50 Health myths!

Dubai's top docs reveal 50 health myths that you need to know!

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1 Do daily multivitamin pills make much of a difference?
There is no conclusive evidence to support their use routinely for everybody and they should certainly not be seen as an alternative to a healthy well balanced diet.

2 In a normal office-work day, how many litres of water should a grown man really drink?
You should drink somewhere between 1.5 and two litres daily. It flushes the kidneys out and helps prevent stones.

3 Eat after eight, put on weight — surely it doesn’t matter what time you eat?
Sadly it does. We should all have a good breakfast, this provides the fuel the body needs for the day and lunch tops us up for the afternoon. The smallest meal of the day should be the evening meal. If you have a large meal late in the evening and then go to bed shortly after, the food has no chance to be used effectively and the body stores it “as excess to current requirements” as body fat. Similarly in the morning, if you do not eat till lunch time the body perceives this as “starvation” and therefore tries to conserve energy for later.

4 Is too much coffee bad for you and if so, how much is too much?
Most things consumed in excess start to cause problems, coffee drinking is no exception. Three cups per day should be the maximum and ideally not consumed in the three hours before going to bed, as coffee contains caffeine which is a strong stimulant.

5 Overall, what’s the healthiest fruit?
Within reason all fruits are healthy when taken as part of a balanced diet. There are so called “super fruits” which contain lots of antioxidants that help the body remain healthy. Examples of these are blueberries, cranberries, avocados, pomegranates and more recently acai. Which fruit is the healthiest? Simple answer is, whichever one you eat regularly.

6 Are some people really “big boned” or is that just a lie that fat people who eat too much use?
Certainly much of the world’s population over eats by choice, whilst another substantial proportion under eats, not by choice but by circumstance. If we all maintain our body mass index (BMI) in or near the healthy range of 20-25, there would be a lot less “big boned” people.

7 Should I pay attention to the mineral values (dissolved solids) in water?
I see this written on bottles, but does this make any difference? It will actually make little or no difference to your overall health, if you have a normal healthy diet.

8 If you drop food on the kitchen floor, should you bin it or is the three-second rule applicable?
I don’t know the three-second rule — that sounds arbitrary to me! If food falls to the floor I would recommend it is picked up and thrown away.

9 To what extent is drinking a glass of wine or a pint of Guinness each day good for you?
Drinking one or two glasses of red wine per day has been shown to have beneficial effects on the heart. One pint of Guinness on the other hand, containing the same amount of alcohol, is full of iron and is therefore excellent if you are iron deficient.

10 Does smoking a cigarette really reduce your life expectancy by five minutes per cigarette – sounds like a made-up, arbitrary, number to me?
Do you want the bad news? At a recent Gulf Medical Conference the time quoted in ‘lost minutes of life per cigarette smoked’ was actually 11 minutes, nearly double the five minutes that you are worried about. Someone, somewhere has done the calculation. Accurate or not, we know smoking causes lung cancer and is a major contributing factor in causing heart attacks. Get lung cancer and you will lose years of life, not just a number of “five minutes”.


11 What’s the best brand of headache pill – Is there an ingredient we should look out for?
Whatever works for the individual is best; Ibuprofen and Paracetamol are two of the most common. If headaches persist or progress it may be well worth a visit to your family doctor just to check for possible treatable causes.

12 Sometimes I sit on the loo reading until my legs go a numb – is that really bad for me?
Terrible! Loo seats are functional and not designed for prolonged use. The numbness occurs because you are compressing nerves in your legs between the hard seat and your thigh bone. My advice: Keep regular, get off the loo quickly and then go and read in comfort.

13 Is there any benefit to putting a piece of steak on a black eye, or does that only work in comic books?
Ah, that comic book steak! What the steak is doing is acting like the ice-pack that we would apply after an injury today. Cooling the injury reduces the acute inflammation, swelling and pain. My advice, get the ice from the freezer and cook the steak.

14 How many hours of sleep should I really have?
The average man needs eight hours sleep per night, some therefore less and some more. The body will give you some credit during the week for lost sleep.

15 Can you catch up on missed sleep during the week by having a long lie in at the weekend?
Happily, the body will manage to fully recharge over the weekend if given the “missing” hours back. Enjoy your lie in.

16 If I sneeze with my eyes open will they really pop out?
Absolutely not! Whoever told you that clearly thinks that you are gullible! Show him you’re not, and don’t believe him!

17 Does putting teabags on my eyes make them look more alert?
Not at all, but it might make you look like you have been applying fake tan.

18 Is it definitely bad to drink more than 21 units of alcohol a week, or does it vary according to the individual?
In the UK, the recommended weekly alcohol intake for a man is 21 units and for a woman it’s 14 units. The effects of drinking greater than 21 units per week will certainly vary from person to person and depend on how long you do it for. Remember, moderation in all, and one pint of beer is two units.

19 Is it true that eating sushi more than three times a week is dangerous due to toxins?
Sushi is raw fish; raw fish carries the theoretical risk of containing viable parasitic worm eggs. However, the risk is tiny if you eat properly prepared sushi, as you would get in reputable restaurants. Eating it three times each week should not really change that.

20 Energy power bars – are they good or bad for you?
For dedicated athletes there may be some advantages to taking them. For the rest of us the occasional bar will do us no harm, but they are not a substitute for healthy eating.


21 Does eating organic food make much of a difference other than slimming down my wallet?
Ask any nutritionist and they will preferentially recommend organic over non-organic, especially foods like fruit, vegetables and meat. They are more expensive but are worth buying if you can afford them. If not, always buy the best quality you can.

22 How do you really identify a mole that’s gone bad?
Rapid changes over a few weeks of shape, colour, or growth of new ones near by, ones which bleed readily should all raise enough concern for you to go and see your doctor and have them checked out. Most will be fine and not need removing. If in doubt - check it out.

23 Is jogging really bad for your knees?
Once again it is dependent on your genetic makeup to some extend as to how long your knee will last. Add to that, the wear and tear of how you use them, injure them and look after them and you have your answer. If your knees always hurt when you jog try non impact exercise like the cross trainer or swimming as alternatives. If it persists go and see your family doctor.

24 Can using a mobile phone too much really give you brain tumours and cancer?
A huge of amount of research has been carried out across the globe and has to date, failed to demonstrate any damage to the head or brain. Research remains ongoing.

25 Do any of those beauty products my wife uses actually work? Or is it just marketing nonsense?
Here’s a question on all our minds. In advertising you cannot claim something about your product that you know not to be true. Trials are usually performed on small numbers of people, with only a one line conclusion being quoted. I suspect most of these trials would not stand up to much scientific scrutiny; hence the claims are made in adverts and not scientific journals. The use of sun blocking creams and creams for dry skin conditions like eczema being notable exceptions.

26 I work in an office, is it true I should wash my hands every few hours because my desk/door handles/everything is teeming with germs?
Yes. This is one of the best methods of avoiding the transmission of common viruses which cause colds and flu. With Swine Flu now appearing in humans and being potentially fatal, the same basic rules apply.

27 I heard that if you microwave food in a plastic container it causes toxins from the plastic to seep into the food. What’s the truth?
This has recently been claimed in respectable scientific journals. The FDA now recommends using glass in microwave ovens instead of plastic. The plastic does release toxic chemicals when heated and because these chemicals can leak into the food, it is thought to be carcinogenic.

28 Can wearing tight underpants reduce my sperm count?
Testicles are kept outside the body as they prefer a slightly lower temperature to produce sperm most efficiently. Tight underpants can keep the testicles too close to the body particularly in hot climates and can therefore compromise their sperm productivity. Remember ‘hang loose’.

29 Does shampooing your hair every day damage it?
I’m no Tricologist (hair expert) but I’ve not heard of warnings on shampoo bottles advising against daily use. I checked and I was right — no warning, so I guess it’s alright.

30 Is it true that the cure for the common cold already exists but will never be made available? If not, how long till they find one?
Scientists tried for decades last century to find a cure but never did. It’s because the numerous viruses which cause “colds” mutate so quickly and leave us partially susceptible and partially protected but never fully immune. There will be no cure any time soon.


31 Does reading in poor light cause damage to your eyesight as we were warned as children?
If you have to strain your eyes to see in dim light it may make them uncomfortable in the short term, I don’t think there is any long term damage. Like all parts of the body, our eye function drops off with age in a number of different ways, none of which are related to our reading in dim light or other pastimes.

32 Do Omega-3 supplements really make you brainier?
Yes, but only in that they help your brain function and develop. The best source of omega-3 is fish oil, found in fish like mackerel, salmon, anchovies, and sardines.

33 Do we really need to use moisturiser on our skin?
If the skin is very dry, then the simple answer is yes. There are worse things than having moisturiser rubbed on your body by your loved one. Relax and enjoy.

34 New age therapies such as crystal healing is all a huge con, right?
I know people who swear by these healing methods and many who swear at these healing methods. If it works for you, ‘don’t knock it’ as Chuck Berry once said.

35 Do air purifiers actually do anything?
I think if they are powerful enough for the size of room then they can certainly help clear the air of particulate matter which could exacerbate asthma and allergic rhinitis.

36 Can too much pleasuring yourself really make you go blind?
(You know what I’m talking about right?) I do, and the answer is no!

37 If I only had to do one kind of exercise, what kind should it be?
Brisk walking. Raise your heart rate to between 110-130bpm for 40 minutes at least four time per week and your heart and waistline will greatly appreciate it. We can all manage that, cant we?

38 Is flossing really that much better than just using mouthwash?
I would recommend a combination of regular teeth brushing, with good technique (twice daily), use of interdental brushes (before bed) and a good quality mouthwash (twice daily) as a perfect way of maintaining your teeth and gums and to prevent bad breath. Oh and visit your dentist twice a year.

39 Would you recommend any “alternative medicines” or is it just hippy nonsense? After all, if they work, why are they called alternative?
I think the term complementary is preferred to alternative. There is good evidence for some complimentary medicines, for example acupuncture. In the UK the NHS provides acupuncture in Pain Clinics routinely as one of many methods of managing chronic or severe pain. If you find a complimentary medicine that actually helps you with your condition or symptoms don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong.

40 What are electrolytes? Do sports drinks that contain these actually do me any good?
When we sweat we don’t just lose water but salts and minerals too. The use of sports drinks helps replenish the salts and minerals as well as the water. Being five per cent dehydrated can reduce muscle strength by 40 per cent. No wonder we feel weak after a long game of tennis or golf in this heat. You now know what to do.


41 Is toothpaste really a miracle cure for spots?
There are numerous websites dedicated to toothpaste treatment of acne. Like all treatments, medical or otherwise, there is the risk of side effects, in this case burning and irritation of the skin after prolonged contact. We will have to wait till someone performs a formal trial for a definitive answer. I’ve heard nothing from the toothpaste companies.

42 Is taking Viagra for an extra boost safe for the average, normally ‘active’ man?
As a doctor, I cannot advocate the use of a prescription medicine like Viagra by normally ‘active’ men. If you have a heart condition are on certain types of cardiac drugs the combination could be lethal. See your doctor first to get the green light.

43 In the summer we frequently go from cold AC-blasted environments out into the baking heat and then back into cold environments. Surely this can’t be good for you?
Your body, if kept well hydrated and nourished, is very forgiving and assuming you‘re not doing it a ridiculous number of times each day shouldn’t cause a problem. Our ability to maintain our body temperature in extremes of temperature is testimony to its fine design.

44 In the summer, temperatures can get up to 50 degrees C — what sort of effect does that actually have on the human body?
If you stayed out in that temperature for any length of time without water, shade and protection you would rapidly overheat once you could no longer keep you body temperature at 37 degrees C. That would lead to the body decompensating, death would ensue shortly thereafter.

45 Does living in dusty countries like the UAE aggravate asthma, bronchitis and other breathing problems?
Yes, all of the above.

46 If you go cross eyed and someone hits you on the back of the head is there a chance, no matter how small, that you might stay that way?
Assuming you were not hit so hard that it caused damage to the nerves which control eye movements, this is not going to happen. To damage the cranial nerves, it would have to be some blow and it wouldn’t then matter if your eyes were crossed or not.

47 How bad for you is smoking shisha?
Disastrous! A 40 minute shisha session is like smoking 40 cigarettes, but worse as the smoke is cooled by the water, becomes denser (remember Boyle’s Law) and therefore more concentrated and dangerous once it gets to the lungs. You can guess my advice!

48 Is a lack of iron really the main cause for feeling lethargic? If so, what is the best way to take in iron regularly?
It is one of many possible causes for feeling lethargic along with lack of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, diabetes; under active thyroid... the list is almost endless. If it is persistent and progressive, you know what to do — go to a doctor as tests may be required.

49 I regularly go to Ski Dubai but does being cold, give you a cold?
Simple answer, no. But it will help keep you fit and therefore better at warding off “colds”. Don’t stop skiing.

50 What causes baldness and can I prevent it?
Male pattern baldness is primarily genetically determined. If your father and uncles lost their hair early you are more likely to. Help from hairy headed males from your mother’s side may protect you through her genes.

This feature was provided by Men's Fitness, Dubai's top monthly men's magazine. Grab your copy in all good shops now!

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