Most scientific myths are just that: widely held science beliefs that have little to no basis in actual science. Some of them, however, have simply been brushed off as myths because of how ridiculous they sound, even if later research proves that they’re pretty much entirely accurate.
10. Garlic Can Help With A Toothache
Garlic holds a special place in old-timey beliefs about quick medical care, though it’s considered to be especially effective against a toothache. While a dentist would likely prescribe a painkiller instead of asking you to chew on garlic, some traditional, alternative systems of medicine swear by its toothache-alleviating properties.
It may sound like an inaccurate old wives’ tale, though medically, garlic does contain substances that should help against symptoms of a toothache. One of them is allicin, with its strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s only produced when the garlic is cut or chopped in some way, and only stays for a short period of time.
Obviously, applying garlic to your tooth every time it aches is no substitute for actually going to a dentist and getting the pain checked out, though if it’s a one-time thing and the pain isn’t that bad, it may really help you get through the day.
9. Women Do Feel Colder Than Men
The idea that women feel colder than men seems like one of those stereotypical gender myths that are inaccurate and inappropriate. Scientifically, both men and women have the same core body temperature – 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 37 degrees Celsius – which should translate to about the same level of temperature tolerance. Anyone who insists that it’s lower for women is either suggesting that men are inherently more resilient, or is simply in the business of selling warmers to women.
Research, however, does point toward a marked difference between how men and women perceive cold (and heat, for that matter). One study conducted by Dutch scientists concluded that, on average, women feel comfortable at a temperature range of 24-25 degrees Celsius, which is about 2.5 degrees warmer than men. One factor is the female hormone estrogen, as higher estrogen levels in the blood thicken it and restrict flow toward the extreme ends of the body – like fingertips – resulting in higher sensitivity to colder temperatures than men. That’s not it, however, as other factors – like body type, difference in pain tolerance between men and women, as well as metabolism – play a role as well.
8. Eating Too Many Carrots Can Turn You Orange
The idea that eating a lot of carrots can turn your skin orange seems right out of a cartoon. Apart from the fact that the color of our food has little to do with the color of our skin, it doesn’t sound like something that should be true.
Ask a doctor, though, and they’d have a much different take on the subject. As it happens, carrots are full of something called beta-carotene; the pigment which gives them their orange or red hue. It’s an important source of Vitamin A in moderation, though if consumed in excess, beta-carotene could enter the bloodstream and start collecting in the thicker parts of your skin – like the hands – and turn them orange. The condition is called carotenemia, and primarily affects babies or people with conditions that prohibit the body’s ability to process carotene, such as hypothyroidism.
7. Late Night Snacks Do Make You Gain Weight
We all love a good munch late at night, though medically speaking, is it the best idea? If you ask popular health blogs or fitness trainers, you’d likely get a definite ‘yes’. Medicine, however, maintains that there’s no difference between eating at night and during the day – or really any other time in between – as a calorie is a calorie, no matter when you consume it.
While that’s true, eating at irregular times does contribute toward weight gain in other ways. That’s especially true for later hours, when fresher, healthier food items might not be as readily available. At those times, we’re more likely to consume food that’s high in calories and generally bad for us. Some experts even recommend eating a bit of something healthy just before going to sleep, as long as it doesn’t add too many calories to your overall intake.
So while eating late at night might not directly factor into your weight, it stands to reason that the later you snack, the more likely you are to snack on something unhealthy, resulting in less than desirable results on the scale.
6. Exercise Can Make You Smarter
We know that exercise is a great way to maintain and improve your physical abilities. What, though, does it do for our brain? (If anything?) To the scientifically-minded, it should do nothing, as muscles work a bit different from the neurological circuits of the brain. It sounds like a myth perpetuated by health blogs and gym bros, without much scientific evidence backing it.
Of course, that was until a few researchers at the University of British Columbia decided to put the matter to rest and conducted a study on it. They found that exercising doesn’t just give you what many on the streets call a ‘six pack’, but also increases the size of the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for crucial brain functions like memory and learning.
5. The Moon Does Make Us Do More Crime
Throughout human history, the moon has held an ominous position in numerous cultures and time periods; it’s where the word ‘lunacy’ comes from, after all. For some reason, the moon has been held responsible for epileptic seizures and bouts of madness going as far back as Ancient Greek times.
As our science and tools got better, we realized that there’s absolutely no reason to believe that the moon has anything to do with individual personality traits or mental disorders. But then they got even better, and now, a growing body of research is finding eerie similarities between our behavior and the moon.
One study found that non-epileptic seizures may actually be affected by the moon cycle. Another found that cases of crime are considerably higher on full moon days than other days, which was surprising as the sun had no discernible effect on crime rates during the same time period. Despite its relatively low-profile nature, the moon – or at least the lunar cycle – seems to be related to human evolution in many ways we don’t quite understand.
4. Fruit Juice Is Actually Bad For Children
Fruits are generally considered healthy for all age groups, and the idea that fruit juice can be harmful to children below a certain age sounds ridiculous at first. Scientifically, though, it makes perfect sense. Fruit juice contains no nutritional benefits for children below the age of one, and all you’re giving your baby is a bunch of concentrated sugar without any of the fiber. Fiber is essential during the early years, as it strengthens the immune system and stimulates the formation of better types of gut bacteria.
It’s backed by experts, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that fruit juice should not be given to kids below one, as it can cause problems like tooth decay and a taste for sugary things with no nutrition later in life. Even for older children, its intake should ideally be restricted until they reach adulthood.
3. Chicken Soup Might Really Help Against Cold
For centuries, possibly millennia, chicken soup has been touted as one of the best remedies to alleviate symptoms of the common cold, like a blocked nose. Scientifically speaking, though, how effective is it, really?
Research on this matter has been limited, though a few studies do support the idea that chicken soup helps against the cold. One study published in the journal Chest found that chicken soup – in its most common form – has anti-inflammatory properties that can treat problems related to the upper respiratory tract. It’s also high in zinc, which can help shorten the duration of a cold.
2. The Brain Can Really ‘Rust’
It’s an oft-repeated claim that if you don’t use your brain enough, it can sort of stop working, or at least won’t work to its full capacity. It assumes that the brain works the same as muscles that need constant exercise to remain in prime form, and not a complex collection of neurons working in tandem that’s unlike any other part of the body.
It’s a particularly interesting topic for neuroscientists, as it gets to the fundamentals of how our brain functions. As we’re gradually finding out, the brain never actually stops developing. Studies are constantly proving that the brain is an ever-evolving organ, with the ability to change the course of its growth in response to events like traumatic accidents. They’ve also found that using the brain in some way regularly is crucial for neurons to develop new connections and refresh old ones – a process that remains ongoing throughout our lives.
1. Arthritis Is Actually Worse During The Monsoon
Patients of osteoarthritis – the most common form of arthritis out there – often complain about their joint pain getting worse during a monsoon, or even just rainy weather in some cases. Due to lack of scientific evidence, doctors have usually treated this as just another medical urban legend, as weather and arthritis have no reason to be related to each other.
That was until 2007, when a study published in The American Journal of Medicine conclusively proved that the weather can, in fact, make your arthritis worse. The researchers collected pain reports from 200 participants spread out across the US over a course of three months, and matched them with the weather data at their nearest weather station. They found that rapid changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature do make knee pain worse, regardless of the type of weather where you live, or even the time of the year.