The 10 Biggest Wellness Myths of the Past Decade, From Carb Fears to Juice Cleanses
When it comes to health and wellness information, the internet can often be one big black hole of contradiction. (See: are fats bad for weight loss, or should we be eating more of them?) All this back and forth is enough to make you want to pull your hair out, but instead of resorting to that — because really, who knows what advice to stimulate hair follicle growth is fact-based or bogus — POPSUGAR turned to the experts to help us reveal the truth behind 10 of the biggest myths of the last 10 years.
Read on to get the final word on how to live healthier, including how much water you should really be drinking, if wearing antiperspirant is safe, and if there's really a cure-all for your sluggish metabolism. Then let's leave these debates where they belong — in the past.
You Should Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day
"Individual water needs depend on the weather, your health, your weight, and your body composition," Cara Pensabene, MD, of EHE Health, told POPSUGAR. "You also get water from the foods you eat." So, instead of focusing on an arbitrary number, she suggests taking note of how you're feeling and watching for any signs of dehydration, like feeling thirsty or headache-y. You may find you need more or less than eight glasses of water a day.
Antiperspirant Use Is Linked to Cancer
"There are no clear studies that show a link between different types of cancers and the use of antiperspirant," Janette Nesheiwat, MD, a family and emergency medicine physician in New York City, told POPSUGAR. "Antiperspirants do not cause cancer, and even mercury has been eliminated from many of these products, which were thought to be a culprit." Dr. Nesheiwat explained that the FDA places strict guidelines on over-the-counter products, and any possible cancer-causing carcinogens are only permitted in trace amounts. "It's the cumulative compound effect of using multiple products that have trace amounts of carcinogens which could lead to cancer," she said.
Carbs Make You Gain Weight
While very low-carb diets have been all the rage over the past several years, there's no reason to cut carbohydrates from your diet. In fact, "doing away with carbs can put you at risk for fatigue, osteoporosis, or even neurological damage," Kim Rose, RDN, told POPSUGAR. In spite of what you've heard, carbs aren't unique in their ability to make you gain weight. "Anything consumed in excess could result in weight gain," she said. "The body has the potential to store excess consumption of any major food group as fat to be used for another time. This storage mechanism is what results in extra weight." If you want to lose weight, these virtuous carbs can actually be beneficial.
Fish Oil Supplements Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
In a 2012 National Health Interview Survey, fish oil supplements were taken by more adults and children than any other natural supplement, apart from vitamins and minerals. However, while omega-3 fatty acids play a role in reducing inflammation — which can help protect your heart — a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that supplements, specifically, did nothing to reduce heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from heart disease in middle-age men and women without any known risk factors for heart disease. This doesn't mean you shouldn't have omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, but it does mean you should focus on getting them from food instead of a capsule, Dr. Pensabene explained.
Minimalist Shoes Are Best For Training
"Advocates of minimalist shoes believe that because these shoes help shorten a runner's stride, they place less stress on the joints," Miguel Cunha, DPM, a podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City, told POPSUGAR. "I strongly disagree with this notion and believe that runners are actually at an increased risk of injuring themselves due to the lack of protection offered by minimalist shoes." Research backs him up. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners who trained for a 10K race wearing minimalist footwear had up to three times the number of injuries compared to runners in more traditional, supportive gear.
Lemon Water Can Boost Your Metabolism
"There is no magic pill or food that can boost your metabolism," Rose said. "An increased metabolism is only associated with weight loss or weight maintenance. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be, and the older you are, the lower your metabolism will be." Eating hot peppers or drinking lemon water first thing in the morning won't do it, but if you want to improve your calorie burn, these healthy habits — including strength training — can help.
Eating Too Much Soy Can Cause Cancer
"Soy is a protein-rich, plant-based food that has a bad reputation for promoting breast cancer and other types of cancers," Rose said. "This is because soy contains isoflavones, which were once thought to promote the proliferation of cancer, butevidenced-based scientific research has debunked this myth. The concentration of isoflavones is not high enough to promote cancer, and the benefits of eating soy-based foods actually outweigh the risk."
It’s Important to Take a Daily Multivitamin
"Unless you are a vegetarian, which may mean you're at risk for being vitamin-B12 deficient, or have had intestinal surgery like gastric bypass, which makes it more difficult for your body to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, you don't need to take a daily multivitamin," Dr. Nesheiwat said. "Most people get enough vitamins and minerals by eating a well-balanced diet with sufficient amounts of fruit, vegetables, proteins, fats, and carbs."
Juice Cleanses Help Eliminate Toxins From the Body
"The liver is the organ in the body that is responsible for eliminating toxins," Rose said. "Toxins build up as a result of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis." External toxins include what we eat and drink, even the juices you down while on a cleanse. "A juice cleanse does not eliminate toxins because they add a source of toxins to the body since it has to metabolize juices as well," she explained. What can help eliminate toxins from the body is making sure the liver stays healthy enough to effectively do its job, which can be done in part by making sure you're drinking enough water and staying hydrated.
It's Better to Drink Bottled Water Than Tap Water
"Bottled water may contain trace chemicals, micro-plastics, and less vitamins and minerals, which you would naturally get in tap water," Dr. Nesheiwat said. One of those minerals is fluoride, a substance released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that, in addition to naturally-occurring fluoride in the environment, extra amounts are often added to tap water to help protect against tooth decay. "Whenever given the option, I always go for tap water, it's simply more natural," she said.