Monday, April 12, 2010

Old Wives Fables

We've all heard those Old Wives Fables and maybe even tried some. But do they work?

1. Grandma's wisdom: Ginger is good for upset stomachs.

Science says: Yes. Good evidence shows ginger reduces nausea.

2. Grandma's wisdom: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Science says: Granny's overstating this fruit's potency. Still, the peel is a good source of quercetin, an important antioxidant that, studies suggest, helps lower blood pressure, fight asthma and allergies, and prevent heart attacks.

3. Grandma's wisdom: Honey speeds healing.

Science says: Yes. Mild to moderate burns (but not other types of wounds) heal faster if you spread honey on them -- maybe because it creates a moist, antibacterial environment that promotes tissue growth.

4. Grandma's wisdom: Put butter on a burn.

Science says: No. There's no evidence of a benefit from butter.

5. Grandma's wisdom: Sleeping in air-conditioning can give you a chill.

Science says: She may be onto something. Air conditioners dry out the protective layer of mucus along nasal passages, which likely allows viruses to infect you more easily. Viruses reproduce faster inside a cold nose too.

6. Grandma's wisdom: If you go out with wet hair, you'll catch a cold.

Science says: Maybe. Some research indicates (but doesn't prove) that a wet head helps cold viruses take hold, by tightening blood vessels in the nose and making it harder for white blood cells to reach the viruses and fight them off.

7. Grandma's wisdom: Swimming after eating can lead to cramps and drowning.

Science says: Not exactly, but not completely wrong either. After you eat, blood gets shunted to your digestive tract and away from exercising muscles. That can lead to a buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, so swimming a few laps too soon after lunch could cause a sudden (though not fatal) cramp.

8. Grandma's wisdom: Chocolate gives you pimples.

Science says: Not quite. Chocolate bars might trigger an acne flare-up, but if so, the culprit is probably the sugar, milk, and gooey fillings, not the cocoa.

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