It seems like every time you get on the internet, you read about another new study that’s going to completely change everything we know about health. Sometimes it’s a new miracle food that’s supposed to prevent disease or a food you eat frequently that you’re now being told to avoid completely. In other cases, the headlines blare that scientists have discovered the secret to losing weight, preventing cancer, or slowing the aging process.
However, in many cases, if you read the actual study, you find that its conclusions aren’t nearly as sweeping as the news stories suggest. In their pursuit of eye-catching headlines, media outlets often put too much stress on a single study, implying that it’s a complete game-changer when its actual findings are far from conclusive. And once a health claim is out there in the public sphere, it has a way of sticking around – even long after it has been debunked. Sometimes even reputable medical sources cling to outdated recommendations that have little evidence to support them.
Health myths can take a toll on your body and on your wallet. In an effort to keep up with the latest health recommendations, you could end up shelling out big bucks for hot new super foods or exercise equipment that you don’t really need. Here’s a closer look at four particular health myths that you can stop worrying about today.
You need 8 glasses of water everyday: Everyone has heard the advice that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy. It’s widely repeated across the Internet, in newspaper and magazine articles, and even in health textbooks – often with an accompanying warning that drinks containing alcohol or caffeine don’t count toward this total, because they just dehydrate your body even more. This widespread belief has led many health-conscious people to shell out hundreds of dollars a year on bottled water, never leaving the house without a bottle of it in hand but what people don’t know is that drinking too much water can actually be harmful. Drinking excessive amounts of water can lead to a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia – sometimes known as “water intoxication” – in which the level of sodium in your blood becomes dangerously low. If your body can’t remove the excess water fast enough, tissues throughout your body become swollen with water, causing symptoms ranging from headache and nausea to seizures, coma, and death.
You need at least eight hours of sleep every night: The number eight seems to be a popular one for health rules of all kinds. Ask any random person how much sleep you should get, and chances are they’ll say eight hours. This recommendation, like the one about drinking eight glasses of water a day, has been around for decades and shows up in all kinds of reputable health sources, from websites to books. So the eight-hour rule is really just an approximation. However, there’s an increasing amount of evidence that it isn’t even the best possible approximation. Several studies published between 2002 and 2015 suggest that the ideal amount of sleep for most adults could actually be closer to seven hours than eight.
Eggs are bad for your heart: Eggs are a great, cheap source of protein. Just one large egg has about 6 grams of protein – about as much as an ounce of lean beef or chicken. On top of that, eggs are fast and easy to fix and incredibly versatile. You can cook them in lots of different ways – boiled, fried, scrambled, poached – and use them in nearly any recipe. Yet many people are passing up or at least cutting back on – this cheap, convenient food because they’ve been told it will increase their risk of heart disease. The egg’s bad reputation is based mostly on its cholesterol content. A bit of background: cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all your body’s cells. And, to some extent, that’s a good thing – your body needs cholesterol for growth, digestion, and producing hormones and vitamin D. The problem is that too much cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause a buildup, known as plaque, inside your arteries. In turn, this can lead to heart disease and a host of related problems, such as heart attack and stroke. People with high levels of blood cholesterol – especially the type known as low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol – are at a higher risk for heart disease.
Standing at work is better than sitting: If you work in an office, it’s possible you have a few coworkers who have suddenly started using standing desks. Some people do this by using improvised stands to raise the levels of their monitors and keyboards, while others invest in specially designed standing desks that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. But many people think the high cost along with the discomfort of standing all day is worth it, because they’re convinced that sitting is a threat to their health. Fears about the dangers of sitting arose out of a series of medical studies between 2012 and 2015 that focused on the risks of being sedentary, or inactive. A research stated that sitting still for long periods of time increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death. Even people who got plenty of exercise at other times showed some negative effects from prolonged sitting – although the risks weren’t as high for them as for people who weren’t physically active.