Health myths debunked


Many of us are familiar with old wives’ tales — not eating crusts will stop us getting curly hair, if we step on a crack, we will break our back. It has become the norm for us to tell these tales, even though we are fully aware that these aren’t true. This is also the case for myths around health — here, we’ll discuss some of the myths around our health.

Cracking knuckles

It is a common misconception that if we crack our knuckles persistently, we can develop arthritis. Research has found that up to 54% of us actually do it – whether it’s pulling the tip of each until they crack, making a fist or bending our fingers away from our hand. Men are also more likely to do it. The popping noise and sensation is created by the spaces between the joints increasing, which causes gases dissolved in the synovial fluid to form microscopic bubbles. These bubbles then merge into larger bubbles and are popped by additional fluid that has filled the enlarged space.

It is believed that cracking joints can wear them down comparable to a mechanical joint, however there isn’t enough research to make this claim. However, a study from 2010 claimed that there was no difference in the prevalence of osteoarthritis between those who did or did not crack their knuckles. If your joints are sore, a joint supplement could be effective in easing the pain.

So for now, crack on!

Soap in bed

There is a myth that putting a bar of soap under your bedsheets can soothe muscle pain, particularly in your legs. While those who perform this method stand by it, there is no plausible or scientific explanation that has been given to suggest that this actually does work.

If you do experience leg cramp, there are other things you can be doing to relieve this pain. This includes reducing your caffeine intake on a night time, stretching your calf muscles before bed, and increasing your intake of essential electrolytes, including potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Onions in socks

If you haven’t heard of this before, you’ll probably be slightly confused, but many people believe that putting onions in your socks is a remedy for the flu. The concept is that, because onions are slightly acidic, there can be antibacterial results when rubbed against things. Unfortunately for the believers, onions in your socks hasn’t been found to aid your recovery. As viruses require direct contact with a human being to spread, this wouldn’t allow an onion to draw the virus in and absorb it. Therefore, this myth appears to only work as a placebo effect.

Feed a cold, starve a fever

This is an important myth to debunk. The folklore of starving a fever has been around for hundreds of years, with some medical historians linking it as far back at the 1500s. Back then, doctors believed that a fever was caused because your metabolism was in overdrive.  However, you shouldn’t starve your fever, modern-day experts have warned. Doing so means you’ll have a lower calorie intake, which can then make it more difficult for your body to fight off the flu virus. According to research, eating less during the start of an infection can be dangerous

Swallowing chewing gum

As a child, you’ve probably been told time and time again not to swallow your chewing gum. Some of us may have been scared off swallowing our gum as it will stay in our system for seven years. While it’s not particularly advisable to do so, you can relax – this is a decades-old bit of folklore, according to pediatric gastroenterologist David Milov of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando. He explained: “That would mean that every single person who ever swallowed gum within the last seven years would have evidence of the gum in the digestive tract. On occasion we’ll see a piece of swallowed gum, but usually it’s not something that’s any more than a week old.”

Carrots improve sight

Myths have awarded carrots many benefits. Throughout the years, they have been associated with helping cure everything from snakebites to STDs. However, one of the most popular comments is that carrots can help you see in the dark.

This myth began as propaganda in the Second World War, when the British Royal Air Force created the tale that carrots assisted in Jon ‘Cats’ Eyes’ Cunningham’s great skills. This led to it being mandated for people to eat their carrots, as it would help them see better during the blackouts. Carrots are a nutritional vegetable and, while it can’t improve your vision, the levels of vitamin A and lutein can actually be beneficial for overall vision health.


It’s quite easy to do some research around myths to figure out how much truth they hold. If you do become ill, its best to contact your GP rather than listen to old wives’ tales.