Recently, a friend sent me an email with a series of common beliefs regarding our health. Some were true, while others were pure fiction. Here are some of them that you might find interesting.
- Does olive oil prevent heart disease? Short answer: Yes. (We Italians have known this since “forever.”) The health benefits of olive oil come from the presence of polyphenols, antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancers. But to get these healthy compounds, consumers should buy good-quality, fresh “extra-virgin” olive oil, which has the highest polyphenol content. Most commercially available olive oils have low levels of polyphenols associated with poor harvesting methods, improper storage, and heavy processing.
- Do cough syrups work? Short answer: No. In 2006, the nation’s chest physicians agreed that the majority of over-the-counter cough medicines don’t actually work. These colorful syrups typically contain doses of codeine and dextromethorphan that are too small to be effective. Only cough suppressants that contain older antihistamines seem to relieve coughs. That includes brompheniramine, an active ingredient in Dimetapp. the majority of over-the-counter cough medicines don’t actually work. These colorful syrups typically contain doses of codeine and dextromethorphan that are too small to be effective. Only cough suppressants that contain older antihistamines like brompheniramine seem to relieve coughs.
- Do sugary soft drinks lead to diabetes? Short answer: Yes. (I must admit that this one was a surprise to me.) The majority of health research is stacked against sugar-sweetened soda. A large 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who drank one or more sugary drinks per day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 83% compared to those who consumed less than one of these beverages per month.
- Do I need sunscreen with more than 30 SPF? Short answer: No. Sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 block about 97% of ultraviolet rays, while sunscreens with an SPF of higher than 30 block 97%-98%. It’s more important that you choose “broad-spectrum” sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVB and UVA rays. Sunbathers also need to apply a generous amount of sunscreen in order to get the full benefit of the SPF.
- Do nuts make you fat? Short answer: No. As much as 75% of a nut is fat. But eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. The bigger factor leading to weight gain is portion-size. (No kidding!) Luckily, nuts are loaded with healthy fats that keep you full. They’re also a good source of protein and fiber. One study even found that whole almonds have 20% less calories than previously thought because a lot of the fat is excreted from the body.
- Is walking as effective as running? Short answer: Yes. Studies have shown that how long you exercise — and thus how many calories you burn — is more important
than how hard you exercise. Running is a more efficient form of exercise, but not necessarily better for you. A six-year study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in April 2013 found that walking at a moderate pace and running produced similar health benefits, so long as the same amount of energy was expended. (In other words, you’ll need to walk a lot longer to burn the same amount of calories.)
- Is drinking fruit juice as good for you as eating fruit? Short answer: No. Calorie for calorie, whole fruit provides more nutritional benefits than drinking the pure juice of that fruit. That’s because when you liquefy fruit, stripping away the peel and dumping the pulp, many ingredients like fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and other antioxidants are lost. For comparison, a five-ounce glass of orange juice that contains 69 calories has .3 grams of dietary fiber and 16 milligrams of calcium, whereas an orange with the same number of calories packs 3.1 grams of fiber and 60 milligrams of calcium.
- Can a hot tub make me sick? Short answer: Yes. (This one should make my wife happy, since she has long had an aversion to hot tubs for just those reasons cited here.) Hot tubs—especially ones in spas, hotels, and gyms—are perfect breeding grounds for germs. The water is not hot enough to kill bacteria, but is just the right temperature to make microbes grow even faster. Even though hot tubs are treated with chlorine, the heat causes the disinfectant to break down faster than it would in regular pools. The most common hot tub infection is pseudomonas folliculitis, which causes red, itchy bumps. A more dangerous side-effect of soaking in a dirty Jacuzzi is a form of pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s disease. This is what reportedly sickened more than 100 people at the Playboy Mansion back in 2011.
- Do eggs raise cholesterol levels? Short answer: No. (This one made me particularly happy, since I LOVE eggs!) Although egg yolks are a major source of cholesterol—a waxy substance that resembles fat—researchers have learned that saturated fat has more of an impact on cholesterol in your blood than eating foods that contain cholesterol. “Healthy individuals with normal blood cholesterol levels should now feel free to enjoy foods like eggs in their diet every day,” the lead researcher from a 25-year University of Arizona study on cholesterol concluded.
- Do whitening toothpastes whiten teeth more than regular toothpastes? Short answer: No. Whitening toothpastes usually contain peroxides and other strong abrasives that might make your teeth appear whiter by removing stains. Unlike at-home whitening strips and gels that contain bleach, these toothpastes do not actually change the color of your teeth. (So, I will continue to buy the cheapest toothpaste with fluoride that Walmart sells.)
- Is it safe to microwave food in plastic containers? Short answer: Yes. But the plastic container should display the words “microwave safe.” This means that the Food and Drug Administration has tested the container to make sure no chemicals used to make the plastic leech into foods during microwaving. If chemicals do seep out into food, the amounts are tiny and not dangerous to our health. As a general guideline, plastic grocery bags as well as most plastic tubs that hold margarine, yogurt, cream cheese, and condiments are not microwave safe.
- Is red wine better for you than white wine? (Who cares?) Short answer: Yes. Red wine contains much more resveratrol than white wine, an antioxidant found in the skin of grapes that has been shown to fight off diseases associated with aging.
- Is bottled water better for you than tap water? Short answer: No. Bottled water is no safer or purer than tap water, although it is substantially more expensive. A recent study by Glasgow University in the U.K. (I believe that is in Scotland, but I won’t go there) found that bottled water is actually more likely to be contaminated than water from your faucet because it is less well-regulated. Bottled water and tap water typically come from the same sources—natural springs, lakes, and aquifers. However, while public water supplies are tested for contaminants every day, makers of bottled water are only required to test for specific contaminants every week, month, or year. (That’s why I refill each empty bottle at least once from the dispenser on my refrigerator.)
So there you have it: facts and fiction regarding your health. Now what you do with this information is strictly up to you! I’ll drink to that! Cheers! Skol! Salud! Prost! Sláinte! (Just make sure that wine you’re drinking is red.) Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor can I vouch for the information contained in this blog. So, if you want to be certain, as Yogi Berra said: “…look it up!”
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises (also a B.R.A.G. medallion honoree). All four mysteries are available in paperback and E-book from Amazon.com. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are now in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises currently in production. If humor is your cup of tea, consider Joe’s rip-roaring, coming-of-age novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, set in the tumultuous Sixties, or A “Real” Man’s Guide to Divorce (First, you bend over and . . . ). Both are available in print, E-book, and audio book editions.
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