5 Ridiculous Health Myths You Probably Believe
Bullshit is so prevalent when it comes to health and diet advice that there's a good chance even your doctor gets a lot of it wrong. There are so many myths and old wives' tales out there, and for every one that happens to be true, there are dozens that amount to little more than superstition. It's a thankless task, knocking down these myths, but one we believe is for the ultimate good of humanity. So get ready to scream "bullshit!" the next time you hear ...
"Better Pour Hydrogen Peroxide on That Cut Before It Gets Infected!"
We're going to bet that in your medicine cabinet, or somewhere in your house, you have a little brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Riddled with antiseptic properties and a near-magical disinfecting ability, hydrogen peroxide is the shit when it comes to showing bacteria its place. Hell, hospitals use it. The stuff even has special effects -- you can tell that it works by observing the bubbly foam it produces as a side effect of kicking germ ass.
And did we mention that you can use it as freaking rocket fuel?
But Actually ...
The roots of the myth of mighty hydrogen peroxide run so deep that scientists actually haven't bothered to research its wound-cleaning capacities until fairly recently. When they finally got around to it, peroxide's high horse instantly bolted and ran the hell away, neighing angry obscenities at its fallen rider as it went. For starters, that "healing" foam is completely useless -- it's just a natural chemical reaction with the catalase enzyme in your blood, creating an effect not unlike a tiny baking soda volcano spouting from your wound. Neat, yes, but not the thing you're looking for if you're actually planning to get better.
And there are easier ways to place first in the science fair.
OK, so we're prepared to accept that the foam is just smoke and mirrors. After all, hydrogen peroxide still kills all the bacteria at the site of a wound.
Except, well, it actually doesn't manage even that. It turns out that while hydrogen peroxide has no negative effects on the healing of wounds (other than a false sense of security, we suppose), it is pathetically ineffective at reducing bacterial count or inhibiting bacterial growth in a wounded area.
It's basically like using a Snickers wrapper as a condom.
So what should you put on a wound? Antibiotic creams like Neosporin seem to work (though some say Vaseline works about the same). But there's just something so satisfying about the way hydrogen peroxide makes our wounds all fizzy. Can they add something to Band-Aids that does that? It's like the pointless burning sensation caused by Listerine -- we want some kind of sensation to let us know the medicine is working, damn it!
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"Never Wake a Sleepwalker!"
Sleepwalking individuals must be left alone ... or else. If a sleepwalker is awakened by a well-meaning bystander, it strains his or her system to the point that it might cause serious injury, in the form of heart failure and other assorted hazards. The shock is, in fact, so severe that it could kill them.
So whatever you do, never ever ever wake sleepwalkers. Just draw a dick on their forehead and let them go forth, it's fine.
And, if circumstances permit, strap a bowl of warm water to their hand.
But Actually ...
Guess what really happens when you wake up sleepwalkers: They wake up. Seriously, that's it. No gruesome deaths, no dramatic injuries. True, they might be groggy and disoriented, but come on -- who doesn't feel that way when some bastard suddenly comes and shakes you awake in the middle of a dream in which you thought you were fighting zombies with your old gym coach?
Sure, there are situations where sleepwalkers are best left to their own devices -- you don't want to induce sudden confusion in a dude who is successfully sleep-taming a lion with a hula hoop and a stick of cheap bologna. Still, all things considered, it's usually more dangerous to not wake them up. After all, the other thing they say about sleepwalkers -- that they can't hurt themselves -- is also a big steaming pile of lie turds. Sleepwalkers have been documented indulging in all sorts of shenanigans, from sending emails to attempting to drive across state to screwing up in ways that get them in a Cracked article. There's no telling what a somnambulist's brain will put his body through. You could stroll into the nearest biker bar wearing a ballet tutu over a pair of assless chaps, kick every single motorcycle, and flip off their owners, then wake up with your middle finger still extended. Wouldn't it have been nice if someone had just ignored the myth and tackled you to the ground on your way there?
Although if you're the type that sleeps in the nude, you're pretty much on your own.
"I'm Exhausted Now, Good Thing I Can Sleep in on Saturday!"
The 21st century has given us a great many things: constant technological innovations, unprecedented quality of life, and an unlimited supply of porn. Still, it's not all smiles and eyebrow-raising browser histories. Our hectic schedules, constant stress, rampant Internetting, and other side effects of living in the future, like incessant noise and light pollution, have played seven kinds of hell with our sleeping habits. People are getting less and less sleep, yet somehow manage to thrive.
This "somehow" is the weekend. No matter how little sleep we get during our hectic week, all we need to reset our sleep debt is to sleep in during those precious days off.
And when has the advice of your unemployed drunk friends trying to lure you to the bar ever led you astray?
But Actually ...
Come next Monday, look around your office/classroom. Which ones dominate your field of vision: content, well-rested people who are ready to tackle the week's challenges, or baggy-eyed zombies who need a coffee IV to stay awake, no matter how much they slept during the weekend?
Of course it's the latter. Outside of maintaining a healthy sleep pattern, there is literally nothing you can do to erase your sleep debt. It's a lot like fiscal debt: gradually accumulated and a bastard to get rid of. Also, you probably have way more of it than you think. Most people only count "negative" loss of sleep into their sleep debt -- the nights when they had to work late or couldn't sleep because of the monster truck rally next door. However, every little hour counts, no matter how you spent it: Playing BioShock until the small hours adds to the debt pile just the same, no matter how much fun you had.
"And that's why it's important to get the hang of sleep sex."
If you decide to go all-in and sleep all your debt away in two 14-hour snoring swoops, you're actually even worse off. As you may have noticed, an overly long snoozefest usually results in being far more tired than you were when you went to bed. This is because getting more sleep than you can handle on one lie-down leads to sleep drunkenness, an awesomely named condition where you hover in a drowsy state between sleep and wakefulness. We're guessing like 80 percent of you are in that state right now.
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"Don't Crack Your Knuckles, You'll Get Arthritis!"
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.
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.
"You Need to Stop Eating Red Meat Before You Have a Heart Attack!"
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.
"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.
"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.
"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.