Myth: Regular exercise lets you have your cake and eat it
Exercise contributes a lot to good health, benefiting muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and bone strength. It’s particularly important for maintaining muscle mass if you’re dieting. However, many people overestimate the kilojoule-burning benefits of exercise.
When you consider it takes the average person half an hour of brisk walking just to exercise off a chocolate biscuit, or a one-hour jog for a slice of cake and an iced chocolate, it’s easy to see that the energy intake from more than one or two small treats a day is going to exceed the energy burnt in an average exercise regime. In addition to over-rewarding exercise with treats, studies have found that when people have exercised a lot they tend to compensate by moving less throughout the rest of the day.
Verdict You can’t outrun a bad diet.
Myth: You should brush your teeth straight after drinking fizzy drinks to prevent tooth damage
Acidic drinks such as juice, sports drinks, wine and carbonated soft drinks (including “diet” soft drink) temporarily soften the tooth’s enamel, as do acidic foods such as vinegar, pickles and many fruits. This is known as dental erosion, and is a different issue from decay or cavities, which are caused by bacteria feeding off sugars in your mouth. The enamel’s hardness is gradually restored with the help of saliva. However, softened enamel may be abraded if you brush your teeth too soon after consuming acidic food and drink, and experts recommend you wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth. Snacking and grazing also makes it difficult for the enamel to recover. Reducing your consumption of acidic foods and drinks to meal times can help, as can swishing water around your mouth, eating a piece of cheese or chewing sugar-free gum.
Verdict: Wait before you brush.
Myth: The appendix is a redundant organ
Commonly thought to be a vestige of our bark-eating days, the appendix is largely regarded as redundant and therefore unnecessary. This, combined with the potential high costs of evacuation and threat to life if people overwintering in Antarctica (and similar long-term circumstances of isolation) were to contract appendicitis, has led to routine prophylactic appendectomies being carried out – after all, if you don’t need your appendix, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
However, scientists have recently come up with an explanation of its function, which is a storehouse for beneficial gut bacteria. It’s thought these bacteria replenish stocks usually present in the gut if they’re wiped out by gastrointestinal diseases such as cholera and dysentery. While it’s possible for these bacteria to be replenished by contact with other people, in sparsely populated areas – or eras – the appendix is or was more important. Even today, in societies where gastrointestinal disease is common, including some developing countries today, the appendix may still have a valid and important function.
Verdict: While it’s not strictly redundant, in modern Australian society your appendix is probably not necessary.