Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Money Crashers: 4 Common Health Myths You Can Ignore

Myths, especially in the age of the Internet, have a way of taking on a life of their own. The website Snopes.com exists for the sole purpose of debunking Internet misinformation, yet many stories continue to spread long after Snopes has shown them to be false; I've occasionally received slightly different versions of the same inaccurate story years apart.

Most myths are pretty much harmless. A fake story about Coca-Cola buying up and discontinuing Dr Pepper, or about Prince playing a role in the creation of Air Jordan sneakers, doesn't really hurt anyone, except by wasting their time as they pass it around and read it and pass it on to others. But there's one type of myth that can actually cause physical damage: health myths. If you read and (for some reason) believe an article telling you that a diet of nothing but bacon and 14 hours a day of television is the key to longevity, taking that advice to heart could be a quick ticket to a massive coronary.

So it really annoys me when I keep reading - particularly in sources that are supposed to be reputable - health "facts" that have no basis in fact. One of the most egregious is the old one about how you need to drink 8 glasses of water every day for optimal health. As this New York Times article explains in considerable detail, this claim has "no science behind it," yet health textbooks I worked on as recently as five years ago were still repeating it.

My latest Money Crashers article covers this and three other health myths, explaining where they come from, why they're wrong, and how they could be costing you time, money, or general hassle:
  • The myth that you need 8 hours of sleep a night. Actually, sleep needs vary considerably from person to person - and the average person's need appears to be closer to 7 hours rather than 8.
  • The myth that eggs (or at least egg yolks) are dangerous because of the cholesterol they contain. While the American Heart Association clings stubbornly to this view, most medical studies show that cutting back on eggs doesn't improve health outcomes and may even make them worse.
  • Newest of the lot, the myth that standing desks - like the one Brian build for himself to use at work - are better for your body than sitting in a chair. Although there is indeed evidence that sitting for long periods is bad for you, there's also ample evidence that standing for long periods is just as bad, if not worse. Experts say switching off between sitting and standing throughout the day is better than spending hours in either position (which is why Brian designed his desk to let him do both).
So next time someone throws one of these spurious health claims at you, be prepared to fight back with the facts. You can get them here: 4 Common Health Myths You Can Ignore – Know the Facts
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