What to do if you found out that even your doctor appeared to be a bit “scientifically-challenged” or “common sensically-challenged”?
Since it’s nearly Christmas time, you can probably send him a card with a picture of Santa Claus. You can then put a talk box near Santa’s head with the words “Ho-ho-ho! Doc, sorry to burst your bubble, but people don’t use just 10 percent of their brains. They use 100 percent of their brains! Well, except you perhaps. Ho-ho-ho!”
Yes, that’s one of the seven medical myths even doctors believe as published in the British Medical Journal this week and as compiled by Robert Roy Britt, the managing editor of the LiveScience Web site.
Researchers looked into several common misconceptions, from the belief that a person should drink eight glasses of water per day to the notion that MSG causes migraines- when all scientific evidence points to the contrary in every case.
There are actually many health misconceptions, but here are the seven most common ones that even some doctors tell their unwitting patients.
MYTH 1: We use only 10 percent of our brains.
FACT: Doctors and comedians alike, including Jerry Seinfeld, love to cite this one. It’s sometimes erroneously credited to Albert Einstein. But MRI scans, PET scans and other imaging studies show no dormant areas of the brain, and even viewing individual neurons or cells reveals no inactive areas, new studies show. Metabolic studies of how brain cells process chemicals show no nonfunctioning areas.
The myth probably originated with self-improvement hucksters in the early 1900s who wanted to convince people that they had yet not reached their full potential. It also doesn’t jibe with the fact that other human organs run at full tilt. Why would the brain be working at only 10 percent capacity?
Well, it’s different of course if we say that we have tapped only a small portion of the power of the human mind. But that’s a different subject altogether.
MYTH 2: You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
FACT: “There is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water,” said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, a pediatrics research fellow at the university and co-author of the journal article. Vreeman thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses of fluid a day. Over the years, “fluid” turned to water. But fruits and vegetables, plus coffee and other liquids, count.
MYTH 3: Fingernails and hair grow after death.
FACT: Most physicians queried on this one initially thought it was true. Upon further reflection, they realized it’s impossible. Here’s what happens: “As the body’s skin is drying out, soft tissue, especially skin, is retracting,” Vreeman said. “The nails appear much more prominent as the skin dries out. The same is true, but less obvious, with hair. As the skin is shrinking back, the hair looks more prominent or sticks up a bit.”
MYTH 4: Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker.
FACT: A 1928 clinical trial compared hair growth in shaved patches to growth in non-shaved patches. The hair which replaced the shaved hair was no darker or thicker, and did not grow in faster. More recent studies have confirmed that one.
But when hair first comes in after being shaved, it grows with a blunt edge on top, Vreeman explained. Over time, the blunt edge gets worn so it may seem thicker than it actually is. Hair that’s just emerging can be darker too, because it hasn’t been bleached by the sun.
MYTH 5: Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.
FACT: The researchers found no evidence that reading in dim light causes permanent eye damage. It can cause eye strain and temporarily decreased acuity, which subsides after rest.
MYTH 6: Eating turkey makes you drowsy.
FACT: Even Vreeman believed this one until he researched it. The thing is, a chemical in turkey called tryptophan is known to cause drowsiness. But turkey doesn’t contain any more of it than does chicken or beef. This myth is fueled by the fact that turkey is often eaten with a colossal holiday meal, often accompanied by alcohol — both things that will make you sleepy.
MYTH 7: Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.
FACT: There are no known cases of death related to this one. Cases of less-serious interference with hospital devices seem to be largely anecdotal, the researchers found. In one real study, mobile phones were found to interfere with 4 percent of devices, but only when the phone was within 3 feet of the device. A more recent study, this year, found no interference in 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms. To the contrary, when doctors use mobile phones, the improved communication means they make fewer mistakes.
“Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true,” said Vreeman said. “But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false.”
There’s actually an eighth myth, but it’s of a general nature, not just medical.
MYTH 8: Greeting friends and loved ones a Merry Christmas doesn’t mean much anymore if it’s not accompanied by a gift with a humongous price tag.
FACT: On the contrary, Christmas greetings are still very much in vogue and will always be so. And you don’t have to gift me an HD television set or a 100-gig IPod video to prove that!
Photo via Enokson