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Medical myths

British Medical Journal Dispels Popular Medical Myths

Friday, February 08, 2008 by: Peggy Gannon
Tags: medical myths, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) "We only use ten percent of our brains." We all grew up hearing that, and many of us still take it for granted. Didn't you ever wonder why we have so much unused gray matter upstairs? In fact, that popular belief (current as early as 1907) was put to rest a long time ago. Although certain functions may be confined to certain areas of the brain, PET and MRI scans show the we use the entirety of our brain, all the time. Constant repetition makes the myth seem real, but it's just not so, according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal.

The 10% belief is only one of many old wives' tales that the Journal discounts. Will shaving make your hair grow back faster and coarser? Gosh, seems so sometimes. But that's an illusion. Normally hair grows to a fine taper, but shaving cuts it off at an angle, making it seem coarser. It will grow back at its own speed and thickness; shaving has no effect on it.

Then what about that story of hair and fingernails continuing to grow on corpses? Oh, please don't destroy that wonderfully ghoulish myth! But myth it is. According to the experts, what happens is that after death the skin dries and shrinks, giving the appearance that hair and fingernails have lengthened. Aww, there goes the "gasp" effect in horror movies!

Are mobile phones really dangerous in hospitals? At one time it was possible for them to interfere with the operation of medical equipment, but despite widespread concerns that this might be happening, it's no longer true (do turn your phone off when you board a plane, though).

Do we really need eight glasses of water a day? Researchers Aaron Carroll and Rachel Vreeman don't think so. They claim there's no scientific basis for such a claim. Still, I like to keep my kidneys in good working order and all toxins flushed out.

Did your mom scold you for reading in dim light? Were you threatened with a dire fate, like blindness? Relax. You might blink more or have trouble focusing, but experts say that reading in low light will do no permanent damage. You know your mom meant well, though.

Six old wives' tales that many old wives, and husbands (let's be fair), have kept alive through the years... all discredited. All untrue. That leaves only one, the seasonal one: the story of the sleep-inducing turkey. You've heard this one, I'm sure. Conventional wisdom has it that the amino acid tryptophan in turkey makes you drowsy. It's true, isn't it? Isn't it? I mean, everyone wants a nap after that turkey dinner!

Turkey does indeed contain tryptophan - but no more than chicken or ground beef. What really makes the uncles doze off after dinner? Too much of everything - turkey, dressing, peas, pies, and wine. While the body works on the intricate process of digestion, the brain goes on recess.

Well, not exactly. It's still busy overseeing all those bodily functions and managing your dreams, all 100 per cent of it.

About the author

Peggy Gannon lives on a 50-acre farm, where she is owned by three parrots and a few cats. She taught at Unity College in Maine for 18 years, and has in the same lifetime been a small farmer, public relations director, commercial horticulturist, and mental health professional. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of literary and other small magazines. She has pursued a lifelong interest in health and nutrition and is a vocal advocate of local and organic foods. When not writing, she keeps busy gardening, traveling to exotic and arcane locales, and periodically emptying the bag on the vacuum in deep space.

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