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Toxic Poinsettias? Hangover Cures? It May Be All Fiction
Date:12/18/2008

Researchers debunk common holiday and wintertime health myths,,,,

THURSDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- It's that magical time of year when people are willing to suspend disbelief just a little bit and hope that holiday miracles, like Santa delivering presents across the globe in a single evening, can actually happen.

It also appears to be a time of year when people might be willing to suspend critical thinking and buy into some common holiday and wintertime health myths, according to researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine.

In the Christmas issue of BMJ published online Dec. 18, the researchers pointed out six commonly believed myths that even some health professionals believe are true. But, when the researchers looked for evidence to back up the myths, they couldn't find it. The debunked myths include:

  • Suicide rates are higher during the holidays.
  • Poinsettias are toxic if eaten.
  • Hangovers are curable.
  • Sugar makes children hyperactive.
  • You lose most of your body heat through your head.
  • Eating at night makes you fat.

"We really don't know why some myths become so embedded," said one of the article's co-authors, Dr. Rachel Vreeman, an assistant professor of pediatrics.

"Sometimes you hear these myths from people you consider to be experts," suggested Vreeman's co-author, Dr. Aaron Carroll, director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. "And, often, there's a kernel of truth in some of these myths. For example, sugar gives us energy, so some people might leap to the conclusion that too much sugar gives you too much energy."

But, he added, that's not the case. At least 12 double-blind, randomized, controlled trials have looked at the effect of sugar on children, and none found evidence for the sugar-equals-hyperactivity myth. In one study, children weren't even
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