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Common health myths you probably believe

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Bust the myths for better health

Misinformation is a huge barrier to optimal health for both individuals and communities. Take your health into your own hands by busting widely-accepted health myths that can do you more harm than good.

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Photo credit: Hero Images/Getty images

It's challenging to sort myths from facts when it comes to health, especially since public health guidelines and research are constantly changing. As Dr. Marc Leavey of Maryland's Mercy Medical Center explains, however, the following statements simply don't hold water anymore.

"Vitamin C supplements prevent colds."

No doubt about it: Vitamin C is super-important for your body and health. The vitamin prevents scurvy, boosts the immune system and isolates free radicals. The mega-doses of Vitamin C found in many supplements, however, do nothing to prevent colds or reduce the duration of an illness. Leavey explains, "Multiple medical studies over 44 years have failed to demonstrate any evidence of cold prevention from Vitamin C."

"If your BMI is over 25, you need to lose weight."

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a crude measure that compares weight to height, and determines whether an individual is a healthy weight, overweight or obese. Unfortunately, BMI doesn't account for health factors like muscle mass or body type. "These measures, along with a general physical examination, laboratory studies, consideration of personal and family history, and a look at diet and exercise habits should be used by your physician to determine if you should lose, gain or maintain a healthy body weight," Leavey says.

"Take a multivitamin for optimal health."

Your best bet is to obtain the vitamins and minerals you need from food rather than a multivitamin. "Although widely used," reports Leavey, "multiple controlled studies have demonstrated only one benefit from daily vitamin use—increased income for the company producing the product." Indeed, there is no evidence that a multivitamin can improve health or prevent disease.

"You get sick by touching your mouth."

Surprisingly, says Leavey, "you need to have a substantial number of organisms presented to your mouth to result in disease," which is unlikely to happen by touching common objects and then touching your mouth. You're far more likely to get sick by touching your nose or eyes with germy hands than by putting those germy hands in your mouth. The solution? Wash your hands regularly and avoid rubbing your face.

"Clean a scrape with hydrogen peroxide."

All those bubbles produced by hydrogen peroxide sure look like they're disinfecting a wound. While hydrogen peroxide does kill germs, explains Leavey, that bubbling foam "is oxidizing tissues and causing damage." He further adds that hydrogen peroxide cannot treat wound infections, so you're better off with an antibiotic cream.

"MSG causes high blood pressure and other chronic disease."

Time after time, clinical trials have demonstrated that MSG is not tied to high blood pressure, angio-edema or any other ailments. In fact, Leavey explains, "MSG is naturally in tomatoes, cheese and seaweed. The sodium in MSG is no worse for you than the sodium in table salt." The only reason why you should pause before ingesting MSG is because it is typically found in highly-processed foods that aren't good for your waistline or health.

"Late-night snacking causes weight gain."

Unless you have an underlying condition, weight gain is typically caused by consuming too many calories. You will not gain weight just because you've eaten late at night. However, it is best to avoid late-night snacking—and anytime snacking—because, "if you eat too much, whenever you eat, you will gain weight," says Leavey.

"A juice cleanse can detoxify your body."

Juice cleanses — and other types of cleanses, for that matter — cannot detoxify your body. Your liver and kidneys are responsible for removing toxins from your body systems, and they do a pretty fantastic job of it. Extreme cleanses can actually harm your immune system and cause weight gain in the long run. "Many people of faith fast in various fashions for spiritual cleansing, and I can't argue with that," states Leavey. "But for physical health, better to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation, with calorie intake appropriate to your physique."

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