Old wives’ tales exist in every culture and are often so pervasive that we take them as the truth. Lately, science has shown that most are no more than legends, while surprisingly, others have turned out to be true. With tales covering everything from fertility to teeth to cranberries, learn some of the ones your mother taught you that you should be listening to!
Image: Andrew Magill
1. Drinking warm milk makes you sleepy
Not just because it contains the chemical Tryptophan, the same one found in turkey – which explains why everyone wants to take a nap after a turkey dinner – but because of the nice feeling, surprisingly enough. There really isn’t enough tryptophan in milk to make you sleep, trace amounts only, yet there is evidence that the psychological effect it gives you can make you sleepy. Andrew Klein says:
“Infants often go right to sleep after breastfeeding. When an adult enjoys a warm glass of milk, they may just be taking an unconscious, nostalgic trip back to this ‘happy place.’” Who doesn’t enjoy a good suckle?
A study published in a recent issue of Neuroendocrinology Letters found that infants go to sleep faster after feedings. While no research has yet examined this phenomenon in adults, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that milk-guzzling grown-ups are unconsciously reminded of an infantile state, which causes them to drift off.” Enjoy your warm milk with some honey or a tot in it, relax and drift off to dreamland.
Image: Abhijit Tembhekar
2. An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Not only can apples keep the doctor away by helping your immune system with healthy food, but studies at the University of Ulster have found that apple phenols protect the DNA in colon cancer cells: “Our results indicate that a crude extract of apple phenolics can protect against DNA damage,” we’re told.
Researchers at Cornell University have found that up to six apples a day can prevent breast cancer in primates and believe this can be extrapolated to humans. “Consumption of apples may be an effective strategy for cancer protection,” say the researchers. So have a glass of juice or eat one or two apples a day just like your mother told you!
Image: Matt Daddy C
3. Long, hot baths reduce sperm count
Science has found this to be true. A study conducted at the University of San Francisco asked men who normally took hour-long baths to shower instead. The surprising results were that half of the men had sperm counts that rose by 500 percent.
For the smokers out there – the other half were smokers, so that affects your sperm count as well. Sperm needs to be cool, which explains why testes are outside the body rather than tucked up in the pelvic cavity.
4. Long labor, must be a boy
This one seemed destined for the untruth scrapheap, but there may actually be some validity to it. Researchers at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital published a study done on 8,000 births, showing that mothers of boys were significantly more likely to have longer labor and more complications. (Boys start causing trouble young, don’t they?) So next time you are in labor and it takes longer, when you joke that it must be a boy, chances are you may be right!
Image: Stephanie Dillingham
5. Eat your carrots
The old wives have it partly right here! It doesn’t make you see any better in the dark to eat your carrots, nor does it sharpen your vision, but it does reduce the risk of getting macular degeneration, which will blind you in the end. Very common for seniors, so eat your carrots, starting now.
6. Gain a child, lose a tooth
New York University College of Dentistry did a study of close to 3,000 women, and the surprising results showed a link between tooth and gum disease and the number of pregnancies a woman had. Pregnancy actually raises the risk of gingivitis (gum disease).
Dr. Stephanie Russel says it means that the more outbreaks of it, the higher the risk of periodontal disease. It really is interesting to think how women with none of the science knowledge and often little education realized the two were linked – and did so a hundred years ago or more!
Image: Christian Fischer
7. Drink cranberry juice for a bladder infection
This one we have all heard of but may not know why. A study done at Harvard Medical School showed that the properties in cranberries destroy bacteria clinging to the wall of the bladder. It also works with blackberry juice, if you are lucky enough to be able to get that!
Image: Mauricio Giraldo
8. Chicken soup fights a cold
Well, chicken soup doesn’t actually cure a cold, but it does fight the congestion most get with it. Researchers have found that the amino acid known as cysteine is a byproduct of chicken soup; and the incredible thing is that an antibiotic often prescribed for respiratory infections is a cousin called acetylcysteine – so mother definitely knew best there!