Tips to stay healthy may be misleading


    By Kimberly McLean

    According to researchers, snifflers and sneezers can stop overdosing on vitamin C to cope with their colds and cold-weather worriers can stop bundling.

    Many widely accepted health facts have little or no scientific basis.

    Jorma Kirsi, a biology professor at Utah Valley State College, said colds are actually not caused by cold weather or dampness.

    “Colds are infections that are caused by viruses,” Kirsi said. “They are mostly passed on from virus-infected hands, not from [cold weather] exposure.”

    Kirsi said the best way to avoid contracting the common cold is to avoid shaking hands with those feeling under the weather and to wash hands often to keep form spreading or catching the viruses. Luckily, cold viruses rarely jump through the air.

    The vitamin C remedial theory caught on after Nobel Prize winning scientist Linus Pauling published his 1970 book claiming that large dosages of the vitamin prevent or hasten recovery from the common cold.

    Intermountain Health Care physician James Clark said the theory is just a myth and has not been proven.

    “When given either a placebo or vitamin C in research conducted, patients recovered at the same rate,” Clark said.

    Although vitamin C taken in moderation is beneficial, large doses of vitamin C can actually promote the development of renal stones.

    Health-related wives tales don”t just turn up from anywhere though. Lance Madigan, Utah County Health Department spokesman, said many of these homespun remedies and rumors began through word of mouth and misconstrued public health notices.

    “There are a million and one supposed ways to get rid of warts, for example,” he said. “But Aunt Fifi”s homemade wart remedy doesn”t necessarily exist or work for that matter.”

    Madigan warns the public to be careful before substituting hearsay for authentic advice from a qualified physician.

    Other health gossip, such as cancer-promoting plastics and HIV needle-spreading hoaxes, principally stem from bored e-mail pranksters and misinformed activists with good intentions.

    Rita Jorgensen, spokeswoman for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said CDC receives dozens of inquiries as to the validity of pass along e-mail health warnings and reports on a daily basis.

    “The majority of these claims are false,” she said. “People should be wary of superstitious-sounding notices that are from unverified sources, but stay on their guard nonetheless.”

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