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2 Health Myths You Are Taught in School that Are Wrong

2 Health Myths You Are Taught in School that Are Wrong

In high school, and even beyond that, we are taught to believe a lot of things that aren’t true. Most of the time it is not on purpose, but these health myths are still harmful.

Myth 1: Alcohol kills brain cells

Sure, if you physically pour 100% alcohol onto a brain, it’s not going to react very well. When you are drinking alcohol though, this is not the case (read this book). The original research into this was done as follows:

  1. Take dead alcoholics and regular people
  2. Check brain cell density in both
  3. Alcoholics had lower density in their brain
  4. Conclusion: alcohol kills brain cells

Why it this wrong?

Well, it’s called a ‘confounding variable’. Basically, there was another factor at play. Specifically here:

  • Alcoholics tended to be of lower education
  • Alcoholics tended to have worse nutrition

A brain without good nutrition and no stimulation in the form of education is obviously not going to be the same as one of a person who does have those things.

After this was pointed out, the data was analyzed taking into account these factors. Guess what? No difference.

It’s still harmful, though.

But there should be a clear distinction between alcohol use and alcohol abuse. Alcohol can increase risk of specific cancers in some people, and in high dosages, it is detrimental to the liver (and yes, the brain).

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When enjoyed responsibly, though, alcohol actually appears to increase lifespan. And for some cancers, risk actually seems to be lower if you drink small amounts.

On the note of addiction, alcohol has a relatively high addiction potential, though it’s lower than tobacco:

Drug-harm-chart

    If you have trouble believing this graph, don’t worry, you are not the first. It’s from the paper “Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse,” and entirely accurate.

    How much is fine?

    For men, drinking 2 standardized glasses a day is the max. For women, 1. Note that you can’t save up! If you don’t drink during the week, that doesn’t mean you can have ten drinks on Saturday and still call it healthy.

    Myth 2: Eating cholesterol increases your blood cholesterol

    This one bothers me even more than the first. It bothered me so much I spent months doing cholesterol research to find out why on earth we still believe this. It all started because someone used epidemiological research to make headlines.

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    Epidemiological what?!

    Cholesterol-Intake-Map

      It’s simpler than it sounds. Epidemiological research is something like this:

      1. The average Swedish citizen has white skin
      2. The average South African citizen has black skin
      3. Sweden gets little sun
      4. South Africa gets a lot of sun
      5. Sun probably makes your skin darker

      Makes sense right? There is only one big problem: you can never prove anything with epidemiological research. Look at this example to see why:

      1. The average Dutch citizen has white skin
      2. The average South African citizen has black skin
      3. The Dutch eat a lot of cheese
      4. South Africans eat little cheese
      5. Cheese probably makes you white

      See the problem there? Just because two things coincide, it doesn’t mean they are in any way connected.

      Your eat 300mg, you make 1000mg

      This is basic biology, taught to every doctor: the average person eats 300mg of cholesterol a day. The average liver produces 1000mg a day.

      Read that again. Your own body produces three times more cholesterol than you eat. Do you really think that that 300mg is the problem?

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      If you eat more than 300mg cholesterol, your liver senses this and produces less.

      The trouble starts if the liver can’t keep up.

      LDL and HDL for dummies

      The cholesterol in your food is not the cholesterol in tour blood. In your food it is a simple substance, in your blood it is balled up into a complex of cholesterol and proteins.

      ldl-and-hdl

        Simplified:

        • LDL is a fluffy cholesterol ball that carries cholesterol from the liver to the body
        • HDL is a dense ball that carries cholesterol from the body back to the liver

        What matters is not so much how much cholesterol you have, but whether your LDL (giver) is in balance with your HDL (cleaner).

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        So what does cause high cholesterol?

        Mostly food. Specifically sugars and other fastly absorbed food. Take a look at this collection of graphs:

        Cholesterol-low-carb-vs-low-fat
          • The red line is a low fat diet
          • The yellow line a mediterranean diet
          • The purple line a low-carb diet

          The purple line basically wins on every measurement type, while a low fat diet loses.

          To keep cholesterol under control you should basically read up in low glycemic index foods.

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          Last Updated on September 20, 2018

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

          Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

          If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

          1. Breathe

          The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

          • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
          • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
          • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

          Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

          2. Loosen up

          After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

          Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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          3. Chew slowly

          Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

          Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

          Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

          4. Let go

          Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

          The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

          It’s not. Promise.

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          Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

          Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

          21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

          5. Enjoy the journey

          Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

          Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

          6. Look at the big picture

          The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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          Will this matter to me…

          • Next week?
          • Next month?
          • Next year?
          • In 10 years?

          Hint: No, it won’t.

          I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

          Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

          7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

          You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

          Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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          8. Practice patience every day

          Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

          • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
          • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
          • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

          Final thoughts

          Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

          Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

          Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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