The holiday season is as saturated with lists as it is with candy canes and mistletoe. Gift wish lists, top holiday songs, best seasonal dessert recipes. Today, health reporters across the country have been buzzing with yet another festive rundown: “5 Holiday Health Myths.” And as much as we hate to be a holiday humbug, this latest list just doesn’t pass muster.
The Washington Post reports on the debunked myths, including:
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.
True, we do hear a lot of health myths from pseudo-experts. But it’s not so surprising that midnight snacks aren’t to blame for the “obesity epidemic,” nor are we shocked that children aren’t getting their energy from candy or sugary drinks. The rest of the list is equally un-earth shattering. Do you care where your body heat escapes as long as you manage to stay warm? Is anyone you know really craving a poinsettia salad?
We didn’t think so.
So we put our heads together and whipped up a new one for you. In the spirit of “making a list and checking it twice,” here’s a list of holiday health myths you might actually find useful this holiday season:
Myth #1: Your Christmas beef tenderloin is causing global warming.
PETA may never admit it, but it turns out that eating meat isn’t so eco-unfriendly after all—at least if it’s American meat. Back in October, we took a closer look at that 2006 United Nations report everyone’s talking about, Livestock’s Long Shadow, and found that greenhouse gas sources directly related to livestock production in the U.S. only account for 2.58 percent—not 18 percent—of the total.
Myth #2: Watch out! Those potato latkes are full of acrylamide!
Don’t believe the hype: According to the British Journal of Cancer, the link between acrylamide (a substance that forms when potatoes are fried) and cancer is actually an inverse trend. You could eat your weight in latkes or French fries every week for the rest of your life without ever incurring any real danger.
Myth #3: Grandma’s tuna casserole will give you mercury poisoning.
Passing on the ocean-caught fish this month—or any other month—will probably cause more damage than eating the tiny traces of naturally occurring toxins that are in all fish. Just ask the Food and Drug Administration.
Myth #4: Lay off the cheese balls and pecan pie unless you want to look like a fat Santa.
As the American Dietetic Association has said, food is not the enemy. Rather than fixate on one food or the other, try and focus on the big picture: your total diet and exercise regimen. Enjoy your holiday feast. Just walk it off.
Myth #5: Your holiday turkey is laced with harmful antibiotics.
Despite the claims of environmental and animal-rights activists, medicines given to livestock are required to improve the health of farm animals, and pose no health risk to meat-eaters. Banning them would backfire, harming the health of people like you.