The Twelve Myths of Christmas: True or False?

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  1. Eating Too Many Carrots Turns Your Skin Orange

This is actually true but you’d have to eat a lot of carrots for it to happen. Carrots contain beta-carotene and if you consume too many, the excess beta-carotene enters your bloodstream where it is not properly broken down. Instead it is deposited in the skin, leading to an orange skin discolouration called carotenaemia. It is a common and harmless condition that typically affects infants when they begin eating solids since carrots are a popular choice among new parents.

  1. Eating Turkey Makes You Sleepy

This is true. Turkey is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that your body turns into a B vitamin called niacin. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin, a brain chemical that is associated with sleep. It is not just the turkey that makes you sleepy. It’s also the stuffing and potatoes because eating these carbohydrates allows the tryptophan to easily enter the brain speeding up the serotonin production. If you add alcohol into the mix as well, it is no wonder you can hardly keep your eyes open.

  1. You Can Detoxify Your Body

Although an appealing idea, this myth is false. For doctors to know if a detox therapy works they need to know two things. Firstly, they need to know what toxin is being removed from the body and secondly they need to know how it will be removed. Researchers found that companies simply renamed ordinary processes like cleaning or brushing, calling the “detoxifying”. They used “detox” as an advertising buzzword. Legitimate detoxification happens in a hospital, usually when something has seriously gone wrong such as a patient with heavy metal poisoning or treatment of an alcoholic.

  1. Exercise Makes You Smarter

This is true! It is not just your body that benefits from exercise but your brain too. Your body produces a chemical called irisin during endurance exercise. This activates genes related to learning and memory and results in new neurones being created. Exercise also lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

  1. Eating Late at Night Makes You Gain Weight

Another true myth … in general late-night eaters tend to weigh more and have a higher body mass index than those who eat earlier in the day. It is thought that this is because eating at night can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels.

  1. Vitamin C Stops You Catching The Cold

This is false. Vitamin C does not stop you catching a cold but there is some evidence that it may reduce the duration of symptoms by a day or two if taken in high dose (1000mg daily).

  1. You Should Wash Poultry Before Cooking

This is definitely false. Poultry should not be washed before cooking as this can increase the risk of food poisoning with campylobacter, a nasty bug that causes bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and severe tummy cramps.

  1. Fresh Vegetables Are More Nutritious Than Frozen

There are conflicting opinions on this one. If eaten within a few hours of picking, fresh produce is the most nutritious. However most “fresh” produce in shops is actually several days or even weeks old and the nutrients start to break down from the moment the produce if picked. On the other hand, many frozen vegetables are quick frozen very soon after picking and this preserves more of the nutrients. So unless you can grow your own vegetable and use them as soon as you pick them, frozen vegetables may be more nutritious.

  1. All Fat is Bad For You

This is false. Healthy fats are essential for good health and have been shown to protect from a range of chronic diseases especially heart disease. Healthy fats include monounsaturates and polyunstaurates, found in nuts, seed, olive, olive oil and avocados. They also include omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, linseeds, flaxseeds and soyabeans. You should minimise saturated fat intake; butter, cheese, red meats.

  1. Eating Carrots Improves Your Eyesight

This myth has been about since World War Two when rumours circulated that pilots ate lots of carrots to optimise their vision. In reality, unless you a very deficient in vitamin A, more carrots won’t make any difference to your vision.

  1. Natural Sugar Alternatives are Healthy

False. We all know eating too much sugar is bad for us, so it’s not surprising we convince ourselves natural sugar alternatives are healthy. However, our body still sees it as sugar. Agave syrup, maple syrup, honey and brown sugar are still sugar and although they may have more micronutrients than refined sugar, these are in such small quantities to make no meaningful difference. Sugar is sugar. The World Health Organisation recommends limiting daily added sugar to less than five per cent of energy intake (this equates to six to seven teaspoons).

  1. Chocolate is Good For You

This is true; if it is dark chocolate and you limit it to two squares per day!

Main Photo Credit: Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash

Dr Ken

Dr Ken Ferguson is a GP based in Glasgow with many years’ experience of working in varied roles across the NHS. He has a professional interest in facial aesthetics as well as general practice. He is a keen runner, enjoys cooking and is an enthusiastic dressmaker.
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