If you’ve ever consulted “Dr. Google” in an attempt to address a health concern, you’re not alone. More and more people are looking online for information about how to prevent, treat, and even diagnose illness. As a physician, I recognize that accessible information is a good thing, but I also know that there’s a lot of inaccurate information out there. Whether it’s a well-meaning but misinformed blogger or a private company trying to dupe you into buying their supposed miracle cure, much of what you read online is just plain wrong. Don’t be fooled by health myths! Here are 5 “facts” that are completely false.
Fat is bad.
There’s no doubt that consuming trans fats has negative consequences, especially when it comes to your heart. Harvard Health reports that the risk of heart disease rises by 23% for every 2% of calories from trans fats consumed daily. However, as I explain here, “good” fats like those found in olive oil have actually been shown to improve heart health. Many studies indicate consuming olive oil can improve cholesterol and keep blood vessels healthy. And, much like fish oil, olive oil seems to be of special help to people at risk of developing heart problems. One randomized clinical trial found a link between olive oil consumption and reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and mortality in individuals at high cardiovascular risk.
There’s no such thing as too much exercise.
I’m an IRONMAN triathlete, so it probably goes without saying that I’m a proponent of pushing yourself to the edge of your limits. But I also know that overtraining, a topic I explore here can lead to injury and may even be detrimental to your mental health. As I write about here, I’m all for setting goals in order to drive meaningful growth and stimulate true authentic expression of what matters to you, but not at the expense of your health.
Bottled water is better.
While manufacturers of bottled water may try to convince you that their product is cleaner or more “pure” than tap water, EcoWatch reports that 64% of bottled water actually is tap water. Perhaps more alarming is a recent study showing that bottled water produced by companies around the world could be contaminated by tiny pieces of plastic. Researchers found that 93 percent of the bottles they tested—including those by brands like Aquafina, Evian, and San Pellegrino—contained plastic, and 65 percent contained actual plastic particles (as opposed to fibers).
You can get the flu from a flu shot.
While it’s possible to experience side effects like soreness at the injection site or even a mild fever, a flu shot can’t cause you to develop influenza. This is because, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) , the vaccine is made with viruses that have been “inactivated” and are therefore not infectious. Since there are so many misconceptions about vaccines in general, I suggest visiting the CDC’s webpage about common vaccine safety concerns here if you have questions.
You can’t change your genes.
If you think genetic predisposition means certain conditions are inevitable, think again. Far from being at the mercy of your genes, you can affect which ones are turned on and off—not just in yourself but in your children and grandchildren—through lifestyle choices like diet, exercise, and stress management. As I explain here, the ever-expanding field of epigenetics (the study of how chemical and environmental factors impact our genetic health) has revealed many ways in which we can influence our genes. For example, one study found people who ate more fruits and vegetables were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease even if they carried copies of the gene that increases risk of heart problems, effectively “turning off” the gene.
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Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.