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Medical myths

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Whether or not you are feeding a cold or starving it makes little difference to the biology of a common cold. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: feed a cold, starve a fever

This winter, most of us will catch a cold. Our kids will probably catch at least two or three. We all know you are supposed to feed a cold and starve a fever. But does it really make any difference if…
Being blindly and unrelentingly positive can be a burden to disease sufferers. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: you can think yourself better

Of all the cultural beliefs about health and illness that saturate the developed world, there is none so pervasive and deeply held as the idea that you can “battle” an illness by sheer force of will. We…
There’s no need to temper our efforts to address the obesity epidemic just yet. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: overweight people live longer

We’ve long known that too much excess weight increases your likelihood of dying prematurely. Or does it? A large review of the evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA…
Timing sex around ovulation doesn’t change the odds of having a boy or girl. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: you can control the sex of your baby

Despite most parents ultimately just wishing for a healthy baby, there are many cultural and social factors that can drive the desire for a baby of a particular sex. The medical technology for sex selection…
Forget yoghurt, go to the chemist for an effective treatment for thrush. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: yoghurt cures thrush

Vaginal thrush, or “vulvovaginal candidiasis” is a common condition, with around three-quarters of women experiencing an episode in their lifetime. Many readers may be familiar with the unpleasant symptoms…
You’re no more likely to lose heat from your head than other parts of your body – except your hands and feet. Taylor Mackenzie

Monday’s medical myth: you lose most heat through your head

As the weather starts to cool down and winter clothes enter rotation in our wardrobes, some peculiar combinations emerge: shorts and scarves; thongs and jackets; T-shirts and beanies. The last is often…
Infertility, high blood pressure, varicose viens and back pain have been attributed to leg crossing – but what does the evidence say? Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: crossing your legs is bad for your health

Almost everyone crosses their legs, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, for custom, for comfort, for effect, to stop your legs splaying, to take pressure off a foot, or for no reason at all. But is…
You may not forget the pain, but if you’re lucky, the end will justify the means. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: women forget the pain of childbirth

In an evolutionary sense, memory of pain serves an important purpose. Pain indicates a threat to our safety or our life, and human survival depends on us avoiding things that are going to kill us. Historically…
Booze won’t kill your brain cells but it can still harm your brain. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: alcohol kills brain cells

Do you ever wake up with a raging hangover and picture the row of brain cells that you suspect have have started to decay? Or wonder whether that final glass of wine was too much for those tiny cells…
Jane Fonda was wrong – you don’t need to “feel the burn” to reap the benefits of exercise. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: no pain, no gain

The value of regular physical activity to a person’s well-being is unequivocal. But how much exercise do we need to maintain health, improve fitness or lose weight? And where is the line between healthy…
You may achieve your pigmentary potential a little ahead of schedule, but you can’t go grey overnight. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: stress can turn hair grey overnight

The belief that nervous shock can cause you to go grey overnight (medically termed canities subita) is one of those tales which could nearly be true. There are certainly cases in medical literature of…
Controlled crying is when parents respond to their infant’s cries and gently comfort them, then return at increasing time intervals. Flickr/tea...

Monday’s medical myth: controlled crying damages babies' brains

In my clinical work with pregnant and postnatal mums experiencing anxiety and mood disorders, few issues are reported as consistently as sleep deprivation. Parents who spend the first year of their child’s…
There has been very little scientific evidence so far to support sex as a method of inducing labour. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: sex induces labour

Sex. It’s what got you into pregnancy, but is it also the pathway to getting you out? Around a quarter of all Australian pregnancies are medically induced, with a third of those inductions occurring due…
Based on the evidence, it’s safe to dismiss this one as a myth. Flickr/lism

Monday’s medical myth: deodorants cause breast cancer

The concern that using deodorants and antiperspirants might increase the risk of breast cancer has been around for around for at least 15 years, probably longer. The theory suggests that either parabens…
Excess kilojoules, rather than dietary fat, leads to weight gain. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: low-fat diets are better for weight loss

If food is labelled low fat, it’s got to be better for weight loss, right? Wrong – it’s the total kilojoules that matter most for weight loss. Looking solely at fat content only gives you part of the picture…
There are good reasons why cranberry products could work, but the weight of scientific evidence shows cranberry products are ineffective for preventing UTIs. Flickr/Half Chinese

Monday’s medical myth: cranberry juice prevents bladder infections

You might eat them in a sauce alongside your Christmas turkey or drink them juiced, perhaps with a shot of vodka. But the sweet, tart cranberry is also well known as a remedy for preventing urinary tract…
Most pregnant women only need to eat the equivalent of an extra two pieces of fruit and half a glass of milk a day. Flickr/flequi

Monday’s medical myth: eat for two during pregnancy

We’ve all heard people sprout the phrase, “go on, you’re eating for two now” at barbecues, dinner parties and wherever food is being served, forcing pregnant women to decline offers of more and more food…
Unless you’re allergic to cow’s milk, dairy products are unlikely to cause or exacerbate asthma. Image from shutterstock.com

Monday’s medical myth: dairy products exacerbate asthma

Dairy products are good for the bones, so we’re encouraged to have regular serves of (reduced-fat) milk cheese and yogurt. But can they make asthma and allergies worse? Asthma is a respiratory condition…
Up to one in three Australians take vitamin supplements, but few healthy people need them. Brian Gaid

Monday’s medical myth: take a vitamin a day for better health

Forget an apple a day, vitamin manufacturers would have you believe it’s important to take daily vitamins to boost your health. And a surprising proportion of Australians do. Data from the last National…

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