Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ten greatest health myths

Compiled by Karan Agrawal

The following experts were consulted to help bust these myths:

  • Dr Cyres K Mehta, consultant ophthalmologist, Masina, Breach Candy and Parsi General hospitals
  • Dr Vasundhara Atre, consultant cardiac anaesthesiologist, Bombay Hospital
  • Naini Setalvad, nutritionist
  • Namita Jain, fitness expert

Using antibacterial soap is the best way to kill germs and prevent infections.

Dr Atre: Although antibacterial soap is the most effective way to kill germs, it is not the best. The soap not only kills the harmful bacteria present on the skin, but also the beneficial bacteria. Furthermore, the effects of the antibacterial soap are limited; as we pick up newer germs every time we touch something, sweat, etc.

Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight

Dr Mehta: There is no evidence to show that reading in dim light will affect eyesight. There are many diseases such as cataract and glaucoma, where reading in dim light is difficult; however it will not make the diseases worse.

Eating carrots improves your eyesight.

Dr Mehta: Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), which is important for the health of the eye and retina. If the diet is deficient in Vitamin A the cornea and retina degenerate. So old people, malnourished children etc would benefit from carrots in their diet. However normal healthy adults will not improve eyesight by eating carrots.

Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis.

Dr Mehta: It is unlikely that joint cracking is a significant cause of arthritis. Joint cracking is usually painless, and so long as it does not cause pain, most doctors agree that you are unlikely to be doing any harm. It’s usually due to the tendons or ligaments passing over the prominences of the bones. Also the slow accumulation of gases around a joint can cause the formation of tiny bubbles of gas. Joint cracking may occur when these gases are released. Of course if you have joint pain already and if you have arthritis, it could lead to more inflammation.

Using sun lotion protects you from skin cancer.

Dr Atre: Sunscreen is not very effective as most people do not follow the correct method of applying the sunscreen, and also do not reapply it after the correct time interval. Further, all commercially available sunscreens do not guard against all types of UV rays, which are responsible for causing skin cancer. Further, the chemicals present in commercial sunscreen products have also been found to be toxic and said to actually promote some forms of cancer.

Cholesterol is bad for you.

Dr Atre: Cholesterol is required in certain limits for normal body functioning. It is of two types – high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is considered ‘good cholesterol’, and should be present in high concentration in the body. LDL on the other hand is considered ‘bad cholesterol’ and should be present in low concentration. Thus, cholesterol is not bad for you.

It's OK to skip breakfast

Naini Setalvad: It is not advisable to skip a meal, especially after 12 hours of fast, when the body metabolism is low. Skipping that meal can lead to giddiness, nausea, low energy, fainting spells and low performance at work, irritability, anxiety and symptoms of gas in the body.

One should eat proteins in excess to gain muscle mass

Naini Setalvad: It is not safe to eat more than 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

One can lose weight by eating low-fat foods

Naini Setalvad: Eating low fat foods in excess will not help in weight loss. Weight loss can be achieved by cutting down the intake of sugars, fats and processed food.

I must sweat when I exercise

Namita Jain: Sweating only occurs when one undergoes strenuous weight-training or cardiovascular exercise. Light weight-training or stretching does not lead to sweating.

Source: Times Wellness