Health Facts that are false…for now.

Okay, there’s not one day that passes by where research debunks the previous research. For example, one study says coffee is really good for you, while another study says otherwise, so I’m sure this article is one of those that will be short lived..but here it goes.

Soy? Sorry… ( I don’t care, I ain’t eating animals (except fish) or birds)

Tofu burgers are healthier than beef, and 8 other common health “facts” that are false.

Some myths are easy to spot. Like the one about Atum, the Egyptian deity who took his divine member in hand and, after some firmament-shaking masturbation, caused life to, literally, come into existence.

Other myths, particularly those based on actual science rather than pyramid power, are a bit more difficult to identify. And that can be dangerous when they’re the very things we’re counting on to keep us healthy. Classic example: the pregame stretch. It can’t prevent a pulled hamstring any more than praying to your jockstrap can. Yet, until a few years ago, guys who weren’t in the know stretched and, with blind faith in fiction, ran into an injury.

Well, we’re here to show you the light — to turn your world upside down and then, like Copernicus, put a different spin on it. All told, we debunk nine modern health myths and then show how the truth can, if not set you free, at least keep you off life’s sidelines.

Myth: A high-fiber diet will prevent colon cancer

Not even if you eat a pine tree, cones and all. Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that no matter how much fiber study subjects ate — from 10 grams a day to 27 — it did nothing to reduce their risk of recurrence of precancerous polyps. “The fiber hypothesis dates from an old epidemiological study,” says James E. Allison, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. “It was presumed that the shorter intestinal transit time accompanying a high-fiber diet decreased a person’s exposure to potential carcinogens.”

Reality check:
Despite themyth, keep eating a high-fiber diet (it can help lower cholesterol and prevent diabetes), but don’t count on it to cancer-proof your colon. For that, you need folic acid. Studies have shown that this B vitamin significantly lowers a man’s risk of colon cancer, with research from Louisiana State University linking it to a 60 percent reduction. If your multivitamin (or cereal) doesn’t contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, buy one that does.

Myth: A soy burger is healthier than a beef burger

Here’s the problem: Soy, in all its forms, contains phytoestrogens — that is, plant estrogens. And while having some of the female hormone in our bodies is okay, and even normal, having high amounts of the plant version isn’t. In fact, Australian researchers found that men who consumed a soy-rich diet had significantly lower testosterone levels than beef eaters. And as for red meat’s artery-clogging reputation, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that eating lean beef can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL levels. 

 

 Reality check: “The biggest risk factor is a strong family history [of late- or early-onset Alzheimer’s],” says Thies. Have an afflicted relative? Now’s the time to see a neurologist about genetic testing. If it turns out that you have one of the three known trigger genes, you might want to start taking that Ginkgo biloba or, even better, drinking an occasional glass of red wine. In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers discovered that people who drank wine just once a month were half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who didn’t raise a glass at all. Why red wine rather than white? It’s much higher in flavonoids — the compounds scientists believe confer the brain-saving effect.

Reality check: At only 10 percent fat, ground round is the leanest hamburger meat at the market. It also has the potential to taste the worst, since less fat generally means less flavor. Stick with ground chuck, which, with 15 percent fat, still qualifies as lean. And make sure you pick a package with little “juice” pooled in the Styrofoam tray. “It comes from water in the protein molecules called ‘free water,’ which is released over time,” says Mike De La Zerda, Ph.D., beef-quality manager for the Texas Beef Council. “The more free water that has drained into the package, the less juicy your burgers will be.”

Myth: Ginkgo biloba will improve your memory

This popular herbal supplement gained a reputation as a smart pill after certain medical studies suggested that it could improve brain function. And it does — in Alzheimer’s patients. In healthy people, “we found no evidence that ginkgo has any effect on memory or cognitive function,” says Paul R. Solomon, Ph.D., director of the memory clinic at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Solomon’s research team debunked themyth when they found that the people taking Ginkgo biloba for 6 weeks did no better on 14 tests of learning, memory, attention, and concentration than those taking a placebo. “There is nothing in our research to justify taking ginkgo,” says Solomon.

Reality check:
Go take a nap — one that lasts 10 minutes. Australian researchers studied the effects of three naps of differing lengths and found that the people who grabbed 10 minutes of shut-eye concentrated better and had more-accurate memories than the rest. Still feel addled? See your doctor. You could be suffering from sleep apnea, a nighttime breathing disorder that deprives your brain of restorative REM sleep.

Myth: Antibacterial soap is better than regular soap for beating germs

Like antitank missiles and antimatter rays, antibacterial soap just sounds more destructive than, say, Dove. Thing is, the germs don’t know the difference. In a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, researchers asked 222 New York City housewives (who better, right?) to wash their hands with either antibacterial hand soap or regular soap. Then, on two separate occasions, bacterial cultures were taken from the women’s hands, but the results were exactly the same: “We found that antibacterial soaps provide no added value,” explains Elaine Larson, Ph.D., R.N., the study’s lead author. Even more worrisome, washing exclusively with an antibacterial soap can cause bacteria to become resistant to the soap’s germ-killing ingredient.

Despite what the Dupont heirs would have us think (they hold the patent on Lycra), pumping iron may also prevent a coronary. In a recent Harvard study of 44,000 men, researchers found that the men who weight-trained for 30 minutes or more a week had a 23 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who didn’t lift at all. “Weight training increases your muscle mass and your resting metabolic rate, both of which contribute to a decreased risk of heart disease,” says Mihaela Tanasescu, M.D., one of the study authors. “It also leads to better glucose control and decreased insulin resistance, which further reduce the risk to your heart.”

Reality check:
If you’re lifting for life insurance, make sure your workout is high intensity (one way to do this is to try supersets — pairing two exercises that work different muscle groups). In the same Harvard study, the researchers noted that increasing the intensity of an exercise also reduced the risk of heart disease. “This increase was independent of the type of training,” says Dr. Tanasescu, “and although we didn’t study it, I suspect that weight training for longer than 30 minutes a week would be of additional benefit.”

Reality check: If you want to commit germicide with regular soap, take your time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends scrubbing for at least 15 seconds. And pay particular attention to the area under and around your fingernails. “This is where most bacteria tend to collect,” says Howard Donsky, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Rochester. For those times when your hands aren’t visibly dirty, you can use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer gel. Squirt out a dollop and rub it on for 30 seconds. Repeat.

Myth: The higher the SPF of a sunscreen, the better

To a point. “There is a property of diminishing returns at work,” says Martin Weinstock, M.D., Ph.D., director of the American Cancer Society’s skin-cancer advisory group. Here are the numbers: SPF-15 sunscreens block 93.3 percent of the sun’s burning ultraviolet rays, compared with SPF-30 products, which block 96.7 percent. But making the leap to SPF-45 offers only an additional 1 percent of protection (97.8 percent total), and SPF-60, just 0.5 percent more than that (98.3).

Reality check:
You don’t need 1 percent more protection. Unless you have a family history of skin cancer or look like the prototypical burner — fair skin, red or blond hair, green or blue eyes, and freckles — “reapplying SPF-30 throughout the day is the best you can do, as long as you’re really slathering it on,” says Dr. Weinstock. Just as important, make sure the bottle contains Parsol 1789 (a.k.a. avobenzone), zinc oxide, or micronized titanium dioxide; these compounds will block dangerous UVA rays that some sunscreens let through.

Myth: Only women get breast cancer

Men don’t have breasts, per se. Therefore, men shouldn’t get breast cancer. But we do, to the tune of 1,500 new cases a year (with 400 men dying of the disease annually). “The biggest problem is that most men, and even many doctors, don’t recognize it,” says Sharon H. Giordano, M.D., a professor of breast oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. “Men will dismiss a lump, while a woman knows exactly what it is.” Nor do men understand the three major risk factors: age (60 years or older), family history of the disease (male or female relatives), and obesity (the extra tonnage messes with a man’s hormone levels).

Reality check:
Having even one risk factor is reason enough to do a quick self -exam every 3 months. When you’re in the shower, “feel under the nipple and across the chest with the tips of your fingers, looking for any unusual lumps,” says Dr. Giordano. “The lump will feel small and hard, like a knot or pea.” And, lump or no lump, if you have any discharge or bleeding from the nipple, ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist in male breast cancer.

Myth: Aerobic exercise is the only workout that will keep your heart healthy

Despite what the Dupont heirs would have us think (they hold the patent on Lycra), pumping iron may also prevent a coronary. In a recent Harvard study of 44,000 men, researchers found that the men who weight-trained for 30 minutes or more a week had a 23 percent lower risk of heart di
sease than those who didn’t lift at all. “Weight training increases your muscle mass and your resting metabolic rate, both of which contribute to a decreased risk of heart disease,” says Mihaela Tanasescu, M.D., one of the study authors. “It also leads to better glucose control and decreased insulin resistance, which further reduce the risk to your heart.”

Reality check:
If you’re lifting for life insurance, make sure your workout is high intensity (one way to do this is to try supersets — pairing two exercises that work different muscle groups). In the same Harvard study, the researchers noted that increasing the intensity of an exercise also reduced the risk of heart disease. “This increase was independent of the type of training,” says Dr. Tanasescu, “and although we didn’t study it, I suspect that weight training for longer than 30 minutes a week would be of additional benefit.”

Myth: A PSA of 4 or higher means prostate cancer

That’s thehealth myth some urologists have led us to believe. “Most men think elevated PSA levels can only mean prostate cancer,” says William Catalona, M.D., a professor of urology at Washington University in St. Louis. “But any trauma or inflammation can cause PSA to leak into the surrounding tissue [of the prostate], where it is picked up in the bloodstream.” In fact, everything from a bacterial infection to a long bicycle ride can cause a minor jump in your PSA level.

Reality check:
PSA scores between 4 and 10 fall into a diagnostic gray zone, where, until recently, the only way to confirm the presence of cancer was with a biopsy. Now, however, doctors can follow up with a complexed PSA (cPSA) or percent-free PSA exam, tests that, according to Dr. Catalona, measure different molecular forms of PSA. “It’s the best way to determine whether your PSA is elevated due to cancer or a benign condition.” If your PSA is even 2.5, ask your urologist for a cPSA or percent-free PSA exam.

Myth: Only old men develop Alzheimer’s disease

Forgetthemyths about Alzheimer’s disease. Each year, 5 percent of its four million victims are younger than 60 years of age. It’s called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and it even strikes men in their 30s and 40s. “The symptoms are no different from those of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” says Bill Thies, Ph.D., vice president of medical and scientific affairs for the Alzheimer’s Association. “The main difference is that people afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s are still working and trying to support a family.”

Reality check: “The biggest risk factor is a strong family history [of late- or early-onset Alzheimer’s],” says Thies. Have an afflicted relative? Now’s the time to see a neurologist about genetic testing. If it turns out that you have one of the three known trigger genes, you might want to start taking that Ginkgo biloba or, even better, drinking an occasional glass of red wine. In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers discovered that people who drank wine just once a month were half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who didn’t raise a glass at all. Why red wine rather than white? It’s much higher in flavonoids — the compounds scientists believe confer the brain-saving effect.

 

 

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