10 Myths You’ve Been Fooled Into Believing

Misinformation is everywhere these days, but it’s by no means a modern invention.

‘Facts’ You Probably Believed, Too

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While the internet has allowed false reports to spread farther and faster, there have always been little nuggets of information that have been passed around so much that they’ve been accepted as common knowledge despite being entirely untrue. 

Presented here are some fake facts you’ve almost certainly heard before — and possibly even believed!

It takes 5 to 7 Years for You to Digest Chewing Gum

chewing gum

According to Dr. Elizabeth Rajan, writing for the Mayo Clinic, this is pure folklore.

“If you swallow gum, it’s true that your body can’t digest it,” Rajan said.

“But the gum doesn’t stay in your stomach. It moves relatively intact through your digestive system and is excreted in your stool.”

It takes 5 to 7 Years for You to Digest Chewing Gum

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Rajan does caution against swallowing your gum, however, and emphasizes that children, in particular, should not get in the habit of doing so.

“On very rare occasions, large amounts of swallowed gum combined with constipation have blocked intestines in children.”

It takes 5 to 7 Years for You to Digest Chewing Gum

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This myth has been floating around since the invention of chewing gum in the early 19th century and seems to come from the use of the word “indigestible” on gum packaging.

“People seem to have assumed that ‘indigestible’ meant it would stay inside the body for a long time.”

You Should Wait an Hour After Eating Before Swimming

woman cluekess confused

“While your parents may have given many reasons why swimming on a full stomach is a big no-no, the evidence that there’s danger in hopping back into the pool immediately after lunch is scarce,” said Kate Bratskeir, a science and health writer, in an article for GoodRX Health. 

You Should Wait an Hour After Eating Before Swimming

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Bratskeir notes that the myth has existed since at least 1918 and believes it originated from a misunderstanding of how the body regulates itself. 

“The thought seemed to be that if your blood was sent toward your stomach, there wouldn’t be enough left for your muscles, leaving them oxygen-deprived and potentially causing you to cramp up and drown.”

You Should Wait an Hour After Eating Before Swimming

shy dad

Although eating too soon before vigorous activity – like running a marathon or swimming speed laps – can cause a stomach ache, it’s certainly not life-threatening, according to Bratskeir. 

You Should Wait an Hour After Eating Before Swimming

man drinking having fun

The real danger, however, is drinking alcohol before swimming. “Alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation among adolescents and adults, according to the CDC.

Alcohol can decrease your coordination, balance, and judgment, and it increases risk-taking behavior.

“For these reasons, alcohol and water activities should not be mixed,” she concluded.

We Only Use 10% of our Brain

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“This notion seems firmly rooted in popular culture despite many efforts to debunk it,” said Stephen L. Chew of Samford University, writing for the Association of Psychological Science.

We Only Use 10% of our Brain

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“It has been used to justify belief in pseudoscientific psychic powers and is a tacit assumption in many self-help programs designed to ‘unleash’ untapped human potential.”

Chew says that the myth is “one of the most prevalent misconceptions among the public” and that as much as “50% of primary and secondary teachers across different cultures also endorse the 10% Myth.”

We Only Use 10% of our Brain

woman sleeping soundly

But that’s simply not how brains work, according to sources cited by Chew.

“The entire brain is constantly active, even in periods of sleep: regulating, monitoring, sensing, interpreting, reasoning, planning, and acting. Even people with degenerative neural disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease still use more than 10% of their brains.”

We Only Use 10% of our Brain

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While the origins of the myth are in dispute, Chew suggests that it’s a misreading of a 1907 quote by William James regarding social norms and etiquette not holding one’s attention appropriately – not that we are only using a small part of our brains. 

We Only Use 10% of our Brain

asian woman working studying

What James actually said was: “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We […] are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”

Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Ruin Your Eyesight

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“Contrary to the popular myth, sitting too close to a TV will not damage your eyes, but it may cause eye strain,” said Lee R Duffner MD, FACS, writing for the American Academy of Ophthalmologists.

Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Ruin Your Eyesight

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“Children can focus at close distance without eye strain better than adults. Therefore, children often develop the habit of holding reading materials close to their eyes or sitting right in front of the television. There is no evidence that this damages the eyes either in children or adults. With children, this habit usually diminishes as they grow older.”

Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Ruin Your Eyesight

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The myth likely came from a series of defective televisions sold by General Electric in 1967, according to Dr. Nikita Toshi

“An assessment of these TV sets by US health officials revealed that these defective televisions were emitting 10 to 100,000 times more X-rays than the acceptable limit.

Considering these developments, GE told its users that it was safe to use these TVs as long as one didn’t view them from close range or for prolonged durations.” 

Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Ruin Your Eyesight

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Despite the defect being corrected, and the TV sets recalled, “it gave birth to the myth that watching television from too close can be bad for the eyes.”

Shaved Hair Grows Back Thicker

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“No, shaving hair doesn’t change its thickness, color, or rate of growth,” said Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., in an answer written for the Mayo Clinic.

The appearance of thicker, coarser, darker hair is an illusion that comes down to a side effect of shaving, Gibson explained. 

Shaved Hair Grows Back Thicker

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“Shaving facial or body hair gives the hair a blunt tip. The tip might feel coarse or ‘stubbly’ for a time as it grows out. During this phase, the hair might be more noticeable and perhaps appear darker or thicker.” 

Shaved Hair Grows Back Thicker

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That doesn’t mean you should ignore changes to your body hair, however.

“If you notice a sudden increase in facial or body hair, talk to your doctor,” Gibson advises. “This could be a medication side effect or a sign of an underlying medical condition. Your doctor might also provide advice about various hair-removal techniques.”

Sugar Makes Children Hyper

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“While many parents swear that sugar makes their kids hyperactive, a substantial body of research shows there’s no link between the two,” said Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN, and Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN in an article for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sugar Makes Children Hyper

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According to Ansel and Ellis, the myth stems from a 1970s study based on a single child’s reaction to the removal of sugar from their diet.

“Since then, over a dozen larger studies have been conducted without proving sugar causes hyperactivity.”

Sugar Makes Children Hyper

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However, despite the myth being debunked quite thoroughly, many parents believe it so strongly that they will draw a connection even when sugar isn’t present.

“In one study, parents were asked to rate their child’s hyperactivity after consuming a drink with sugar. Unknown to the parents, the drink was sugar-free, but the parents still rated their child as more hyperactive.”

Sugar Makes Children Hyper

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That doesn’t mean you should let your child have all the sugar they want, Ansel and Ellis pointed out.

“When kids fill up on sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, they have little appetite for healthier foods their growing bodies need, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

Sugar Makes Children Hyper

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While you don’t need to restrict the sweet stuff entirely (a little teaches balance and moderation), you can offer it strategically. For example, top a small bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt with fresh berries,” they suggested.

Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Give You a Cold

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“The short answer is no,” says Carmen Dargel, M.D., writing for the Mayo Clinic. “Wet hair in a cold environment can make you feel cold and uncomfortable. But it will not give you a cold.”

Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Give You a Cold

woman with cold tissue

“Viruses transmitted through bodily fluids cause colds, influenza, and COVID-19. You need to come into contact with the fluids to be infected by the viruses. This usually happens when people who are sick sneeze, cough or blow their noses. Wet hair won’t make you more attractive to viruses and doesn’t increase your chances of getting sick.”

Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Give You a Cold

child with chicken

As to how the myth was first born, an article on Communitycare.com offers an intriguing suggestion.

“One theory is that it dates back to an experiment done by famed scientist Louis Pasteur in 1878. Pasteur set out to see if cooling the body of a chicken would make it susceptible to the anthrax virus.”

Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Give You a Cold

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One infected chicken died, and a second only became ill. However, the reason Pasteur had lowered the chicken’s body temperature in the first place was that “their natural body temperature is between 104-107°F, which is too hot for Anthrax to survive, thus their immunity to anthrax.” 

You Lose Most Body Heat Through Your Head

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“The truth is, you won’t squander anywhere close to 50% of your body heat through an uncapped noggin,” said emergency physician Dr. Thomas Waters, MD, writing for the Cleveland Clinic. “Will you lose some heat? Absolutely…but a 2008 study shows that it’s more in the 10% range for adults.” 

You Lose Most Body Heat Through Your Head

man staring at gym

“That figure makes sense, as it roughly matches the head’s percentage of your body’s total surface area. Or, to put it another way, you’re losing heat in direct proportion to the amount of exposed skin.”

You Lose Most Body Heat Through Your Head

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The myth appears to come from “an old U.S. Army Field Manual that estimated soldiers could lose 40% to 45% of their body heat through an unprotected head,” according to Waters.

You Lose Most Body Heat Through Your Head

teen boy watching

Waters’ advice is simply to wear a hat when it’s cold, as any part of the body that is uncovered is a vector for heat loss and can lead to hypothermia or frostbite in especially cold temperatures. 

You Lose Most Body Heat Through Your Head

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Children, in particular, should wear a hat, Waters advises, because they “tend to lose a higher percentage of body heat through their heads.”

The reason?

“Compared to adults, their heads are bigger in comparison to their bodies.”

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

Hope All is Well Response

“There is no evidence that cracking knuckles causes any damage such as arthritis in the joints,” said Rheumatology Fellow Dimitrios Pappas, M.D., writing for the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center.

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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“In limited studies performed, there was no change in the occurrence of arthritis between ‘habitual knuckle crackers’ and ‘non-crackers.'”

Arthritis is broadly split into two categories: inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and degenerative arthritis, Pappas said.

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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While the causes are not well understood, Pappas says, “In general, a genetic predisposition is highly likely for both.

For inflammatory arthritis, an unknown exposure to environmental stimuli is considered possible.” 

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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“For the ‘wear and tear arthritis’ instead, aging and excessive mechanical stress may play a role in accelerating the damage in the joints as it happens in the knees of genetically predisposed older obese people.”

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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That doesn’t mean cracking your knuckles is entirely without side effects, however. 

“A couple of reports in the medical literature are available associating knuckle cracking with injury of the ligaments surrounding the joint or dislocation of the tendons (attachments of muscles to bones), which improved with conservative treatment,” Pappas said. 

Cracking your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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Finally, another study concluded that many years of cracking may result in “reduced grip strength” compared to those who did not indulge in the noisy habit.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

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“Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, allows for more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally,” said Lindsey DeSoto, RDN, LD, writing for MedicalNewsToday.  

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

woman eating dinner

“However, as long as a person can fit their nutrients in during other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.”

DeSoto says that according to a 2018 observational study, those who habitually eat breakfast are more likely to manage their nutrition, exercise, and manage stress.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

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By comparison, those who skip the morning meal, however, tend to be smokers and drinkers and eat diets with more calories, fat, and cholesterol. 

“These findings suggest that lifestyle habits may contribute to the overall health status of breakfast eaters, not eating breakfast,” DeSoto concludes.

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

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The myth of breakfast as the most important meal of the day stems from the invention of breakfast cereals, according to certified life and weight loss coach Joanna Goodwin

“[Breakfast] is a 20th-century invention,” Goodwin says. “The move from farms to factories […] formalized the idea of breakfast. Now we consider it totally normal to eat breakfast before going to work or school.”

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day


“‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ is an ingenious marketing slogan. The catchphrase is widely credited to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and fellow 7th Day Adventist James Caleb Jackson and their efforts to promote breakfast cereal.”

Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

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Kellog’s invention had a very specific agenda, Goodwin says. “According to Kellogg’s beliefs, breakfast cereal was [an anaphrodisiac, and was] supposed to save us from the scourge and mentally degenerative effects of m*st*rb*t**n.”

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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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