We're taught early on that man is the smartest animal on earth. This is partly because of our ability to communicate: to form words and speak languages. Words have immense power. However, there's a flip side to this: homo sapiens, the smartest beings to walk the planet, are prey to hear-say.

We have all grown up listening to countless medical myths. As a collective, there’s a lot we need to work on. Let’s begin by dispelling these common medical myths first!

  1. Does drinking milk strengthen bones?
  2. Does sugar make children hyperactive?
  3. Does reading in dim light harm the eyesight?
  4. Can having sex help you lose weight?
  5. Do boys really have a testosterone spike at age 4?

The first myth we hear growing up is how drinking milk strengthens the bones. Milk contains calcium, which is pivotal for bone health. However, is there a relationship between healthy bones and milk consumption? A large study with 77,000 women done at Harvard University over 10 years says no. The study found no significant difference in the number of fractures (hip and arm) among those who had one glass or less a week and those who had two glasses or more.

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We have seen it in the movies. We may even have heard some new parents tell others that sweets make their children hyperactive—and difficult to put to bed when if the kids eat sweets late in the evening.

It is generally good advice to keep kids away from sweets—and not just for their oral health like preventing cavities. But do sweets have any impact on children's activity level? Research says not really.

Research has shown that sugar doesn't affect children's behaviour or cognitive performance. Research says we can't rule out the possibility of a small effect, but this effect is certainly not as great as most parents report.

We have all heard this one: switch on extra lights while you study, don’t read in a dimly lit room. Perhaps this myth came into existence because of the physiological experience of eye strain. Not reading in optimal lighting surely leads to discomfort and a general difficulty in focusing.

However, these effects do not persist. Research has shown that although reading in dim lights can cause eye strain with temporary negative effects like dry eyes, etc., it is unlikely to cause a permanent change. (Read more: How to improve eyesight)

Sexual encounters, no matter how strenuous they seem, do not burn a lot of calories. It is a commonly-held belief that each time you have sex, you burn as many calories as you would by walking a mile (1.61 kilometres). This is as far from the truth as can be. The average sexual encounter lasts about six minutes and burns as few as 30 calories. To put that in context, you can gain 30 calories when you eat half a guava.

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Most social interaction begins around age 4. Children have to learn how to communicate their needs, likes and dislikes. Upon failing to do so, there may be emotional outbursts that involve physical expression due to the lack of the ability to articulate. This is sometimes attributed by parents (and old wives) to a spike in testosterone in boys.

However, this does not have anything to do with testosterone, which is the primary male sex hormone. It rises manyfold during puberty and that is when changes in behaviour are clearly visible.

If you notice your child acting out, you have to make sure they know how to process their feelings. Studies confirm that it's impossible for testosterone levels to rise at such a young age, considering the testes (where the hormone is made) are small and the hormones responsible for testosterone production are very low.

You might also be interested in: Testosterone deficiency disorder

References

  1. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997;87(6):992-997
  2. Owusu W, Willett WC, Feskanich D, Ascherio A, Spiegelman D, Colditz GA Calcium Intake and the Incidence of Forearm and Hip Fractures among Men The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 127, Issue 9, September 1997, Pages 1782–1787
  3. Bohlen JG, Held JP, Sanderson MO, Patterson RP Heart rate, rate-pressure product, and oxygen uptake during four sexual activities Arch Intern Med. 1984;144(9):1745-1748
  4. araneh Rezaii, Thomas P. Gustafsson, Magnus Axelson, Leyla Zamani, Malin Ernberg, Angelica L. Hirschberg, Kjell A. M. Carlström Circulating androgens and SHBG during the normal menstrual cycle in two ethnic populations Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation 77:3, pages 184-189.
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