Health Myths Debunked: Booze, Chocolate & More

  • "Is it bad or is it good?"

    One day you hear that wine is great for you, the next day it's cirrhosis in a bottle... What's the truth? We say eat your chocolate and drink your booze. Then cover your body in leeches. It turns out these all may have some positive health benefits. Photo Credit: foodistablog   Join us on Facebook! (opens in a new window, and totally worth it)
    Red wine
  • Red wine

    Speaking of alcohol, what about the supposed health benefits of red wine in particular? POSSIBLE BENEFIT: According to the Mayo Clinic, "antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart." Also, a chemical in red wine called resveratrol may have a number of health benefits: "Research in mice given resveratrol has indicated that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease." REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: Research in mice does not necessarily mean the effects will be identical in humans. Despite this, some lab studies already show promising results in humans. Also, if you want to load up on antioxidants, there are a number of options such as pomegranate juice, grape juice and tea that deliver flavonoids without any alcohol. Photo Credit: congaman
    Dark Chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate

    Chocolate lovers frequently cite evidence that consumption of this sweet treat is actually good for you. What are the facts? POSSIBLE BENEFIT: Chocolate contains flavonoids, the same sort of antioxidants found in red wine. According to MSNBC.com, "The flavonoids in chocolate that laboratory studies demonstrate to have powerful antioxidant effects are called flavanols and procyanidins. These two compounds come from the flavonoid 'family' that includes resveratrol, found in grape juice, and EGCG, found in green tea. When people consume these substances in chocolate and cocoa, the antioxidant status of their blood increases." Antioxidants protect the heart and blood vessels, and also protect against DNA damage at the cellular level. REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: Before you spend your whole afternoon watching soaps and inhaling Hershey (Stock Quote: HSY) chocolate bars, remember that chocolate is fattening and can contain a lot of sugar. Go for dark and bittersweet chocolate varieties, as opposed to milk chocolate. Photo Credit: darwinbell
    Caffeine
  • Caffeine

    Is caffeine good for you? It certainly helps give you a quick jolt of energy, but some claim there are more reasons to appreciate your morning cup of coffee. POSSIBLE BENEFIT: "After analyzing data on 126,000 people for as long as 18 years, Harvard researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America's favorite morning drink, downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce diabetes risk by single digits. But having six cups or more each day slashed men's risk by 54% and women's by 30% over java avoiders." (WebMD) REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: Caffeine belongs to a class of stimulants known as xanthines... Even though it's legal, it is still a drug. Caffeine can be "mildly addictive" and frequent drinkers who stop their caffeine intake abruptly may experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and sharp headaches. Easy solution: don't stop drinking coffee! Ever! (Caffeine has been known to increase exclamation point usage.) Photo Credit: randysonofrobert
    Aspirin
  • Aspirin

    Many take aspirin daily to reduce the risk of heart attack. Is this an outdated form of preventive heart health? POSSIBLE BENEFIT: According to ScienceDaily, more than a decade ago the FDA recommended the regular use of aspirin for people at risk of heart attacks. Aspirin is available over the counter and very affordable. REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: The same ScienceDaily report shares some startling news about habitual aspirin use: "University of Kentucky heart disease researchers say that nearly a quarter of a million Americans each year may be hospitalized with bleeding complications caused by needlessly taking a daily dose of an adult-sized aspirin rather than a baby aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke." So make sure if you do go on the aspirin regimen, you aren't taking too high a dose each day. Photo Credit: ragesoss
    Booze
  • Booze

    We all know that alcohol can be bad. But is it actually good? POSSIBLE BENEFIT: A recent study found that "of 38,000 patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries who were admitted to U.S. hospitals between 2000 and 2005, 38 percent had alcohol in their blood. Such patients had a lower risk of dying of their injuries than those who hadn't been drinking." It's ironic that the booze that got you into the car accident could be the very thing that saves your life. REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: Drunk driving is still a leading cause of death in the United States. According to MADD, last year "an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC." Also, habitual alcohol abuse can lead to serious liver damage. Photo Credit: monstershaq2000
    Leeching?!
  • Leeching?!

    Back before annoying things like "science" and "medical lawsuits," leeching was a popular and easy form of folk medicine. Now it may be making a 21st century comeback. POSSIBLE BENEFIT: According to A-list actress and Ashton Kutcher spouse Demi Moore, leeches can lead to one's health being "optimized" -- she reportedly has used them to detoxify her blood. REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: None. If Demi does it, that's good enough for us. Doctor, a bowl of fresh leeches, stat! Photo Credit: Oakley Originals
    Smoking
  • Smoking

    Take this one with a grain of salt. But some smokers can use science to their advantage: it may kill you (eventually), but in the meantime smokers might enjoy some unexpected benefits. POSSIBLE BENEFIT: According to a somewhat dubious Guardian article, even smokers can claim they are doing something "healthy." You see, "smokers are at least doing their bit to slow down the runaway obesity epidemic that is sweeping through the western world. 'In many studies, you often find smokers are slimmer. We've certainly seen it in our studies,' says Jodi Flaws at the University of Maryland school of medicine. 'Some people think it's due to certain chemicals in cigarettes somehow making them burn more calories, but others believe it suppresses appetite. It may well be both.'" Also, the article says that smoking may prevent the onset of certain forms of dementia. What was I saying? Oh yes, apricots. REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM: As the Guardian is quick to point out, "drastically upping your chances of cancer and heart disease might not be the best way to avoid obesity." You think?   Join us on Facebook! (opens in a new window, and totally worth it)
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