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In this brave new world of alternative facts, we wanted to know… Does cracking your knuckles really does cause arthritis? And do you really lose half your body heat through your head?

Thanks to some clever people from the University of Otago, we now know the truth about five common myths.

Myth 1: Sugar makes kids hyperactive

Studies on kids of sugar vs artificial sweeteners show sugar has no effect on behaviour. The excitement of the party and treats with friends makes kids hyperactive. The body is really good at maintaining normal blood sugar levels, even after eating lollies.

Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Head of Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Myth 2: Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis

Recent sophisticated imaging studies have concluded the knuckle-cracking noise is due to changes in pressure in gas found in normal joints. There is no evidence that cracking joints causes immediate or long term damage to joints. In fact, joints may move through a larger range of motion after cracking and the joints of crackers may be healthier than those of non-crackers.

Dr Rebecca Grainger, Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington.

Myth 3: When you start shaving, the hair will grow in thicker

Before puberty body hair is fine and downy. After puberty – about the time shaving starts hair becomes coarser and darker, adult-type hair. Shaving coincides with this darker hair appearing so it seems that shaving has caused it.

Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Head of Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Myth 4: You lose half your body heat through your head

This is partially true, but not half your body heat. In adults the head makes up about 7-10% of the skin surface, and you will lose 10% of your heat through it. We don’t usually go out naked in cold weather, however. If the rest of you is wrapped up warmly and only your head is exposed, a hat can reduce the exposed area by quite a bit. Also, babies have proportionately much bigger heads. A hat on a newborn will reduce heat loss by 23%.

Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Head of Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Myth 5: Deodorants cause breast cancer

Studies using reliable methods show that there is no evidence that this is true, unlike the studies on alcohol. To reduce your chances of breast cancer, decrease alcohol consumption, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.

Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Head of Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.

First published Capital issue 49
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