­verely crit­i­cise the FAI for fail­ing to sup­port women’s foot­ball last year. Con­di­tions, she says, have sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved since she and se­nior team­mates raised con­cerns about be­ing treated like se­cond-class cit­i­zens.

She sees it as her job to score goals and not pon­tif­i­cate on po­lit­i­cal and so­cial mat­ters. She says she has lit­tle in­ter­est in telling peo­ple how to vote in Friday’s abor­tion ref­er­en­dum but says it will “prob­a­bly be a yes” from her.

“I don’t think I would have an abor­tion my­self, but I think oth­ers should have the choice if they wanted to.”

It’s time to go. Movie night awaits and an­other day down in her bid to pull on that Ire­land shirt again. Home and away matches against Nor­way in early June will be be­yond her re­cov­ery, but she is de­ter­mined to be fight­ing fit by the time the Repub­lic takes on North­ern Ire­land in a key World Cup qual­i­fier on Au­gust 31.

“That’s the goal,” she says. “And I’ll get there.”

WIS­DOM has al­ways passed down through gen­er­a­tions. Be­fore the in­ven­tion of the print­ing press, sto­ries would be re­layed orally — a process that left the orig­i­nal nugget of truth vul­ner­a­ble to dis­tor­tion, like a very long-winded game of Chi­nese whis­pers.

This is most likely how old wives’ tales came about. Older women — wives is thought to come from the Old English word for woman, wif, rather than wife — would of­fer snip­pets of do­mes­tic ad­vice to their chil­dren. Un­for­tu­nately, most would have lit­tle sci­en­tific back­ing, which is why the term now con­notes a tra­di­tional be­lief that is ul­ti­mately in­cor­rect.

In the health sphere, these say­ings are nu­mer­ous. Most of our body heat is not lost through the head, for ex­am­ple, and crack­ing knuck­les doesn’t cause arthri­tis — but there’s a fair chance you were told oth­er­wise as a child.

Re­cently, re­ports sug­gested a more mod­ern health myth has been busted. Cran­berry juice has long been thought to help pre­vent uri­nary tract in­fec­tions (UTIs). The idea be­hind this was that cran­ber­ries make our urine more acidic, cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment in which bac­te­ria strug­gles to live. A study in 2010 did find peo­ple who used cran­berry prod­ucts 38pc less likely to de­velop UTIs, but now the UK’s Na­tional In­sti­tute for Health and Care Ex­cel­lence (NICE), says the ev­i­dence isn’t strong enough to sup­port the claim.

Cur­rent guide­lines on how to steer away from UTIs in­clude drink­ing lots of wa­ter, tak­ing painkillers and seek­ing ad­vice from a GP, where an­tibi­otics may be pre­scribed. Though cran­berry juice won’t do any harm, it’s also un­likely to re­move the in­fec­tion.

Be­low we look into some other say­ings and ask: Is it an old wives’ tale, or is there sci­ence be­hind the state­ment?


It’s a com­mon one, this. Your par­ents most likely told you that go­ing out in cold weather in in­suf­fi­cient cloth­ing would give you a cold — but were they right?

Not ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts. Those liv­ing in the Arc­tic are no more likely to catch a chill than folks in a hot coun­try. In fact, cold weather may stim­u­late the im­mune sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Army Re­search In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Medicine. The say­ing most likely stems from a time when we couldn’t treat fevers, so myths were es­tab­lished to ex­plain the causes of a cold.

There are, how­ever, cor­re­la­tions be­tween cold weather and colds. You can de­velop hy­pother­mia if your body’s core tem­per­a­ture gets too low, which will lower your im­mu­nity and leads to colds. So the cold can in­di­rectly lead to a cold, but doesn’t cause it.

Ver­dict: Old wives’ tale


In the old days, be­fore cen­tral heat­ing, peo­ple would wear hats to sleep, as their heads were the only body part not un­der the cov­ers.

But in 2008 the the­ory that most of our body heat is lost through the head was de­bunked. What is true is that the face, head and chest feels tem­per­a­ture changes more acutely than else­where in the body; if we cover them up, we don’t feel so cold. In truth, heat loss from the head is now thought to be fairly pro­por­tional to the rest of the body.

Ver­dict: Old wives’ tale


In 1967, Gen­eral Elec­tric warned cus­tomers that some of their TVs were emit­ting harmful X-rays and told chil­dren to keep a safe dis­tance, re­sult­ing in the com­mon be­lief that sit­ting close to the box would ruin your eyes.

How­ever, sub­se­quent TVs were built with few rays, and to­day, LCD and plasma screens con­tain no x-rays. You can still strain your eyes if star­ing at a screen for too long — although the same could be said of any­thing that re­quires fo­cus­ing on some­thing up close, such as read­ing a book.

Ver­dict: Old wives’ tale


The claim is said to have its ori­gins in WWII, when a pro­pa­ganda cam­paign pop­u­larised the myth. There may be some truth to this one. Car­rots are a rich source of beta carotene, which is con­verted by the body in reti­nal, a type of Vi­ta­min A that helps main­tain good vi­sion.

Be­fore you reach for the car­rots, how­ever, it’s worth not­ing that un­less you are Vi­ta­min A de­fi­cient, eat­ing beta carotene won’t ac­tu­ally help you see bet­ter. This is be­cause when your body has enough beta carotene, it will stop con­vert­ing it into Vi­ta­min A.

Ver­dict: We’re on the fence


One we’ve all heard from a par­ents, but is it true? Most of the in­gre­di­ents in chew­ing gum is eas­ily di­gestible — sugar, flavour­ings, mint oils, etc. The gum base, how­ever, is fairly re­sis­tant to stom­ach acid and diges­tive en­zymes.

But that doesn’t mean it sticks in your stom­ach for seven years. It will gen­er­ally make its way down the diges­tive tract, un­less you’ve swal­lowed a mas­sive amount — in which case,

see a doc­tor.

Ver­dict: Old wives’ tale


It’s a myth prob­a­bly cre­ated to pre­vent a thor­oughly an­noy­ing habit, but there’s no ev­i­dence that crack­ing your knuck­les causes arthri­tis. Crack­ing oc­curs when gas bub­bles form in the flu­ids be­tween your joints, and a sud­den move­ment can re­lease it. It’s not thought to be harmful and doesn’t mean you have bad knuck­les — or any other joint.

I don’t think I would have an abor­tion my­self, but I think oth­ers should have the choice if they wanted to

Ver­dict: Old wives’ tale


It’s a wives’ tale as old as time. Chicken soup, oth­er­wise known as Jewish peni­cillin, is of­ten con­sumed by cold or flu suf­fers. For cen­turies, Jewish schol­ars have praised its health-restor­ing abil­ity.

And there may be some truth to this one. Chicken soup con­tains a broth made of sev­eral veg­eta­bles and chicken bones cooked for hours, re­leas­ing zinc, cal­cium and mag­ne­sium into the liq­uid. The­o­ries as to why it helps re­lieve cold symp­toms in­clude hot soup clear­ing blocked noses; zinc help­ing shorten a cold; the hot wa­ter keep­ing you hy­drated; and that there are sev­eral anti-in­flam­ma­tory sub­stances to al­le­vi­ate colds. Ver­dict: Cure is a strong word, but this one

can def­i­nitely help

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