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Five fascinating takeaways from this list of medical myths

Medical Pharmaceutical Translations • May 2, 2022 12:00:00 AM

A recent article on pop culture site Buzzfeed lists thirty famous health and science myths and explains why each one is wrong.

Like many Buzzfeed articles, it’s a fun and interesting read. Also like many Buzzfeed articles, it offers some interesting insights. Here are five takeaways about how medical myths start, why they continue, and maybe even whether or not we’ll ever see an end to medical and scientific misinformation.

1. A surprising amount of famous medical myths come from misinterpreting or misunderstanding scientific facts.

For instance, the idea that taste buds for specific tastes are located on separate parts of the tongue probably goes back to a study conducted in the 1930’s which found that there are more taste receptors on certain areas of the tongue. This seems to have been misinterpreted and evolved into the popular (but incorrect) belief about “taste zones”.

2. Many of the best-known medical myths have to do with food and dieting.

Although some of these ideas were instilled to help people eat healthy, many also seem to show a pattern of belief-based, rather than fact-based, eating that continues today. Some more recent myths include the need to“detox” the body with teas and other products (Actually, the body “detoxes” on its own, thanks to the liver and kidneys).

3. False information spreads even without the internet.

We often blame the internet for the propagation of lies and “fake news”, but the fact that many of the medical and science myths on the list have been around for decades, if not centuries, shows that it’s just one way to spread inaccurate facts. Maybe it also shows that regardless of the internet making it easy to do so, fact-checking isn’t an inherent part of human nature.

4. Pop culture magnifies medical and scientific myths.

Sometimes an idea about health or science becomes popular that it’s mentioned or even featured in pop culture like movies and TV shows. For instance, the iconic character Popeye’s power is based on the medical myth that spinach is packed with iron that makes you strong!

Other myths perpetuated by TV and film include ideas like humans only using 10% of our brains and that it takes seven years for gum to travel through the human digestive tract.

With this in mind, maybe medical professionals and advocates can try to connect with show business types to inject some real facts about health, medical conditions, and diet into beloved TV series and movies.

5. We’ll probably always have health and science myths.

A majority of patients look up health information on the internet, so we are taking initiative when it comes to finding facts. The problem is that we’re often so overwhelmed by the information that’s out there that we may not bother to check for accuracy.

With time and with articles like the Buzzfeed list that explains the reality behind them, some long-standing health myths may eventually come to an end. On the other hand, it’s likely that others will take their place. Throughout human history, we’ve held different beliefs about how to stay healthy, after all.

But will these new myths ever become as popular as their predecessors? Some, like the belief in detox products, or, as we covered in a previous article, the idea that certain foods are inherently harmful for all people, have already become a cause for alarm in the health community.

Still, with powerful voices posing arguments against them, maybe they won’t become as deeply ingrained in our society as, say, the idea that if you go outside with wet hair, you’re sure to catch a cold.

If nothing else, the Buzzfeed list shows the importance of the right kind of communication. If health experts and advocates can find ways to effectively reach large audiences, they may be able to dispel health myths new and old. This is a daunting task, of course, but even starting small can have results. Learning what a target group tends to watch and who or what tends to influence them is a good place to start.

For instance, we can see this idea put into practice in a recent CNN video, which features dieticians and other medical experts who are confronting food myths on TikTok.

So, if there’s a health myth you want to bust, find your audience and spread the word!

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