This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
When making choices in order to optimize your health, it’s critical to have accurate information. Otherwise, some of the diet and lifestyle sacrifices you decide to make may be more harmful than they are helpful.
Let’s examine and debunk six popular medical myths about the things we avoid for our health. Along the way, you may find that you get to enjoy your pleasures after all — guilt free!
Medical Myth #1: Skinny People are Healthier
What the science shows: Excess Pounds, but Not Too Many, May Lead to Longer Life
Being overweight won’t kill you — it may even help you live longer. That’s the latest from a study that analyzed data on 11,326 Canadian adults ages 25 and older who were followed over a 12-year period. The report, published online in the journal Obesity, found that, overall, people who were overweight but not obese were actually less likely to die than people of normal weight. By contrast, people who were underweight were more likely to die than those of average weight. Their risk of dying was 73% higher than that of normal weight people, while the risk of dying for those who were overweight was 17% lower than for people of normal weight. The finding adds to a simmering scientific controversy over the optimal weight for adults.
Medical Myth #2: Salt Is Bad for You
That myth has been well busted. Repeated studies show that people with moderate to high salt intakes actually live longer.
Medical Myth #3: Oily Food Is Bad for You
This depends on the kind of oil or fat. Certain saturated and trans-fats present health concerns when consumed on a regular basis. But many fats have health advantages that far outweigh any potential health complications, like fish oil, for example.
Fish oil is especially healthy. Omega-3 deficiency is the sixth biggest killer of Americans and is more deadly than excess trans-fat intake, according to this study. The Harvard University researchers looked at 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors such as tobacco smoking and high blood pressure and used a mathematical model to determine how many fatalities could have been prevented if better practices had been observed. The study, jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Association of Schools of Public Health, drew on 2005 data from the U.S. National Health Center for Health Statistics. They determined that there were 72,000-96,000 preventable deaths each year due to omega-3 deficiency, compared to 63,000-97,000 for high trans-fat intake.
Medical Myth #4: Eggs Raise Cholesterol and Are Bad for You
One of the more painful myths in my book. At my last count, at least six studies showed that eating six eggs a day for six weeks had no significant effect on cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, eggs are the best, most complete, protein source available — and they’re loaded with B vitamins and carotenoids to boot.
Medical Myth #5: Chocolate Is Bad
Medical Myth #6 (the Most Deadly Myth): You Should Avoid Sunshine and Douse Yourself in SPF
This especially dangerous piece of medical mal-advice is causing an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, and is estimated to be causing 85,000 excess cancer deaths a year in the U.S. Vitamin D deficiency also contributes to obesity (see Adequate Vitamin D Levels May Aid Weight Loss in Obese Patients) and numerous other medical problems (see Vitamin D Could Save Your Life!). The proper advice? Avoid sunburn, not sunshine!