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Old wives' tales exposed

I've been on a quest, as of late, to admonish what most people refer to as "old wives tales" related to health. I've heard far too many of them over the years and by the people that I respect the most - close family and friends.

That said, I think it's time we stop spreading false rumors and focus on what science is telling us about these common health myths.

You lose most of your body heat through your head. The old saying that 40 to 45 percent of the body's heat is lost through the head just doesn't hold. If that were the case, going outside in cold temperatures without a hat would feel like going out without pants on.

It turns out covering up one part of the body has as much effect to combat the cold as covering up another. But, a comprehensive study from the University of North Carolina has shown that the face, head and chest are more sensitive to the cold, which makes it feel much better to cover them up on a cold day. 

Cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis. The pop of a cracking knuckle is the result of the burst of air bubbles in the fluid surrounding the joint. The air will return to the knuckle in about 25 to 30 minutes, thus making the knuckle cracking possible once again.

A study by Raymond Brodeur involving 300 knuckle crackers showed no increase in arthritis rates but, those who cracked most often had tissue damage and a decrease in grip strength, likely from repeated stretching of the joint.

Sugar makes kids hyper. Most parents don't want to hear that this one is false for fear of losing some kind of control over their children's behavior.

Surprisingly, a number of scientific studies have shown that sugar doesn't make children hyper. In fact, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed children did not behave differently at all when given sugar-full or sugar-free diets.

But, this shouldn't be a cause to let your child load up on sugary sweets. Consequences like excess weight, tooth decay and vitamin deficiency still lurk.

Stress and spicy foods cause ulcers. As I learned from a college biology course, eating spicy food or being stressed does not cause ulcers - bacteria called helicobacter pylori does.

An ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the digestive tract. While stress and spicy foods will not cause an ulcer, they sure can exacerbate them. So the real question for those suffering from ulcers is, how do I get rid of the bacteria?

They are a tough group to kill because they live in the lining of the stomach. Good news, a combination of acid reducing medications and a course of antibiotics can help. Talk with your doctor to find out the best course of treatment for you.

If you have questions about any of these myths and would like resources please contact Douglas County Public Health at (320) 763-6018.