Top Health Myths That People Still Believe
“If you keep making that face, it’s going to freeze that way.”
“Eat your vegetables if you want to grow big and strong.”
“If you stay up too late, you’ll turn into a pumpkin.”
We all grew up hearing expressions, adages, and proverbs from well-meaning elders who were desperate for us to behave and make good choices. Most parents will say anything to get their kids to eat a bite of that nasty steamed broccoli. (“Pretend you’re a giant eating a tree!” Yeah, sure, mom.)
But what if some of those things our parents and grandparents told us weren’t based on facts? What if those wise old adages were just myths?
We wanted to get a fuller picture of the common health myths people believe, so we polled 500 people to find out. Here are some of the top health myths people think are true:
81% of respondents believe you need to drink eight glasses of water every day.
It’s a myth that we need eight glasses of water a day. According to Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine,
“It’s just not true. There is no science behind it.”
Did you hear that? It’s the sound of minds being blown.
Carroll helped write a paper debunking this health myth, in which he supposes the origin may be a recommendation from 1945. Taken out of context, it says the human body needs eight glasses of water a day. Taken in context, it says we get most of that quantity through food.
Yes, food has water in it, and it turns out your body can use that water for hydration. Beverages like coffee are hydrating too. Wait, you say, doesn’t coffee cause dehydration since it’s a diuretic? Nope, that’s a myth. Bonus fact! (You’re welcome.)
There’s not a chronic dehydration epidemic going on across the country—despite what bottled water or sports drink makers want you to believe. Drink when you’re thirsty. You’ll be fine.
71% of respondents believe fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than frozen varieties.
Guess what? Frozen fruits and vegetables have the same amount of nutrients as fresh ones, according to one study. Another study found that fresh fruits and vegetables may sometimes even contain less nutrients than their frozen counterparts. Perhaps this “fresh, never frozen” movement isn’t so great after all.
Why the potential nutrient disparity? One reason could be that frozen veggies are frozen shortly after harvesting. Meanwhile, many “fresh” fruits and vegetables undergo transportation and storage at higher temperatures, leading to nutrient loss. No matter the reason, one thing’s for sure: Freezers are pretty amazing at keeping nutrients stable longer than refrigerators.
Something else that’s better stored in the freezer than the fridge? Bread! NEVER put bread in the fridge (unless you like stale bread for some absurd reason). Another bonus fact!
24% of respondents think that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.
More an old wives’ tale than a health tip, this myth is common enough that a fourth of those surveyed admitted to buying it. Fortunately, this myth isn't all it’s cracked up to be.
Besides being a fun intimidation tactic in movies, knuckle cracking can get kind of complicated. It isn’t caused by popping bones; the cracking sound comes from tiny bubbles of gas popping between your joints. Crazy, right? Luckily, cracking your knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis (although it may decrease grip strength).
As for the origins of this myth, we’re not sure. But it almost certainly involved a very irritated mother. (Sorry, mom.)
Did we “myth” anything?
We only scratched the surface of health myths here. Unfortunately, misconceptions about the pursuit of good health have no age limit. They range from wacky words of wisdom we hear as kids to confusing information we run into late in life. Want proof? Check out this article about Medicare myths.
In the meantime, be sure to eat your carrots so you can spot myths with your improved carrot vision. Just kidding. That’s a myth too.