Many of the healthy living guidelines we follow are actually myths: Here are six of them

Sep 23, 2022 | 5 comments

Many of the healthy guidelines you live by might actually be myths.

Last week, the rule that you need to get in 10,000 steps per day made news when it was reported that the number was actually a Japanese marketing ploy with little scientific basis.

It’s hardly the only health fact that’s actually a fiction, said Dr. Donald Hensrud, associate professor of medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic.

“It’s important to look at what scientific evidence exists when evaluating the accuracy of many of the popular health claims,” Hensrud says.

Here, he walks us through some of the most popular accepted myths and tells us what’s really true.

Drinking eight glasses of water daily is crucial
Gulping down 64 ounces of pristine H2O every day isn’t as important as we’ve been led to believe. And, some people may achieve adequate hydration mostly from the foods they eat and other beverages. Coffee and even alcohol can also contribute to hydration if consumed in moderate amounts.

The amount of water people need varies with the individual. It can also come from drinks such as coffee and even alcoholic beverages.

“There’s nothing magic about 8 glasses,” Hensrud said. “The amount of water that someone needs can vary quite a bit depending on different factors: how hot it is out, how much they exercise, and their diet.”

Eating late at night caused weight gain
Many diets over the years have promised results by implementing a curfew on when food is consumed, but according to Hensrud what matters is what — not when — you eat.

“In general, calories are calories,” he said. He does, however, note that restricting eating to certain hours can be helpful in that it encourages you to eat less and not mindlessly snack in front of “The Late Show.”

Breakfast is the most important meal
It’s long been thought of as the VIP of meals, but there’s little to justify that position.

“The evidence is conflicting,” Hensrud said. “If people eat breakfast, then they may be less likely to overeat later in the day [but] on the other hand, there is some evidence that it may not be as good as what we’ve taught in the past.”

Hensrud said some people have found intermittent fasting and skipping breakfast works for them, and there’s no evidence that says not eating breakfast affects overall health. If you prefer to skip it and that works for you, there’s no need to change the habit.

“In general, breakfast is good, but it isn’t quite as clear as what we used to think it’s commonly believed,” he said.

Organic food is better for you
Organic food sounds like it should be better for you, but it might not make that much of a difference overall to your health.

Hensrud said that although it’s commonly believed organic foods are healthier than non-organic foods, it’s not necessarily true.

Organic produce is better for the environment but not necessarily for you.

“It’s a good idea to wash fruits, vegetables [of pesticides] before eating, obviously, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of adverse health effects [if pesticides are consumed],” he said. “The bottom line is that people should eat more plant products, fruits, vegetables — whether it’s organic or not.”

Hensrud said organic foods are “definitely better for the environment,” as they have less soil, water and air pollution than foods that are grown non-organically, but it’s “more of an environmental issue rather than a health issue.”

Exercising at a particular time is most effective
Hensrud said he’s not aware of any evidence to suggest that exercising at a particular time of day or in certain weather burns more calories, adding that if it does, it’s “subtle” and other factors come into play.

“Exercising when it’s warm (depending on how warm it is) might burn a little bit more calories, but the issue there would be just being able to sustain exercise,” he said.

In general, you should exercise whenever you can fit it in your schedule.

“The best time to work out is what works best for you,” he said.

Coffee is bad for you
Good news for caffeine drinkers: your cup of joe isn’t going to negatively affect your overall health.

Drinking a lot of coffee probably won’t affect your overall health.

“It’s one of the biggest health myths out there,” Hensrud said of java’s bad reputation. In reality, “coffee has been related to a decreased risk of type two diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer, improved mood and decreased risk of depression, better renal function, decreased risk of possibly gout and possibly renal renal stones and gallbladder stones.”

He said there are a few negative health affects (cautioning it can sometimes be harmful pregnant women or women trying) but overall, it depends on how an individual person metabolizes caffeine — which could explain why some are more susceptible to side effects.

“The bottom line is coffee is a healthful substance,” Hensrud said. “It has a lot of antioxidants and the side effects [if experienced] are what should limit consumption, not the fear of it being bad.”

Credit: AOA Daily News


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