I’ve often thought that one of the reasons I do the kind of writing I do is because of my curiosity about how the human body works. I mean, it’s amazing, don’t you think, how each part of our body – no matter how minuscule - has to work first independently - and then in sync - with all the other systems of the body? A very complicated machine, made even more incredible by the fact that it can actually work right when you think about all that can really go wrong. One missed connection, one stray cell, one incorrect movement…
But I digress. I guess what I am trying to say is that’s why I look forward to reading the Really? Column in the Tuesday Science Section of the New York Times. It addresses many common health questions and myths and attempts to debunk or confirm them. It’s sometimes tough to interpret medical studies, since there are so many factors to account for and the lines between absolute fact and coincidence or anecdotal evidence often become blurred.
I’ve found out some really interesting bits and pieces over time that you might find as – or almost as – interesting and/or helpful. Like things you’ve always wondered about but never bothered to find the answers to. Or like common beliefs most people have that no one has ever really proven to be true. Here are a few:
Multivitamins: Can they disrupt user’s sleep?
Over the years, studies have been done; one particular study in 2007 that looked at hundreds of people and their sleep habits and use of vitamins and medications found a slightly higher rate of poor or interrupted sleep in people taking multivitamins. But… it was difficult to conclusively say that there was a definite association since it could have been a chicken-or-egg scenario: maybe the people who had poorer sleep in the first place were the ones who were more likely to take a multivitamin, in search of a possible treatment.
Ginger: Can eating it help with muscle pain and soreness?
Ginger is known for settling an upset stomach; in fact I’ve substituted it for Dramamine and often use it to quell occasional nausea. Since it is in the same plant family as turmeric and contains anti-inflammatory compounds and volatile oils (both shown to have analgesic and sedative effects in animal studies), scientists decided to see if that advantage could extend to humans.
When 74 adults exercised hard enough to have muscle pain and inflammation, those who were given two grams of ginger a day experienced about a 25 percent reduction in pain 24 hours after their workout, as opposed to the group who got the placebo.
But before you reach for ginger in hoping to stave off sore muscles, remember this: it works only a day or more after a workout. Taking it before a workout yields no impact.
Fluids for a cold: Can drinking plenty really help you feel better?
Drink, drink, drink…this has always been the advice for a nasty cold. But when scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia looked for some proof that lots of fluids helped a cold, they had a difficult time finding evidence anywhere in the medical literature.
While it is true that liquids like water and juice or tea can replace fluids you might lose as a result of fever (and also help loosen mucus), there is no evidence that it will help beat a cold.
Plenty of rest, on the other hand, can’t hurt.