Please Explain: Medical Myths and Wives' Tales

Friday, October 28, 2011

Anahad O’Connor, columnist for the New York Times Well blog and author of Always Follow the Elephants and Never Shower in a Thunderstorm, and Dr. Rachel Vreeman, co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum and Don’t Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University, and talk about medical myths and wives tales—adages like “starve a fever, feed a cold” and that caffeine will stunt your growth. They’ll explain where they came from and why they persist and they’ll, as well as which are right and which are wrong.


Anahad O'Connor and Dr. Rachel Vreeman

Comments [29]

Amy from Manhattan

sburgernutr, if you're still reading, I'm guessing the guests' answers are based on, & intended for, a society where few people can't get adequate nutrition, not Third World populations like the people in your Bangladesh project. The results you describe probably don't translate to people whose night vision is within normal limits & who don't have a vitamin A deficiency they need to correct.

Oct. 28 2011 05:12 PM

I will happily provide peer-reviewed evidence to Mr. Anahad O'Connor about carrots and other beta-carotene rich food and their impact on night blindness. In fact, I will lend him my signed copy of Nutritional Blindness written by Dr. Sommer on the topic. Our Bangladesh project actually did a wonderful study with tens of thousands of subjects that showed a direct relationship between the number of varieties of beta-carotene rich vegetables grown by women in home gardens, consumption of those vegetables and decreases in night blindness.

Oct. 28 2011 01:58 PM
Sabrina from nyc

Does eating right before going to sleep result in fat going to the stomach and/or waist?

Oct. 28 2011 01:54 PM
Amy from Manhattan

So vitamin A (in carrots & other orange/yellow vegetables) doesn't help w/night vision? Even in people who don't have good night vision? I have the impression that a lot of these ideas are based on thinking that if a problem comes from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, getting more of the vitamin or mineral helps even if you don't have that problem. (Actually, the same principle is at work for drugs--look at the demand for Viagra in men who don't have ED & for anti-obesity drugs in people who want to lose 10 lbs.)

Oct. 28 2011 01:54 PM
joe from Nutley NJ

When I sleep with the fan blowing on me, i wake up with sore cramped muscles. any link?

Oct. 28 2011 01:52 PM
Asaf Soof from Union Sq.

What is the origin of the name Anahad

Oct. 28 2011 01:52 PM
Richard from Brooklyn

Will cracking my knuckles lead to arthritis?

Oct. 28 2011 01:51 PM
Andrew from Brooklyn

SOo what do you think about UMCKA and something like AIRBORNE?

Oct. 28 2011 01:51 PM

I really have to respectfully disagree. There is a HUGE body of evidence on decreasing the rates of night blindness by eating vitamin A and beta-carotene rich foods. Carrots are one of them. This is still currently an issue in many countries around the globe. I worked for Helen Keller International for 7 years and studied under Dr. Alfred Sommer. He later became Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and won the Lasker Prize for his work on vitamin A deficiency. Really, I am SHOCKED that this statement was on the air.

Oct. 28 2011 01:50 PM
Richard from Brooklyn

Will cracking my knuckles give me arthritis?

Oct. 28 2011 01:49 PM
Alex from NYC

The thing about sitting too close to TV being able to hurt your eyesight - I believe that older TV sets emitted a considerable amount of UV radiation, which would have the potential to damage the retina. I don't think that is a problem in newer TVs and other screens.

Oct. 28 2011 01:49 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

What about going from an oven to walk-in refrigerator?

Oct. 28 2011 01:48 PM
Dianna from Manhattan

Is it true that nightshade vegtables increase inflammation?
I have read it is not true, but others swear it does, especially if you have arthritis or a auto-immune condition.

Oct. 28 2011 01:47 PM
robert from NYC

I used to catch a cold at least twice a year. Since I started going to gym, doing some martial arts and jogging like crazy i haven't been sick for last six years. There was nothing else changed in my life style. Can physical activity have such a strong effect on immune system?

Oct. 28 2011 01:46 PM
Bemmey from les

Can you ask about BPA leaching and cellphone radiation?

Oct. 28 2011 01:46 PM
Fuva from Harlemworld

What about the effect of computer screens on eye sight?

Oct. 28 2011 01:46 PM
Andrew from Brooklyn

I often get colds and a flu in the winter months. Have there been studies about taking supplements such as Vitamin C, Echinacea, or Zinc?
Also, what do you think about UMCKA and AIRBORNE?

Oct. 28 2011 01:45 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Any kind of fluid can provide hydration, but what about the idea (fairly new, I think) that the body doesn't register calories in liquids, so when people drink high-calorie beverages like sodas, they don't compensate by cutting down on calories from food?

Oct. 28 2011 01:44 PM
james andrea

The aforementioned Cold Center, in Cardiff, was said to be in England. Cardiff is the capital of Wales.

Oct. 28 2011 01:44 PM
Wendy from New York

My sister's home in a large Florida city had lightening strike and enter the home through the chimney.

Oct. 28 2011 01:44 PM
Lisa from Brooklyn

My doctor told me that fever flucuates because of cortisol levels. They diminish as the day progresses so therefore inflammation increases.

Oct. 28 2011 01:37 PM
Caleb Johnson from Jersey City

Even if there is no physiological effect, could the psychosomatic impact of believing they work be significant?

Oct. 28 2011 01:36 PM
Joe from Englewood, NJ

Could cold stress the body, just as mental stress can, to lower the effectiveness of the immune system and thus make catching a cold more likely?

Oct. 28 2011 01:35 PM
Fuva from Harlemworld

So, germs and the body's defenses don't behave differently in cold? I don't buy it.

Oct. 28 2011 01:34 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I've also read that kids in day care, even though (or because?) they get sick at earlier ages, develop better immunity than kids the same age who don't go to day care. Does this mean they get sick less once they're in school?

Oct. 28 2011 01:34 PM
JJ from Brooklyn

What about antioxidants like the ones supposedly in green tea? Do they help to undo the effects of stress on health?

Oct. 28 2011 01:30 PM
yourgo from astoria

What about drafts?

Can they cause colds or muscle strain or whatever else people think.

My wifes mother is from teh balkans and she will not ever let us have two windows open in the summer to let a breeze form because of fear of the draft...

Oct. 28 2011 01:30 PM
Em from Brooklyn

8 glasses of water mandatory a day is a myth!

Oct. 28 2011 01:27 PM
jenna from hamilton heights

Does mega dosing on Vitamin C really help a cold?
does anything actually help shorten the life span of a cold?

Oct. 28 2011 01:27 PM

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