Separating fact from fiction can be difficult, especially when it comes to information about your health. Cutting through the Internet clutter and opinions from friends to uncover the truth is key to keeping the mind and body well.
Dr. Jennifer Johnson, naturopathic doctor at Bastyr University School of Naturopathic Medicine, offers her expert insight into five of the most common health myths.
Myth 1: Omega-3 fatty acids increase the risk of prostate cancer.
A new study does not support the reported association between omega-3 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer put forth by a widely publicized 2013 study. By disputing these findings, the new study reaffirms that men can safely consume omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources, or from supplements, and continue to reap the substantial health benefits of omega-3s. Learn more about the study at http://goo.gl/mwKSMM.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to our health. They work to help lower inflammation, reduce risk of developing cardiovascular disease, lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and have overall positive effects on immune and brain function,” says Johnson. “The recent meta-analysis with respect to prostate health and fish oil does in fact show that men who take fish oil, either from dietary sources or supplements, are at no increased risk for prostate cancer.”
Johnson stresses that there is no known mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids would increase the risk of prostate cancer. To the contrary, there is research suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids might inhibit prostate cancer cell growth.
Myth 2: Vitamin C prevents the common cold.
If you’re like many people, you reach for a bottle of vitamin C at the first sign of a cold. This is a good choice, as vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that boosts the immune system to fight off infection when you are sick. However, while vitamin C is a good option for treating a cold, it does not work to prevent colds before onset.
“Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the length of colds and can help treat symptoms,” says Johnson. “Though beneficial and quite safe, vitamin C has not been found to consistently prevent colds. If you do start to feel the sniffles, supplement with 500–1000 mg/day.”
Myth 3: Everyone should take a multivitamin each day.
Vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the normal functioning of our bodies, from skin and bone development, to brain and heart function. However, research is inconsistent when it comes to multivitamins so an individualized approach is best.
“One size does not fit all,” says Johnson. “Adding in all those nutrients in often a fairly low dose may not provide enough therapeutic benefit to help any one problem. To really target your health concerns using vitamins, see your health care provider to determine if there is a vitamin/mineral recommendation that is just right for you. Better yet, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables will provide your body with compounds and nutrients that truly do benefit the body.”
Myth 4: Most people get adequate vitamin D through diet.
“Vitamin D is essential for bone health, and the actions of vitamin D are considered hormonal. This means that this compound truly has far-reaching effects on the body and has been shown to support immune function and improve mood,” says Johnson. “Studies show that this ‘sunny vitamin’ may also help to prevent cancer.”
When the skin is directly exposed to sunlight, vitamin D synthesis begins, explains Johnson. In order for enough vitamin D to be produced, the skin would have to be in direct sunlight most days for 20 minutes, which most people do not experience consistently. “Supplements are a good option for getting adequate vitamin D, but make sure to check with your doctor for proper dosage. I suggest the natural vitamin D3 form,” says Johnson.
Myth 5: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Apples are a good source of antioxidants and beta-carotene, which are very beneficial for overall health. They are also fiber rich, which promotes gut health. But apples are just one of many effective ways to fend off a visit to the doctor.
“First, sleeping enough sets the stage for good health, as sleep is the time for repair,” says Johnson. “Additionally, managing stress helps the immune system function best. When the body perceives stress, immune function goes down. Stress is normal, but having a balanced life will always promote health. Rest, exercise, keeping hydrated, maintaining a positive attitude and eating a balanced diet of whole foods is the true Rx for health.”