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2 Health Myths You Are Taught in School that Are Wrong

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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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