Debunking health myths

From the Summer 2010 Issue of Discover RUSH Oak Park

Good health: Everybody has an idea how to keep it. And you can get tips and tricks everywhere — from mom to TV specials. But no matter the source, some health claims just donít hold up. Check out these common myths — and the facts behind them.

Myth: Green tea prevents and cures many ills.
Fact: The antioxidants in green tea may play a role in lowering cancer risk. But when it comes to other purported merits ó such as lowering cholesterol, reducing stress, improving fertility and losing weight ó green tea shows no clear benefit. In fact, green tea contains caffeine, which can actually cause problems, such as anxiety and irritability. What to do: If you like green tea, drink it in moderation. But remember that itís not a cure-all, and be suspicious of any food or drink thatís touted as one.

Myth: Getting a base tan at a tanning salon protects your skin from sunburn and reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Fact: Tanning beds and lamps actually emit ultraviolet radiation so harmful that the U.S. government considers it to be a cancer-causing agent. Plus, people with a base tan are less likely to use sunscreen, which also increases their risk of skin cancer. What to do: Avoid tanning booths. Use sunscreen whenever youíre in the sun.

Myth: You donít need to heat any precooked foods, such as hot dogs and deli-style meats.
Fact: Precooked foods can contain bacteria that grow even after processing and packaging. Contaminated food sickens 76 million people each year. Older people, pregnant women and young children are more at risk.
What to do: Heat precooked foods until they are steaming hot. If you have no means to heat them, donít eat them.

Health tip If you have questions about health claims youíre hearing, bring them up next time you visit your doctor. If you are looking for a doctor, call Rush Oak Park Hospitalís Physician Referral Line at 708-660-INFO (4636).