Man has always been drawn to the making of and believing in myths, even when it comes to health, even though we live in a time when medical science has achieved new advancements through one breakthrough after the other. This is largely because of the effort to find cures for the incurable diseases, the fear in their mind about new, more complex ones and the ignorance about the new products that hit the market every day. That is what has given birth to some of the most popular urban legends regarding diseases and cures. Here are some of the urban medical legends. How many of these are really true? Let’s find out:
1. Vicks VapoRub Fixes Severe Cough
Status: Not proven
Rubbing Vick VapoRub on the feet and covering with socks supposedly cures even severe cough, 100% of times, and works better than prescription drugs. Though it’s widely claimed that the Canada Research Institute has established this, the truth is that the subject has not been researched or tested, and has not been proven or disapproved. The idea probably developed from the old belief that internal irritant might be countered by external application of products with mild irritants, such as garlic, mustard or camphor, and VapoRub, too has irritants. There are many reflexes that cause cough, which may or may not be triggered by different ways. There is no good reason to believe that VapoRub is a definite cure.
2. John Hopkins suggests dietary and lifestyle changes to eliminate cancer
A forwarded email is viral all over the internet that suggests that bringing changes in lifestyle and food habits not only prevents cancer but also eliminates it. In fact, the content of the email starts with the negative effects of chemotherapy. It is assumed by laymen that bringing dietary and lifestyle improvements, such as eating less proteins, acids, or carbohydrates, and more of fish, avoiding plastic and microwave, etc. works better than chemotherapy, which is against current medical science. This misleading article has, in fact, been disapproved by John Hopkins.
3. Freezing or microwaving plastic containers can release carcinogenic Dioxin
This net lore was generated from the rumour about John Hopkins’ cancer prevention paper that was supposed to have made such a claim. John Hopkins has dismissed this. While freezing actually works against the release of chemicals, there is also no proof that plastic has dioxin that can be released either by microwaving or by freezing.
4. Bottle water left in car can develop breast-cancer causing dioxin
Status: Research under process, false as written
Sheryl Crow had reportedly warned against drinking water from heated plastic bottles, as per her nutritionist’s advice, which made this rumour even more famous. But, Crow later confirmed that she had not blamed bottled water for her cancer. While studies have shown that even the tested bottles might leach compounds into the water content, the substances have so far been found in miniscule amounts only, which cause no harm to the body. Studies are still being pursued in this regard. Besides, plastic is not believed to contain dioxin that can be leached into the water. No evidence has been found to relate car heat, plastic and dioxin. The real concern is, in fact, germ-related, and it is best to not refill and reuse empty plastic bottles, especially disposable ones.
5. Lemon, Asparagus, Jackfruit and Graviola cure cancer
The constant shares on Facebook are doing nothing but raise false hopes in the minds of people. Though these fruits and vegetables have been found to have cancer-fighting potential, but, nothing more has been proven. Perhaps the most popular of these supposedly anti-carcinogenic fruits is graviola or soursop fruit with cytotoxic properties. Though scientists believe that its properties will allow it to be used some day for safe attack on cancer, there is no test done yet on the human body. In fact, its juice is not recommended to be used on its own for reversing cancer or killing cancer cells.
6. Food and beverages contaminated with HIV causes AIDS
Several anecdotes keep appearing on the internet about how people have consumed pineapples, tomato ketchup, Pepsi, Paani-Puri, etc., contaminated with HIV-infected blood or semen, have caught AIDS. The list of such food is increasing every day. The truth is, AIDS is not a food-borne disease. In fact, HIV cannot survive outside human body, and is also destroyed by air, heat and stomach acids, according to Centers for Disease Control.
7. Ogling a busty woman has health benefits for men
Several articles can be found about how National Institute of Health has proven that ogling at a woman’s bust can increase the life-span of a male. However, there is no such research on the subject. This is probably just faux-journalism, or an effort to justify objectification of women in public.
8. Performing Fellatio can help a woman decrease breast cancer risks
This is another one of the spoofs, first published to look like a CNN publication by Associated Press, though 24 hours after its publication, it was mentioned that the article was meant for ‘entertainment purposes only’.
9. Flesh- eating bananas
It was rumoured that some non-existent Manheim Research Institute had theorized that bananas imported from Costa Rica carried necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. While the medical condition is a rare one caused by Group A Streptococcus Bacterium that causes strep throat, the disease can be spread through direct contact with open wounds or secretion from an infected person, only, as per Centers for Disease Control. Though theoretically, the bacteria can be transmitted through prepared food by an infected person, experts agree that bananas cannot carry such bacteria.
10. Instant noodles can cause cancer
Internet folklore has it that instant noodles have wax coating that can cause cancer. Besides, they come in Styrofoam containers, too, are lined with carcinogenic wax. Noodles do not stick together because of the process of cutting the dough and because they are steamed and fried before being packed. If there had been wax, it would eventually melt away while cooking. The polystyrene foam containers are well capable of heat retention, as well as holding the noodles and liquids. Besides, even if there was any trace of wax, it has no connection with cancer. However, these are not good enough reasons o binge on the fatty, sodium- filled instant noodles.
It is advisable to not blindly believe in the urban medical legends, and consult experts before experimenting with the body or being scared to death about some potential health hazard.