Monday, 14 August 2017

Old Wives' Tales

Some old wives tales handed down over the generations are not all that reliable. So whilst it is true that rubbing a nettle sting with 'doc' leaves works, there are many others that should be readily disregarded.

Ever heard someone say 'We only use 10 per cent of our brains'?

Although you might think you can nominate several pertinent examples, scans show that all of the brain is active and playing a part in our thinking. Even small amounts of damage to the brain will cause mental impairment.

What about 'Sweets and other sugary treats make children hyperactive'?

Repeated studies have shown that children's behaviour is not affected by the amount of sugar they've eaten - although parents rate their children as being more hyperactive if they think they have given them a sugary drink, even if it is, in fact, just water!

Or 'We should drink 8 glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration'

There is no scientific evidence to support this widely believed and often followed myth. Tea, coffee, fruit juice - even the food we eat - all provide us with fluid. In fact excessive intake of fluid can damage the body and can even be fatal.

And we all know 'Spinach is high in iron'

Spinach is not at all that rich in iron. Apparently, when it was first measured the decimal point was written in the wrong place, overstating the iron content of spinach by a factor of 10. Spinach contains about 1mg of iron per 100g, whereas dried figs have 4.25mg, roast beef 2.5mg and courgettes 2.4mg.

Every mother knows 'Warm milk helps you get to sleep at night'

Milk contains the enzyme tryptophan which has been linked to the initial stages of sleep - but the amount in a glass of milk probably isn't enough to make us drowsy. However the psychological effect of warm milk at bedtime may be strong enough to put us in the mood for sleep.

One I've never personally believed 'Sick people should rest in bed'

An analysis of studies on the use of bed rest in treatment found that for many ailments staying in bed had no beneficial effect. In some cases it was actually harmful. Sorry, but going back to work/college/school is sometimes the best treatment.

One my mother used to overstate 'You should wear a hat because we lose most of our body heat through our heads'

Our heads don't give off any more heat than any other part of our body. If you are fully clothed then of course most of the heat will leave through your head because it is uncovered, but the same would be true for any other similarly sized body part.

Another one of yours mum 'Too much stress can give you ulcers'

Actually, over 90 per cent of ulcers are caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori.

And my favourite 'If you are stung by a jellyfish you should pee on the sting'

Before you start approaching people on the beach asking them to do the deed, you should know this is not true. There is nothing in urine that can counteract the effects of a jellyfish sting - in fact some stings will be further activated by it. But washing out the sting with warm water may alleviate the pain and prevent further skin damage, so this may be the source of the myth.

So in future before you take to heart some of these myths a little research may save embarrassing situations like your friends trying to piss on you.

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