5 Ridiculous Health Myths You Probably Believe

#2. "Don't Crack Your Knuckles, You'll Get Arthritis!"

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The Myth:

Knuckle cracking is an annoying, nerve-wracking habit that comes with its own built-in punishment: namely, arthritis. If you keep on crackin', karma will eventually bite you in the ass in the shape of a painful, potentially disfiguring joint disease. But what else could you expect? You're cracking your knuckles.

But Actually ...

First of all, it helps to understand what knuckle cracking actually is. You're not grinding your bones or popping your joints out of place -- the noise is just tiny gas bubbles popping in the fluid in the joints of your fingers.

Elizabeth Hachem/Lifesize/Getty Images
They're like party poppers with less clean-up.

There have been multiple studies into the habit, which is how we know which gender cracks their knuckles more (men), how prevalent the habit is (25 to 54 percent prevalence, depending on who you ask), and that it does not, in fact, cause arthritis.

If you don't believe any of those studies, maybe you can at least trust a scientist named Donald Unger, who undertook a 50- (50!) year study of the effects of habitually cracking your knuckles, using his own left hand as the test subject and the right hand as a relatively crack-free "control group." Did we mention he did this every day for 50 years? We feel that part cannot be repeated enough.

"But could he remember our anniversary? Hell no!"

In the end, he found that there was no correlation between arthritis and knuckle cracking, since both of the hands were fine, and the only discriminating thing about either of them was the fact that they were attached to a potentially crazy person. The scientific community made it known what they thought about the importance of Unger's work by awarding him an Ig Nobel Prize, the closest thing to a Razzie that science can get away with. The dude was still right, though.

#1. "You Need to Stop Eating Red Meat Before You Have a Heart Attack!"

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The Myth:

As delicious as it may be, everyone knows red meat is terrible for you. Your steak might ride with nothing more threatening than a bunch of French fries, but it's always tailed by an outlaw posse of cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease.

And that's just the tip of red meat's kill-you iceberg: It has also been linked to colon cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and endometriosis.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Is there any chance half of those cancel the other half out?"

Hell, looking at that stack of diseases, it's a wonder anyone who has ever eaten meat is still alive.

But Actually ...

The problem isn't the meat. It's how we eat it.

There are all of these weird exceptions to the red meat rule that have puzzled scientists. People like the Masai and Inuit, who are still fairly close to the classic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, both exist on all-animal high-fat diets, yet have very low rates of the diseases red meat is blamed for. It's not just some fluke of genetics, either: Almost a century ago, a scientific study found that two ordinary men who lived on an all-meat diet for an entire year were in good health and completely lacking in horror diseases.

It appears that the problem with all of the studies about the horrors of red meat is that they don't distinguish between processed and unprocessed meats. According to a massive Harvard study, this seemingly insignificant difference is the entire reason behind red meat's bad rap.

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Are ... are you sure, guys? You want to run those numbers again, just to be safe?"

Processed meats -- and we mean stuff that has been prepared to last way longer in the package than fresh meat from the butcher, such as hot dogs, sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meats, and the stuff you find in many frozen meals and fast food -- have all kinds of salt and various additives in them. They contain four times more sodium than ordinary red meat, and that's the killer. Those additives account for the link with both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular problems. The high amounts of nitrates, nitrites, and carcinogenic nitrosamines take care of the rest of the list, up to and including obesity -- another ailment red meat is often blamed for.

In short: Red meat doesn't kill you. Processed meat kills you.

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
"I want to live forever. And if that means strangling cows and eating their raw flesh, so be it."

The problem is that the type of person who eats unprocessed meat -- that is, who buys a hunk of fresh beef from the meat aisle at the grocery store and then throws it on the grill -- is also the type of person who doesn't think twice about eating processed hot dogs, bacon, roast beef sandwiches, etc., even though the difference in health effects between the two is huge.

The difference, of course, is that buying and preparing fresh meat is way, way more expensive than the cheap processed bologna that will make you a week's worth of sandwiches for a couple bucks. But if you're not going to spend money keeping your heart from developing a fatal clog, what are you going to spend it on?

For more bullshit we are happy to debunk for you, check out 5 Ridiculous Medical Myths You Probably Believe and 5 Myths About the Military You Believe (Thanks to Movies).

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The New Pizza Hut App That Helps Make Kids Even Lazier.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why it's important to always drink your chocolate milk.

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We have some bad news: health foods are trying to give you diabetes, losing weight is all about calories and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We'll tell you why the Food Pyramid is a triangle of lies.

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