Myth: Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight

You have probably heard the theory that eating a big breakfast can help you lose weight, as you won’t be as hungry later in the day. That way you will avoid late night snacking, when your body is less active, and can’t burn off the calories.

There have been studies that seem to suggest that this theory is true. But this evidence has been accused of being biased by misrepresenting its own data, and due to the scholarship of the researchers. So how true is the idea that eating breakfast can help you lose weight?

Calorie Intake

In 2019, the British Medical Journal reviewed previous research into breakfast and weight loss. They found that there is no strong evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast can help you lose weight, or that skipping your morning meal can lead to weight gain.

The study showed that those who eat breakfast generally consumed more calories a day than those who skipped this meal. On average they ate 260 more calories. Breakfast eaters were also around 0.44 kilograms heavier than people who didn’t eat breakfast.

Does this mean that you should skip breakfast to lose weight? The short answer is no – breakfast can be an important part of your diet. The researchers warned that “eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, such as improved concentration and attentiveness levels in childhood”.

We all know that some breakfasts are healthier than others – many breakfast cereals are packed with sugar. Overall, weight loss is about calorie intake more than when you eat your meals, or skipping meals altogether.

Is Skipping Meals Healthy?

A lot of people skip breakfast, as they don’t have time in the morning to eat before going to work. As discussed, this may not impact your weight overall, but skipping meals isn’t considered to be a good idea.

The NHS advise that skipping meals can lead to tiredness, and that you may not take in enough essential nutrients in a day. If your body is low on energy, you may also crave more high-fat and high-sugar foods, to make up your daily calorie intake. If you then indulge in such foods, you could actually consume more calories than needed, and end up putting on weight.

 

Key Tips

●     Much of the research showing that eating breakfast can help you lose weight has been found to be biased

●     Eating breakfast can lead to a higher calorie intake. Though this will depend on what you choose to eat

●     Skipping meals may lead to tiredness, and craving foods with higher calorie counts. This in turn can lead to weight gain

●     When you eat doesn’t really impact your weight. The bigger concerns are eating a balanced diet and your activity or exercise levels

Late Night Eating

Closely connected to the idea that eating breakfast is good for you is the belief that eating later in the day can cause you to put on more weight. The reasoning behind this theory does make sense. Your body doesn’t digest as quickly while you sleep. So eating late at night could mean your body doesn’t have enough time to fully digest the meal. But some studies show that the time you eat makes no difference to your weight.

A study was conducted a few years ago at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, looking at the diet of 16 female rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were placed on high-fat diets, similar to the fat content consumed by humans in the United States and other Western countries. The monkeys also had no ovaries, so could be comparable to menopausal women. Between the high-fat diet and decreased ovarian function, the monkeys were bound to put on weight.

The monkeys were observed for a year. The researchers recorded how much the monkeys ate, when they ate, and how much weight they gained. What they found was no consistent pattern. Eating more didn’t necessarily mean putting on more weight! And the time of day or night the food was consumed didn’t seem to matter.

The conclusion was that late night eating may not be any worse for you than eating earlier in the day. The researchers also stated that your diet may not be the biggest factor when it comes to weight gain or loss. Your activity level is more likely to make a difference in terms of losing weight.

Myth: All Fat is Bad

Within our supermarkets, there’s almost limitless variety when it comes to food. And these days, anything marketed as ‘full fat’ has negative connotations, while ‘low fat’ or ‘nonfat’ products are held in high esteem. This paradigm would lead you to believe that all fat is bad. But is that truly the case?

What Do Fats Do?

As part of a balanced diet, it’s essential that we eat a small amount of fat. Fat is a source of necessary fatty acids, which we use for energy storage. Our bodies can’t make these fatty acids themselves, so rely on getting them through food.

Fat can additionally help the body absorb particular vitamins, such as  vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E – these vitamins can’t be absorbed without the help of fats. Fat stores in your body are also useful for things such as cushioning and warmth.

Key Tips

●     Fats can be good for you, and are essential for absorbing particular vitamins

●     There are certain types of fat that we should try to avoid, such as saturated and trans fats. These can heighten your cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease and strokes

●     Studies have shown that some fats can make you healthier and improve your blood cholesterol

●     Low fat diets don’t seem to reduce the risk of heart disease. They also don’t seem to reduce certain types of cancer

●     The percentage of fat in your diet is less important than the types of fat you consume

Saturated and Trans Fats

The type of fat we should try to cut back on are saturated fats. According to the NHS, most people in the UK overindulge when it comes to saturated fats. The guidelines recommended by the government are as follows:

  • Men should not consume more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • Women should not consume more than 20g of saturated fat a day
  • Children should consume less saturated fat than adults

It can be difficult to avoid eating any saturated fats, as they can be found in many foods – sweet and savoury. They are more likely to be found in animal based products, however, such as meat and dairy products. The biggest exceptions to this rule are plant based oils, like palm oil and coconut oil.

The main concern with saturated fats is increasing your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is primarily made in the liver, which is carried in the blood either as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

The former is considered to be the ‘bad’ cholesterol, while HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol – it takes excess cholesterol to the liver, where it’s disposed of. LDL instead carries cholesterol to your arteries, where it can collect in the vessel walls. Should this build up over time, it could lead to heart disease or a stroke.

When it comes to trans fats, there are no known health benefits. Like saturated fats, these can raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Trans fats can be found naturally in some meat and dairy products, as well as in hydrogenated vegetable oil. The good news is that in the UK, we don’t tend to eat a lot of trans fats – on average we consume around half the recommended daily maximum.

A Balanced Diet

There have been many studies over the years looking into how much fat humans should be ingesting, and what makes up a balanced diet. For instance, a study conducted in 2007 found that high fat dairy products (which are high in saturated fats) can reduce the risk of women experiencing anovulatory infertility (failure to ovulate). Women who maintained a low fat diet were more likely to have general infertility issues too.

Another study, which ended in 2001, was an eight-year study of almost 50,000 women that looked into the correlation between low fat diets and the risk of heart disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The researchers found that the womens’ diet did not significantly impact their risk of developing any of the three diseases.

Studies have found, however, that there is evidence for particular kinds of fats, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, improving your blood cholesterol and supporting heart health. The former can be found in nuts and vegetable oils, while the latter can be found in fish such as salmon and trout.

The message we can take from such studies is that we need to be more conscious of what types of fat we are consuming. Don’t avoid all fats, but try to limit your intake of saturated fats. The type of fat is much more important than the percentage!

Myth: Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

This myth has been around for years. And the idea that habitual knuckle cracking can cause arthritis seems logical. You’re putting pressure on your joints, which surely can lead to joint pain, right?

Thankfully this is not the case. Studies have shown that there is no correlation between cracking your knuckles and developing arthritis. The popping sound relates to tiny bubbles in your joint fluid. But there may be other long term effects of cracking your knuckles that you haven’t considered.

What is Arthritis?

Although an incredibly common condition, arthritis is not that well understood. Arthritis isn’t actually a single disease – it’s a general term for someone suffering from joint pain or joint disease. There are over 100 types of arthritis and related conditions, and more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffer from some form of the condition.

Arthritis is more prevalent among women, and becomes more frequent as people get older. There are four main categories of arthritis, which we have listed below:

  • Degenerative Arthritis: Over time, the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears away, causing bone to rub against bone, which leads to pain, swelling and stiffness
  • Infectious Arthritis: Some form of infectious virus, fungus or bacteria enters the joint and causes inflammation
  • Inflammatory Arthritis: The immune system doesn’t function correctly, and mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation. This can lead to joint erosion
  • Metabolic Arthritis: Uric acid can build up and form crystals in the joints, shaped like needles. This can result in sudden spikes of severe joint pain or an attack of gout

 

The symptoms of those suffering from arthritis can vary in type and severity. Not all symptoms are constant either. Some people’s symptoms get worse over time, while some reach a plateau. The most common symptoms include swelling, pain and stiffness in your joints, as well as a decreased range of motion.

In some cases, arthritis can lead to permanent joint changes, which can sometimes be seen in knobbly finger joints. In extreme cases, arthritis can damage more than your joints – it can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes and skin too.

What Happens When You Crack Your Knuckles?

When cracking your knuckles, you force your fingers forward, backward, or pulled straight away from the hand. These movements cause a change of pressure in the joint, which results in gas bubbles forming in the knuckle’s joint fluid.

We’re not actually certain whether the popping sound comes from the gas bubbles forming or popping. We do know that it takes around 15-20 minutes for the bubbles to dissipate, and for your bones to move back into their normal positions, which is why you can’t crack your knuckles again straight away.

Key Tips

● There are over 100 types of arthritis, though the condition can be divided into four main categories: degenerative, infectious, inflammatory and metabolic arthritis

● Arthritis doesn’t just affect the elderly! You can develop arthritis regardless of age, race or gender

● The popping sound when you crack your knuckles is linked to gas bubbles in the fluid of your knuckle joints. But we don’t know if it’s caused by the bubbles forming or popping

● Cracking your knuckles doesn’t lead to arthritis, but it can result in swollen fingers and reduced grip strength

Can Knuckle Cracking Be Beneficial?

Even if knuckle cracking doesn’t cause arthritis, that doesn’t mean you should take up the habit. Not only can the sound irritate those around you, it’s been suggested that chronic knuckle cracking can lead to reduced grip strength, and swelling in your hands.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are also at least a few reported cases of people suffering from acute injuries whilst attempting to crack their knuckles. The forceful manipulation needed to create an audible popping sound can lead to tendon, ligament or joint damage, though such injuries should be fairly easily treatable.

If you do crack your knuckles on a regular basis, now might be the time to give up the habit. Correlations have been found between knuckle cracking and reducing the strength of your hands have been found, and research is ongoing. There could be any number of long term ramifications that have yet to be discovered.

Myth: Cold Weather Causes Colds

This myth was officially debunked in 1968, when a study was conducted to see if colder people were more susceptible to the rhinovirus (one cause of the common cold). The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and found that regardless of whether people were sat in a frigid room or an icy bath, they were no more likely to get sick than those sat in more comfortable temperatures.

Despite such research, we can’t deny that more colds are caught over the winter months than during the summer. So if being cold makes no difference, what does cause this correlation?

What Causes Colds?

A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, and is caused by viruses. The common cold is spread when you take in virus particles from someone suffering from a cold. This can be from a cough, sneeze, or by touching a contaminated surface. Rhinovirus, for instance, can live on your hands and hard surfaces for up to three hours. There are four main types of virus linked with having a cold, which are as follows:

  • Rhinoviruses
  • Parainfluenza viruses
  • Coronaviruses
  • Adenoviruses

These four groups are made up of more than 200 separate virus strains that we know of. Scientists believe that there are plenty more viruses that have yet to be identified by modern science.

Key Tips

●     Colds are caused by viruses, not temperature

●     There are hundreds of different types of cold virus! And more may yet to be discovered

●     You can try to prevent spreading or catching a cold by doing things such as washing your hands, not sharing items, and by avoiding touching your nose and mouth too often

●     Colds can be spread before and after symptoms show. They can then stay in the body for up to two weeks

●     There are a few theories as to why colds are more common in winter, for instance people staying in enclosed spaces, and cold temperatures helping viruses to thrive

Preventing a Cold

Unfortunately someone with a cold can spread it before their symptoms even start to show. They can also pass on the cold up to a few days after their symptoms have finished. It’s therefore difficult to prevent spreading and catching a cold, but there are several tips the NHS recommend that will help:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water
  • If you have a cold, trap germs with tissues when you sneeze or cough, and dispose of them as quickly as possible
  • Keep fit and healthy, to strengthen your immune system
  • Don’t share household items such as hand towels or drinking glasses with someone who has a cold
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes and nose too much, as if you’ve come into contact with the virus, it can infect the body this way

It can take between one and two weeks for a cold virus to completely leave your body. So it’s important to maintain the practices listed above for as long as possible, as you won’t always be able to tell whether you’re still infectious or not.

Why Do People Get Colds in Winter?

As discussed, cold air does not make a difference in terms of catching a cold, and studies have shown that it doesn’t affect a person’s recovery time either. So why are colds much more common in colder weather? There are a number of factors that can be attributed to this phenomenon. We’ve listed the main reasons below:

  • Colds may be caught in the autumn due to the start of the new school year – children commonly spread viruses as they are usually much more tactile than adults
  • People generally stay indoors more over the winter months, where air tends to be drier. Dry air can dry up the nasal passages, which may lead to infection. Being in an enclosed space can also help viruses to spread
  • The viruses themselves could be impacted by the weather – some cold viruses, including types of rhinovirus and coronavirus, are believed to thrive in colder temperatures
  • Colder weather often means lower humidity levels. Cold viruses can survive longer in low humidity conditions

 

Overall, viruses can be spread regardless of the weather. But cold temperatures can cause viruses to be more aggressive and survive longer. So we should be more vigilant in winter and take any necessary precautions if we want to avoid catching a cold.

Myth: You Should Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

Staying hydrated is obviously incredibly important. But the idea of needing to drink eight glasses of water a day is not only false, it’s been quoted inaccurately. The recommendation originally came from Dr Fredrick J. Stare in 1974, who advised that you should drink between six and eight glasses of water daily.

Considering that advice is now almost fifty years old, you’d think that the general consensus would have moved with the times. But the idea of drinking eight glasses of water a day is a myth that people continue to cling to.

The Benefits of Water

We all know that drinking water is essential – dehydration can kill. But what are the specific health benefits of water? We’ve listed the main benefits below:

  • Prevents dehydration, which can cause headaches and unclear thinking, mood swings, your body to overheat, as well as constipation and kidney stones
  • Helps your body maintain a normal temperature
  • Gets rid of waste, such as through urination and perspiration
  • Lubricates and cushions joints
  • Protects sensitive tissues like your spinal cord

Some people claim that a health benefit of water is detoxing your body, leading to glowing skin and more energy. But detox is the role of your kidneys – they separate what you need to retain and what to get rid of. And when it comes to dermatology, while dehydration isn’t good for your skin, as long as you’re reaching your body’s ideal hydration levels, any additional water you drink becomes superfluous.

Key Tips

●     Water has numerous health benefits, and can prevent things such as headaches and overheating

●     Water is a calorie free drinking option. But a lot of other beverages offer just as much hydration as water

●     Our bodies tell us when we’re thirsty – drinking between 6 and 8 glasses of water may be a good guideline, but we can stay hydrated by simply drinking when we feel thirsty

Alternatives to Water

It’s certainly a good idea to drink water over other beverages. A lot of other soft drinks are full of sugar, and therefore have higher calories than water (which doesn’t have any), which can cause people to put on weight. Sugar can also damage your teeth.

When it comes to caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, these are fine to drink as part of a balanced diet. As with all things, it’s about moderation. You should bear in mind though, that caffeinated drinks tend to have a diuretic effect – they can make the body produce urine more quickly. Of course this will depend on how much caffeine you have each day, and some people are more susceptible than others. According to Stuart Galloway, an associate professor in physiology, exercise and nutrition at the University of Stirling, if someone is drinking enough fluids, they should probably be going to the loo “somewhere between five and seven times a day”.

Galloway has also conducted experiments into how well drinks other than water hydrate the body. He found that a litre of beer was just as hydrating as a litre of water, as was a litre of instant coffee, which contained 212mg of caffeine. Surprisingly milk was found to be even more hydrating than water. As mentioned above, such drinks have a higher calorie count, so it’s not advisable to substitute too much. But it’s good to know that other drinks still count as water intake.

The Right Amount of Water

While you can still follow the general guidelines of drinking between six and eight glasses of water (or similar beverages) a day, it’s not essential. Our bodies have a homeostatic system that causes us to feel thirsty when our bodies need more water. And if you do just drink when you’re thirsty, this will maintain your body’s ideal water level within 1-2%. Even for athletes, 1% water loss would have negligible effects on performance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer similar advice. They state that people can meet their daily hydration needs by drinking with meals and drinking when you’re thirsty. Sounds simple enough!