“Eating Carrots Helps You See In the Dark”: Myths & Superstitions That Survive In 21st Century Britain:

Which side of the bed do you get out of in the morning? According to a survey of 2,000 people conducted for the iron supplement brand Spatone , quoted by the Daily Mail journalist Alex Matthews, if you choose the right side you’ll take longer to feel fully awake and are more likely to be in a bad mood for the rest of the day – which is why 10% of those questioned say they’ve also tried the left side to see if it makes any difference.

Anna Berrill, a columnist with the same newspaper, has reported that 5.8 million people in Britain admit to believing in “old wives tales” or to being in some way superstitious. She has cited statistics issued by the Betway Group, a leading online gaming organisation, which reveal that more than ten million won’t walk under a ladder because they fear it will bring them bad luck – a myth that apparently dates back to early Christian teaching that an object with three points represents the Holy Trinity. Another nine million worry that breaking a mirror will result in seven years’ misfortune, 4.3 million have a “lucky number” (with 7 being the most popular), 2.7 million are convinced that if they blow out all the candles on their birthday cake in one breath, the wish they make will come true and more than 800,000 confess that they believe in the power of “lucky underwear”.

Among the other “Top Superstitions” in the UK: Don’t open an umbrella in the house or put new shoes on the table, Friday 13th “is a day to beware” (in Latin countries, it’s usually Tuesday 13th) and if a black cat crosses your path, that means you’ll have problems, though in Japan it’s considered by some to be a good sign. In Germany, so bluecross.org states, it depends on which direction the cat walks in front of you: Left to right means good times ahead, but right to left means the opposite. In Scotland, “tradition suggests that if a black cat appears on your doorstep, you could be coming into money”.

The latest study by Spatone, published on May 8th, has confirmed that “almost four in ten adults in Britain continue to put trust in myths about food, for instance that consuming carrots can improve a person’s eyesight. The “Scientific American” monthly publication agrees that the vegetable’s “beta-carotene / Vitamin A ingredient” can be beneficial, but also points out that “it’s not clear how many carrots would be needed to optimize night vision”. Many other widespread myths, say Spatone, have been conclusively proven to be untrue – such as the notion that eggs are “bad” because they contain high cholesterol. On the contrary, the Readers Digest magazine has declared, “more than 40 years of research has shown that eggs are “nutrient-dense” and can absolutely be part of a healthy diet”.

Gemma Francis, a correspondent for The Independent, on 8th May assessed the accuracy of other common assumptions: “You shouldn’t eat a meal after 8 pm if you want to lose weight”:(False). “Sugar is a great source of energy”:(False: The initial boost it gives you is often followed by a drop in vitality levels); “An apple a day keeps the doctor away and chewing them helps cleans your teeth” (True: They are a good source of Vitamin C which is essential for healthy gums, teeth, bones and skin and their fibrous content can act as a toothbrush).

Some other food products, it seems, possess qualities that are less well-known. Honey, so the Daily Mail commentator Angela Epstein has claimed, can heal wounds:”It’s the only natural antiseptic available which does not damage skin tissues and for centuries has been used to treat infections”. The mercola.com website has asserted that eating tomatoes can limit the risk from sun exposure: “In an experiment at the University of Michigan, participants were asked to consume 16 mg of lycopene from tomato paste with olive oil daily for 10 weeks – the conclusion being that this method was able to reduce ultra-violet induced sunburn by about 40%”.

The Readers Digest has noted that only 5% of the sodium we imbibe comes from the salt we sprinkle on our meals. Most of it “is hidden in packed and processed food” that we buy in supermarkets or eat when we’re dining out in restaurants. Dark chocolate “is said to provide antioxidant benefits, but unfortunately is one of those feel-good foods that is high in fat and sugar”.

The Readers Digest also offers advice on other healthcare myths: “Without exposure to the common cold virus, you can go outside with your hair drenching wet and it would be impossible to catch a cold. It’s the virus, not the cold air, that makes you sick”. It acknowledges that “hunching can be bad for your back” but that sitting up straight for too long can also cause strain: Make sure, it exhorts, that “your chair is at a height where your knees are at a 90 degree angle, your feet can rest flat on the floor and you have proper lower back support.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Manetti, a writer for the Huffington Post, has recommended using the oils from walnuts to remove or seal scratches on furniture made of wood and has proposed various solutions for anyone suffering from nocturnal leg cramps: Avoid caffeine before going to bed, increase your intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium or Vitamin E, ingest a teaspoon of yellow mustard, drink a glass of water with a small amount of baking soda mixed into it – and if none of that works, sleep on your back with your toes pointing towards the ceiling.

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on May 21st, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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