Whether it’s something we were taught as children or a “fact” that we heard from someone else, there are tons of myths out there about the human body, and each of us has at least one that we’ve believed for as long as we can remember.
Be prepared to have your mind blown—some of the most common things you might believe about your own body aren’t actually true at all.
Heart attacks will always hurt.
Most of us tend to think of heart attacks as we see them in the movies—the person begins to experience a strange pain in their chest that eventually sends them flying toward the ground, hand over their heart as if they’ve just been shot.
Did you know, however, that people often have heart attacks without even knowing it? Sometimes they don’t cause the chest pain you’d think would be present in every case. Instead, they might cause unexpected symptoms like shoulder pain, jaw pain, feelings of anxiety or panic, breathing difficulties, dizziness, profuse sweating, and nausea.
Fingerprints are all unique.
From childhood, we’ve all been told that our fingerprints are essentially like snowflakes and that it’s pretty much impossible for ours to match anyone else’s. But that's just not true.
Relatives often share traits within their fingerprints, such as similar or matching ridges, and small variations can make fairly different fingerprints seem more similar to one another. Taking fingerprints can be such a flawed process that even prints taken from the same finger one after another can actually end up being different.
Your tongue has taste zones.
Did anyone else do an experiment in elementary school that involved placing different foods on different areas of your tongue to see what you could taste where? If only you could go back in time to thank your teacher for allowing you to waste a day of class, because this belief is based on a 100-year-old study that had misunderstood results.
The truth is that all of your taste buds can detect all tastes equally, but every person’s tongue has areas that are stronger or weaker when it comes to taste.
Your immune system fights colds.
This myth isn’t technically untrue, but you know all of those nasty symptoms that you experience while you have a cold? Those aren’t symptoms that are being caused by the cold virus itself—your immune system is causing those symptoms while it’s fighting the virus.
Although it's annoying, the cold virus actually isn’t that big of a deal. As we all know, it just causes our bodies to get a little out of whack for a short (though frequently miserable) time.
White teeth are healthier.
Most of us associate yellow teeth with an unhealthy mouth and white teeth with a healthy one. But this false belief is just based on aesthetics. Science actually suggests that yellow teeth might be stronger and that our teeth might be meant to be yellow.
The dentin in your teeth is actually yellow in color, and the enamel on top of it is translucent, so it’s perfectly normal for your teeth to be a little off-white. In fact, teeth that are too white could mean you’re putting them under too much stress by using whitening substances on them, which could damage the enamel.
We have five senses.
Touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell—the five human senses that have been ingrained in our minds since childhood. Scientists now believe that humans have way more than just five senses, although they don’t seem to be certain of the exact number.
The consensus appears to be somewhere around 14 and 20. We volunteer as tributes if they ever need help coming up with names for the rest of them.
You lose tons of heat through your head.
We’re always advised when it’s cold outside to make sure we wear hats, because we actually lose most of the heat in our bodies through our heads. This makes a certain kind of sense when you think about it. It’s usually the rest of our bodies that are covered, and we’d probably be expelling lots of heat through our noses and mouths, right?
It’s actually a myth, though, that started in the 1950s when the Army did an experiment that measured how much body heat their subjects lost in super cold conditions. None of the subjects were given hats, explaining why most of their heat was lost through their heads.
Your blood is blue internally.
We’ve all heard it before—before your blood leaves your body it’s blue, and then it turns red when exposed to oxygen. We hate to break it to you, but your blood is always red, even though it might look blue in your veins.
This happens because light reflects off the skin in a way that gives the veins a bluish look.
When we die, our hair and nails keep growing.
It’s easy to see how this rumor could get started. Anyone who works with dead bodies can confirm that hair and nails on a corpse usually look abnormally long. That’s not because they’re continuing to grow after death, though.
Just like in life, your hair and nails would still need an adequate supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to continue producing new cells. After someone does, their hair and nails often look longer because their body is shriveling, which makes the skin shrink and pull back.
Six-pack abs are a sign of health.
We’re not trying to knock people who have achieved the elusive six pack—seriously, good for you, whoever you are. However, while we often associate those who look fit with health, defined abs don’t always mean the person is healthy.
To get a six pack, the body has to have a level of body fat so low that it can actually be considered borderline dangerous. You might think low body fat levels would be great, but it can actually lead to persistent hunger, low energy, heart problems, and low testosterone in men.
Omega-3s are good for the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are said to have many benefits, one of which is that they’re incredible for your brain. It makes sense when you consider that our brains naturally contain a lot of omega-3s.
But one study shows that supplementing with omega-3s doesn’t have the incredible effect we all think it does—eating foods that are naturally rich in this type of fatty acids apparently makes a more meaningful difference.
Games can improve memory.
Brain games are said to be a way that you can improve your brain health and memory by having fun while playing for just a few minutes each day. Don’t count on it, though. Scientists have found no credible evidence that these claims are actually true.
Essentially what they do is make you better at whichever particular game you’re playing as opposed to increasing or improving your brain function overall.
Shaving brings back darker, thicker hair.
It’s basically every woman’s worst nightmare—you get rid of the hair on your legs, face, or arms only to have it come back darker and thicker than ever before. Most of us know by now just from personal experience that this isn’t true, but it’s still a myth that persists.
Because hair has a tapered end, shaving it essentially means you are cutting it in half—since the middle of the hair is thicker than the end, this makes it feel thicker than it really is. Give it some time to grow back in and it’ll feel normal again.
Puking while you're sick means stomach flu.
When you’re sick and start throwing up repeatedly, most people think it’s one of two things: food poisoning or stomach flu. Stomach flu implies that you’ve been infected by a specific strain of the flu virus that only affects your stomach, but no such thing exists.
The “stomach flu” is actually gastroenteritis, a viral infection that is typically caused by noroviruses or rotavirus. Although the flu is also caused by a virus, it’s one that affects your respiratory system, not your digestive system.
TV will ruin your eyes.
It was a favorite line of parents everywhere: "Sit back from the TV or you’ll hurt your eyes!" Get ready to go rub this one in their faces, though, because there isn’t a shred of evidence to back that claim up.
The only correlation there is between your eyesight and how close you sit to the TV is that those with bad eyesight are more likely to sit closer, and that’s a no-brainer. Sure, staring at any screen for too long can make your eyes irritated, but those effects are temporary.