We’ve all heard them. Some of us staunchly believe them, the rest of us struggle to keep our eyes from rolling when we hear them. Show this article to your friends and family, especially those that hold on strongly to health ‘facts’ that can actually be detrimental and possibly fatal. Here are 5 health myths that should be canceled today:
- Eating too much sugar causes diabetes
This is a strict admonishment in many Nigerian households. We are here to affirm that this statement is as false as the sky is blue. Diabetes is a medical condition that affects the ability of the body to process blood glucose (blood sugar). Insulin is a hormone produced by the body which helps the glucose gotten from the food we eat be transported into cells where it is then converted into energy. If glucose is not transported into the cells, it stays in the blood and causes a myriad of health problems. There are two main types of diabetes, classified according to the body’s reaction to insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin at all and the patient has to take insulin every day to maintain life. In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make or utilize insulin properly, with the body cells responding ineffectively to the hormone. Sugar, or any dietary constituent for that matter, is not a risk factor for type 1 diabetes, as that only occurs when the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. However, eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, and being overweight increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Preventing this involves not only monitoring sugar intake but also being careful about consuming fatty foods.
- Antibiotics are the cure-all for every disease.
Antibiotics are substances that either kill or inhibit the growth and replication of bacteria. Antibiotics are powerful drugs used for the treatment of bacterial infections within and on the body. Since the first antibiotic, Penicillin, was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, antibiotics have grown to be one of the most effective classes of drugs, saving the lives of over 200 million people globally. These medicines are useful for treating infections such as conjunctivitis, pneumonia, sepsis, urinary tract infections, skin and soft tissue infections, some sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and syphilis, and many more. These infections are bacterial in origin and thus would be susceptible to antibiotics. Some diseases such as most sore throats and bronchitis, cough and cold, flu and acute sinusitis are viral in origin, and these will not be affected by antibiotics. However, many people still wrongly take antibiotics for these viral diseases. This allows harmful bacteria to develop defenses against antibiotic medication and build up resistance. As one of the top health threats of the 21st century, antibiotic resistance is a global cause of alarm. In 2016, there were an estimated 700,000 deaths due to antibiotic resistance around the world. This figure is expected to increase to 10 million by 2050. Next time you want to take an antibiotic for that cough, consider the far-reaching potential consequence it can have to your health.
- Malaria = typhoid
Malaria is a disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite. It is transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. It is curable but is also life-threatening and potentially fatal if not treated properly. Typhoid, on the other hand, is a disease caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. It spreads through contaminated food and water, or through close contact with an infected person. While there are cases of co-infection, the misconception that typhoid and malaria are one and the same probably stems from them having similar symptoms such as a characteristically high fever, headache, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss. These two diseases are different in their mode of treatment. Typhoid can only be treated with antibiotics, while malaria is treated with anti-malaria medicine. Misdiagnosis leads to mistreatment, increasing the risk of developing resistance to both drugs. This is why a laboratory blood test should be carried out before treatment is commenced, in order to properly identify which of the diseases is at work.
- You should detoxify your body
This is a trend nowadays. People everywhere boast about the latest ‘cleanse’ that they’re on, specially designed to rid their bodies of harmful toxins. We are here to tell you that regardless of how popular detox diets and treatments have become, the very idea that we can take steps to detoxify our bodies is a myth. From the point of view of a medical practitioner, there is no reason to detoxify the body as the human body has in-built processes that take care of this more efficiently than detox cleanses ever could. If it were true that toxins could build up in our body to such an amount that we’d need help excreting it, that would be a cause of alarm as many people would have died or would be in need of some serious medical intervention. The liver and kidneys work to rid the body of harmful toxins. We can take care of these organs and thus protect the body’s detoxification process by avoiding packaged and processed foods, drinking plenty of water and limiting intake of sugar, alcohol and fatty foods.
- Diseases do not affect Africans
This is my favorite myth to debunk because it is often uttered with humor, yet with an underlying seriousness. This is the reason many people give as to why they do not go to hospitals for routine medical check-ups, why they do not take drugs for serious medical conditions, and why they resolutely disregard any advice given by a doctor for their own health benefit. The World Health Organisation (W.H.O) published in 2015 that diseases are the leading cause of death in Africa. Lower respiratory tract infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria caused 56.4% of deaths, 33.5% of deaths were caused by non-communicable diseases, while 10.1% of deaths were caused by injury, interpersonal violence, and self-harm. These statistics prove that indeed, Africans are susceptible to diseases, many of which could have been prevented or treated proper medication. So next time your relative is meant to go to the hospital and throws out a ‘Disease no dey kill African man’, open up this article and allow them to see for themselves. You’re welcome.