6 Ridiculous Myths You Believe About Stuff You Use Every Day
Every so often, some company really will admit that it made a terrible, terrible mistake and that one of its products causes cancer or zombies. So in a world full of recalls and class-action lawsuits, it's only natural to be wary of the health scares that show up in your email inbox. The problem is that some of the most well-known product hazards are pure bullshit.
High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Much Worse for You Than Sugar
Ever since sweetened products began replacing regular sugar with the much-less-natural-sounding high fructose corn syrup, there has been a growing and vociferous backlash against HFCS, which is popularly seen as some kind of super-sugar responsible for a rise in heart disease, obesity, cancer, and tooth decay. After all, didn't everyone start getting fatter right around the time the stuff was introduced?
The FDA should really also ban the passage of time.
Proponents of the "you can't spell murder without HFCS" crowd can in fact point to statistics showing that American obesity began its rapid ascent at about the same time corn sweetener began its dominance of the edible garbage industry. If you stop there, it looks like a pretty convincing argument. But researchers who like to look at the bigger picture see it another way -- the reason companies switched to corn syrup in the first place is because it's cheaper than regular sugar. Using it pushed the price of sugary foods down, making them more affordable to the masses. So it's not just that we started eating high fructose corn syrup, it's that we suddenly started eating a lot more bullshit.
In actual fact, studies so far have shown that the body doesn't seem to know the difference between high fructose corn syrup and regular sugar. After all, they both contain the same ingredients, in the same quantities. The only difference is in how they're extracted and combined.
Of course, high fructose corn syrup is still really bad for you, as are the foods that are chock-full of the shit. There's also no doubt that our addiction to sweet-tasting foods and drinks is making us fat as hell. It's just that it's no worse than if those same products were made with sugar.
And just ditching the products and eating pure sugar probably isn't a solution.
And that's the problem -- demonizing one has the effect of making the other look good in comparison. That's the driving force behind well-meaning crusaders calling for bans on high fructose corn syrup and grocery stores stripping it from their shelves and replacing it with good old sugar, declaring the problem solved. Chicago's public schools even dropped chocolate milk from their menus because it contains HFCS, only to switch to a sugar-laden version. In reality, that's like switching butter for lard.
But hey, both of them are better than whatever industrial chemicals they make artificial sweetener out of, right?
Artificial Sweetener Is Poison
Weight-conscious folks often turn to artificial sweeteners (the kind you find in things like Diet Coke) to keep calorie counts low while still indulging their sweet tooth. But ever since aspartame, the lab-produced chemical in NutraSweet and Equal, was first introduced in 1981, watchdogs have insisted that it's basically the Grim Reaper in powdered form, causing everything from brain damage to cancer.
We associate white powder with poor health, for unknown reasons.
Paranoia about the product was already widespread even before it received FDA approval. Then email was invented, and we all know how that ensures that cooler heads prevail.
In the mid-'90s, an email started circulating around the world warning of a study by a scientist named Nancy Markle that definitively linked aspartame with diseases as broad as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, and even Gulf War syndrome. Gulf War syndrome? They must've been drinking the shit out of Diet Coke over there.
The email circular generated hysteria around the world about the myriad dangers of diet soda. The only problem? Nancy Markle didn't exist. This being the 2010s, you probably know by now the perils of taking medical advice from spam emails forwarded to you by your aunt, but to clarify, both the study and the scientist behind it were completely fictional.
The author drafted it with a "fancy marker," and then inspiration hit.
But really, there are some clues in Markle's study that should probably have raised a few suspicions from the very beginning. For example, very few peer-reviewed papers make it to publication with so many phrases written in ALL CAPS FOLLOWED BY MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!
As it turns out, the email was originally composed by health crank Dr. Betty Martini (her title being an honorary doctorate ... in humanities), and at some point the Chinese whispers effect of the Internet took out the references to her foundation and converted her into a nonexistent person. In reality, study after study after study, hundreds of them, in fact, have shown no link between aspartame and any disease. That is, until crappy aftertaste is classified as a disease.
Another disease treatable with pot brownies.
Now, once again, the stuff doesn't have any health benefits either -- it won't help you lose weight and only continues to train you that everything you put in your mouth has to be incredibly sweet to be palatable. You're better off without it. It just won't dissolve your brain.
Silicone Breast Implants Cause Countless Diseases and Injuries
In the early 1960s, plastic surgeons Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin developed the first silicone breast implants, and were immediately elevated to sainthood. But as beneficial to humanity as breast augmentation has proven to be, you've probably heard of the dangers -- silicone implants are associated with everything from cancer to autoimmune disease, scleroderma, connective tissue disease, and injuries from sexy pillow fights.
Two hours in the freezer turns this into a deadly weapon.
The good news is that, while implants may cause some localized scarring and pain, there was never any hard evidence that funbag prostheses are responsible for any of these horrible diseases. The problem is that a lot of people have trouble distinguishing correlation from causation, and many of those people sit on juries.
Women were actually getting their boobs pumped up for a couple of decades with next to no problem before Ralph Nader inexplicably declared in the '80s that silicone implants cause cancer. And like the money shot at the end of a 20-year porno scene, the lawsuits burst forth.
Ralph Nader's 20-year porno name, incidentally, was "Ralph Nader."
Tens of thousands of suits were filed against Dow Corning, the main manufacturer of silicone implants, over the next 20 years or so, pointing to them as the cause of every disease known to man, up to and including multiple sclerosis. The only problem was, no scientific evidence had ever been found linking the actual implants to these diseases. And not for lack of trying -- the response from the FDA was always simply "Look harder." Nader's lobby group continued to call for the banning of implants well into the '90s, while the courts continued to write out giant checks from Dow Corning's bank account.
In the end, Dow Corning was literally bankrupted by the final Hiroshima blast of a $3.2 billion class-action settlement. Amid the rubble of a company whose only crime was a love of boobies, scientists from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences got together to prepare a 400-page final report about the dangers of silicone breast implants. The conclusion? They don't cause any kind of major disease. Too late for Dow Corning (which, after seven years in bankruptcy, no longer makes breast implants for some reason), but silicone is once again used in over 70 percent of breast-augmentation procedures.
Discarded Refrigerators Are Death Traps
If you ask your granddad, he'll tell you that it's common knowledge that you have to remove the doors from a refrigerator before you discard it. Apparently, this is because refrigerators are to children what neon lights are to moths. If you go down to the local dump and find a fridge with the door still attached, it's likely that it's full of dead kids who climbed in and couldn't get back out. It's a threat so widespread that it made an episode of Punky Brewster.
The girl there only survived by lying down in healing snow.
Kids playing in abandoned refrigerators and suffocating is a real and present threat. If you happen to live prior to 1958. And 1958 being the year of Cracked's debut, that's probably unlikely.
In a bygone era, it wasn't uncommon for kids to tragically lock themselves in abandoned fridges, which is why the government actually passed legislation that made it criminal to discard a refrigerator recklessly. But laws to this effect are fairly archaic, because the problem with pre-1950s refrigerators is that they had latches on them that locked when the door closed. And these kinds of appliances were banned in 1958 for specifically that reason.
1950s foods got restless and had to be latched in.
Any refrigerator built since then must be capable of being opened with no more than a 15-pound push from inside. And really, if your kid is so young that he's unable to generate 15 pounds of pressure yet somehow finds himself alone anywhere near an abandoned refrigerator, the problem is with you, and not the manufacturer.
As the old refrigerators have slowly made their way into landfills and scrap heaps, suffocation deaths have dropped drastically. They're virtually nonexistent in America. In the incredibly rare instance that a child dies inside one these days, it's always an old latch-style appliance. But, since news reports don't always include the distinction, many assume any discarded refrigerator is a coffin with a vegetable crisper. The only way a modern refrigerator is going to kill somebody is slowly over time through a steady stream of Pepperoni Hot Pockets.
Your Mattress Doubles in Weight Every 10 Years from Dead Skin and Bugs
Sleeping and humping being fairly popular pastimes, there are many effective ways of marketing mattresses. You can push the quality construction of individually wrapped coils, the comfort of memory foam, and the convenience of custom settings, or you can simply pull out the increasingly popular retailer claim that your mattress doubles in weight every eight to 10 years due to disgusting shit like dead skin, dust mites, and their droppings. You don't want to sleep on a bed of filth, do you?
OK, this makes it look good, but it probably isn't.
This utterly horrifying revelation is the cornerstone of the "Replace Every 8" marketing strategy utilized by a number of mattress retailers. "Replace Every 8" works because it plays on our darkest fears in a way that rhymes, implying that fully half the weight of our mattress is a writhing mass of creatures straight out of a Ridley Scott movie.
But really think about that for a moment. How heavy is a mattress? About 200 pounds or more? So in just eight to 10 years, there are enough mites and skin flakes in your mattress to match the weight of a healthy adult? Where are they hiding? How long before it just crashes through the floor into the apartment below? How long before it begins to bend light?
Will its mass eventually approach that of your mom?
Don't bother ruminating on it too long. Evan Saks, an industry expert, points out that such an exponential mass accumulation is "obviously not possible."
So who is responsible for this outrageous pack of lies? Surprisingly, it can be traced back to The Wall Street Journal, which in 2000 ran an article featuring the incredible statistic. The mythbusting website The Straight Dope contacted the article's source directly, Ohio State University researcher Emmett Glass, who set the record straight that he never said any such thing. Evidently the journalist flat-out made it up in order to make the story "more interesting." A nation of mattress salesmen thank you, ma'am.
Microwaving/Freezing Plastic Containers Releases Deadly Toxins
Microwave ovens have always held a place of suspicion in the minds of the fearful and nervous. It's probably because they run on plutonium and lasers. Anyway, one of the many warnings that surround the witchcraft of microwaves is that microwaving plastic containers can release deadly toxins into your food, making it a health hazard well beyond the 80 grams of trans fat you're about to chase with a Red Bull.
And as though that wasn't bad enough, these same chemicals can leach into your water if you put a plastic water bottle in the freezer. All in all, it's best to enjoy your food at room temperature.
Solid butter's better for you; it acts as roughage.
The dangers of plastic in microwaves appears to have originated with a TV station in Honolulu that ran a segment in 2002 featuring one Dr. Edward Fujimoto, who explained how microwaving plastic wrap and containers can release potentially deadly toxins into your food. As with the aspartame scare, a short news segment from Hawaii that hardly anybody saw became a huge thing when someone made it into a forwarded email that raced around the globe.
Claiming to be a media release from Johns Hopkins University, the email, which looks like it was written in a hell of a rush, babbles about "dioxins" and urges you to "pass this on to your family & friends." It has the look of something that was rattled off by someone who microwaved plastic and now has five minutes to live, so you can bet it made its way around the world quickly.
"Typing from INSIDE microwave, connection bad, plz FORWARD."
If you ask more reputable scientists, they'll tell you that it's possible that heating plastic in a microwave might leach some substances into foods ... but nowhere near the amount that would cause you any harm. As for the myth about chemicals in plastic water bottles, while a boon for the metal water bottle industry, scientists say that cold temperatures actually inhibit the ability of chemicals to leak out of plastics.
Name dropping Johns Hopkins, by the by, was a bullshit tactic to make the email seem more reputable, as the university has never said any such thing, and wrote a press release to debunk the claims. As for the ominous sounding "dioxins," they're actually pretty poisonous and it's a good idea to stay away from them, so it's fortunate that they're not in plastics and thus pose no threat. So don't worry -- microwaving those TV dinners won't cause you any pain beyond regret.
Related Reading: We don't really understand the world around us very well, which is why all these myths about flying persist to this day. Illegal drugs have even more bullshit floating around them, like the idea that LSD somehow causes insanity. Maybe it isn't surprising we have so many different myths about drugs, we don't even understand our own bodies very well. If you think a strong immune system keeps the cold at bay, you're sorely (and sneezily) misinformed.
We have some bad news: health foods are trying to give you diabetes, the whole '8 glasses of water a day' thing is bullshit 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've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.