I have been hearing old wives’ tales since I was a small child. I think that’s something I have in common with many folks out there. My grandmother swears by them. Me? I’m not so sure. Some old wives’ tales definitely have their foundation in reality. Others, not so much. Let’s take a look at some of the most common old wives’ tales out there and separate the fact from the fiction.
Old Wives’ Tale: Warm Milk Helps You Sleep.
Truth: This one is fact, well, sort of. Many people find it easier to drift off to sleep after a nice cup of warm milk but the reason for that has more to do with psychology than any properties in actual warm milk. Warm milk does in fact contain tryptophan – the same stuff you find in turkey that is responsible for the sleepy feeling many people experience after turkey dinner – but in such small amounts it really doesn’t have any impact on the person drinking the milk. Instead, research indicated a glass of warm milk subconsciously takes the drinker back to infanthood when meals were warm milk.
Old Wives’ Tale: An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.
Truth: This one, like the warm milk tale, isn’t entirely false. According to a study by researchers at the University of Ulster, phenols in apples can help protect your DNA from damage in colon cancer cells. Another study out of Cornell University shows that primates that consume six apples a day are less likely to develop breast cancer. The indication seems to be that apples can in fact help fight off cancer. While the study isn’t conclusive, it probably doesn’t hurt to have a few apples each day anyway. Beyond the possible cancer fighting benefits, a healthier diet including fruits like apples can boost your immune system.
Old Wives’ Tale: Long, Hot Baths Mean Less Fertile Men.
Truth: This one is true but I have to be honest, until putting this article together, I’d never heard about any possible connection between how a man bathes and his sperm count so I’m not sure this one fits. Even so, I thought it was worth sharing. Researchers at the University of San Francisco asked men who would normally take long, hot baths to switch to showers instead. When comparing the men’s sperm count after they started showering with their sperm count while they were still taking baths, they noticed something surprising. Not only did the men have a higher sperm count when they were taking showers instead of baths, the men had significantly higher sperm counts when taking showers instead of baths. How significant? The men who switched from showers to baths had a sperm count increase of 500 percent!
Old Wives’ Tale: Gain a Child, Lose a Tooth
Truth: This one is surprisingly true, at least according to a study conducted by the New York University College of Dentistry. Researches studied nearly 3,000 women and found that there was a direct link between how many children a woman had and whether or not they developed tooth and gum disease. The finding in the end? Pregnancy actually does increase the chance of a woman developing gingivitis. The more children a woman has the greater the risk will be.
Old Wives’ Tale: Feed a Fever, Starve a Cold
Truth: This one is entirely false. Eating while sick with a cold or the flu is important as is making sure you get enough liquids. While you have a cold, you need to do everything you can to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs so that your body is able to find off that cold. Colds and fevers also leave you dehydrated so making sure you’re drinking plenty of liquids is important as well. In other words, eat three healthy meals a day whether you have a cold or a fever.
Old Wives’ Tale: Wait at Least an Hour to Swim After Eating.
Truth: In this case, the old wives’ tale just made sense to me and I never really gave it much thought but it turns out that this one is false. The Red Cross has stated that swimming after eating does not increase your chance of getting cramps although it is recommended that you do wait a little while if you’ve eaten something fatty. If you’ve had a light picnic lunch, you’re fine to dive in right away but if you’ve gorged yourself on hamburgers at a barbecue, it’s best to let the food settle.
Old Wives’ Tale: Carrots Are Good for Your Eyesight
Truth: This one is technically false but that doesn’t mean you should stop eating carrots. Carrots are still food for you, they just don’t actually improve your vision. There are several theories out there as to how this rumor got started but it likely has something to do with the fact that carrots contain vitamin A which is good for healthy eyes. Being good for maintaining healthy eyes is not the same as actually improving your vision though.
Old Wives’ Tale: Masturbation Will Make You Go Blind
Truth: This one is false for the most part but there may be a little bit of science behind how it got started. There is a lot of zinc in sperm and zinc deficiency can in fact lead to blindness. With that said, it would be nearly impossible for a man to masturbate often enough to lose enough zinc to create a zinc deficiency in his body. While it is technically possible the chances are so astronomically remote we can go ahead and call this one false.
Old Wives’ Tale: Cracking Your Knuckles Leads to Arthritis
Truth: Cracking your knuckles is kind of a disgusting habit and can annoy those around you but it isn’t going to give you arthritis. That’s right. This one is false. Old age, trauma to a joint and infection in a joint can all cause arthritis but cracking your knuckles cannot. That doesn’t mean cracking your knuckles can’t lead to other issues though. Knuckle cracking can lead to a weakened grip and can cause swelling in the knuckles. Something worth keeping in mind next time you want to give your knuckles a crack.
Old Wives’ Tale: Toads Give You Warts
Truth: Here’s the deal with warts – they’re unsightly and can even be painful but they cannot be contracted from an animal. If you have a wart on your hand, you did not contract it by petting a toad. You contracted your wart from a virus and the viruses that cause warts are almost always restricted to a given genus. In other words, you can’t catch warts from toads (or any other animal) and toads cannot catch warts from you. Most warts aren’t even able to be transferred from person to person although exceptions (such as genital warts) do exist.
Old Wives’ Tale: Eating Spicy Food Will Give You an Ulcer
Truth: This one is false and even a little bit of logical thinking should tell you that. If ulcers were caused by spicy foods, there would be an ulcer epidemic in any culture that features a staple diet of spicy food. On the other hand, the reason people might think this one is true is pretty obvious as well. Spicy food will irritate ulcers so if you have an ulcer, your doctor will likely tell you spicy food is off the menu.
Old Wives’ Tale: Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Ruin Your Vision
Truth: This one is kind of true and kind of false. Whether or not it is true for you depends on what kind of television you had and when it was made. Way back in the 1967, certain television sets made by GE had a defect that caused them to give off too much radiation. The defect was quickly corrected and since then, you can sit as close as you want to your television without fearing damage to your vision. Headaches are another story.