10 myths you may have heard from your parents

UCHealth’s Dr. Ian Tullberg sets the record straight on some parenting fables.
June 30, 2017

Chewing gum stays in your stomach for five to seven years.

False. Most chewing gum is not digestible, meaning that it will travel through your system in a matter of two to four days.

Wait an hour after eating before you go swimming to prevent cramping.

False. A normal-sized meal consumed before swimming will not cause cramping.

It is possible to feel tired and fatigued after overeating, so maybe avoid swimming.

We only use 10 percent of our brain.

False. This is a motivational speaker’s ploy (that can be tracked back to the early 1900s) to encourage people to live up to their full potential. Studies of brain activity have provided no evidence that only 10 percent of the brain is used.

Sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind.

False. Televisions and other devices emit such low levels of radiation that they have little effect on the body. However, staring at the same thing for a long period of time can cause the eye muscles to fatigue, thereby affecting vision. But there has been no proof this causes long-term damage.

Shaved hair grows back thicker and darker.

False. Although your mom may have told you this as a young girl so you wouldn’t be so eager to start shaving your legs, it’s not true. Because the hair is newer, it may have not yet been bleached by the sun, and so it appears darker and thicker.

Sugar makes children hyper.

False. Several studies have shown that sugar doesn’t cause children to be more hyper. Some studies demonstrated that parents who thought their child was given sugar believed them to be more hyper even when they weren’t given sugar — demonstrating the misconception parents sometimes have.

However, sugar does affect behavior. A breakfast high in sugar has been shown to result in severe deterioration of attention span when compared to no breakfast or whole-grain cereal. One study reported that children who were given sugar had higher levels of adrenaline — a possible explanation for this misconception because higher adrenaline levels lead to symptoms similar to those of hyperactivity.

If you go outside with wet hair on a cold day, you’ll catch a cold.

False. Colds are caused by viruses, which you can’t get just from being outside in the cold. You may feel sick if you’re outside all day in the cold or rain — runny nose, chills, fatigue — but it’s not because of a virus. It’s because you can experience the same symptoms when you are chilled as when you are sick.

You lose most of your heat through your head.

False. If you look at surface area, the head is no bigger than the rest of your body. It’s maybe about 10-15 percent of total surface area, and that’s the percentage of body heat lost through the head.

Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

False. A 30-year study showed this is not the case. However, knuckle cracking can lessen one’s grip strength because of repeated overstretching of the tendons.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

False. Breakfast is actually one of three most important meals of the day. Our bodies need good nutrition throughout the day, but breakfast is usually the one most often skipped, and it shouldn’t be.