When it comes to health and wellbeing, disagreements can get pretty fierce. With contradictory studies being published which tell people that this or that is good or bad for you, it’s no wonder certain myths endure. Some of these are also the result of misunderstandings from the past which, despite evidence to the contrary arising, have never really left the public consciousness.
“Most Body Heat is Lost Through Your Head”
It’s fairly easy to see where the thinking here came from. Looking at thermal scans of the human body, the head is often one of the hottest parts of the body. This is actually because the head requires a lot of blood flow for the brain, whereas the extremities such as feet and hands are far from the heart and don’t require so much blood, and so remain colder than other parts of the body. A US Army manual from 1970 is often cited as making this myth popular, as it stated that 40% or more of your body heat is lost through your head. Many people probably remember being told by their parents to put on a hat before they left the house in winter to prevent this heat loss, but the fact is that this isn’t true. Along with the chest, the head is sensitive to feelings of cold, and so putting on a hat certainly helps protect against the unpleasant feeling of a cold gust of wind, but the truth is that covering one part of the body is as effective as any other in retaining heat, so while covering the head helps keep you warmer, so does covering the rest of you.
“Sugar Makes Kids Go Crazy”
This one may be met with disbelief by parents who feel they’ve witnessed how their kids behave when they consume a lot of sugar, but the fact is that studies have found that sugar has no particular effect on a child’s mood. A study in which a group of children was given Kool-Aid with artificial sweetener, with one half of the kids’ parents being told there was no sugar and the other half being told there was sugar, revealed that the parents who believed their kids had ingested sugar rated their kids’ behavior as more unruly. This is a case of expectation rather than fact. While it’s definitely true that there are plenty of reasons not to give children (or indeed adults) an excess of sugar, behavior is not one of them. Poor diet over the long-term can have negative effects on anyone’s mood and wellbeing, but the perception of short-term effects of sugar on mood are unfounded.
“People With Allergies Should Get Short-Haired Pets”
Again, it’s easy to follow the logic here: If someone is allergic to cats or dogs, then animals with longer hair seem more likely to cause allergies. In fact, it’s most often to do with the specific breed’s biology, where combinations of oiliness and type of skin of a breed can cause more or less severe allergic reactions through dandruff, as well as saliva. Unfortunately, while studies have been conducted on different breeds to test severity of reactions in allergic owners, it’s not possible to pinpoint whether one breed will necessarily cause more allergic symptoms than another. Some have however found that Labradors tend to cause fewer allergic reactions, which is good news for lovers of this family favorite, but there’s no exact science to it and it really depends on each individual person. Prospective dog or cat owners concerned about allergies would therefore be advised, if possible, to spend time with a friend’s pet they like to see if they get any reactions when they pet and play with them, or alternatively at a shelter.
It’s easy to see how these myths have been propagated: By observing certain aspects of the way the body works and making assumptions, misinformation can spread, and when it does it can often be hard to make the truth known. While there’s no denying that putting a hat on in cold weather, not giving kids too much sugar and being cautious when selecting a new pet are good ideas, the truth behind the thinking on these issues is often quite misguided.