There are certain things about the human body that we all think of as fact—but have we ever questioned them? It’s time we do, because it turns out they’re not actually true at all.
We often hear people say that they know their own bodies, mostly when it comes to how something makes them feel.
It’s true, for the most part—we all know what makes us feel good, what makes us feel bad, and everything in between. However, although you might know your body’s preferences, you might not know that much about how the body works in general.
For a long time, we’ve heard many “facts” about the human body that we’ve accepted and stored away somewhere in the 10 percent of our brain that we actually use (more on that later). Here are some of the most common myths about the human body that you might still think are true.
Eat late and you’ll gain weight.
Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight has probably repeated this myth to themselves at some point, especially at night as they hunt for a snack before bed. It’s not entirely untrue—studies do show that people who tend to eat more at night often weigh more than those who have consistent meals throughout the day. But the trouble lies not with when they’re eating—the problem is what they tend to eat.
Think about it—what do you typically search for when making yourself a midnight snack? We can almost guarantee the answer isn’t going to be a tiny cup of yogurt. “I think this is the real crux of the issue,” says Dr. Caroline Cederquist, a bariatric physician.
“At midnight, people will rarely make chicken and salad. They will eat ice cream or chips, the high-fat or high-sugar foods that our bodies store so effectively as fat.”
The bottom line? If you truly are hungry at night, go ahead and eat something. Just make sure it’s not junk. If you’re snacking for the sake of snacking, though, it’s best to fight the urge.
We use 10 percent of our brains.
This is an assertion that has baffled us all for years—that despite the intellectual capacity of humans, we can only gain access to a measly 10 percent of our brains. You’ll be pleased to hear that scientists find this “fact” laughable.
Sure, at certain moments we might only be using 10 percent of our brains, but that isn’t a constant. Most of the brain is still active all the time, but only certain portions of it may be actively used depending on what we’re doing. Brain damage can definitely take a toll on the brain’s ability to function properly, but it can often make do even then.
“There are people who have injured their brains or had parts of it removed who still live fairly normal lives, but that is because the brain has a way of compensating and making sure that what’s left takes over the activity,” says Mayo Clinic neurologist John Henley.
Urine is sterile.
Most of us have clung on to this myth for a time, particularly when we happen to be stuck in a desert with nothing else to drink or maybe when we’ve been stung by a jellyfish and we want a friend to pee on our leg (that doesn’t work, by the way).
There’s bad news, though, because your urine is definitely not sterile, even when it’s still inside your bladder.
A bacterial overgrowth anywhere within the urinary tract is undoubtedly bad, but there are low levels of bacteria within your bladder at all times, and that’s completely normal.
In fact, there really isn’t one place within your body that’s completely free from bacteria, but you have to remember that good bacteria also exist. Overgrowths and infections, though? Not okay.
Blood is really blue.
You might be looking down at your wrist right now proclaiming what idiots we must be because your veins are clearly blue. But they’re really not.
Your blood is actually red all the time, and you can thank light for the color change. Red and blue light sit at different wavelengths, and they penetrate your skin at different depths.
The colors that we end up seeing have to do with the wavelengths that are reflected back to us. Our veins look blue to us because that’s the wavelength color that is reflected instead of red.
Shaving causes thicker hair growth.
It’s a theory that’s the worst nightmare of women who shave their legs and maybe even parts of their face—that shaving hair makes it grow back much, much thicker.
You’ll be thankful to hear that this myth was actually debunked a long time ago, but it has somehow still persisted to this day. Why?
Although shaved hair won’t grow back thicker, it is often darker because it hasn’t yet been exposed to light. This darker hair makes it look thicker, which is likely why people still believe the hype.
Things like waxing will definitely help keep hair growth at bay longer than shaving does, but don’t worry about growing your own personal hair jungle if you pick up a razor now and then.
We all need eight cups of water daily.
For decades, the standard advice on water consumption has been that everyone needs a solid eight cups of the stuff each day. It’s a good goal to strive for—after all, water is super important for our health and way better for us than juices and sodas.
This really shouldn’t be considered a universal recommendation, though. How much water you actually need in a day depends on who you are and what you do each day. The person sitting at a desk for eight hours does not need as much water as the person working at a construction site in 90-degree heat.
For the average person, the current recommendation is about a liter each day to start with and then more as needed. One girl tried drinking a gallon of water, every day, for five days and finished with some very interesting results.
Gum takes seven years to digest.
We’d be willing to bet that at some point during your childhood, one of your parents told you that swallowing a piece of gum meant it would stay in your stomach for a full seven years. We all took it very seriously, of course, imagining that doing so must have pretty serious consequences if our parents warned us about it so much.
The myth isn’t entirely untrue, because there are certain ingredients in gum that our bodies can’t digest. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll stay in our bodies for long, especially not for years. Even the fiber from things like seeds and popcorn kernels can’t be fully digested in our stomachs.
Although gum isn’t exactly nutritious, it’ll be excreted just like anything else you eat if you accidentally swallow it.
Got oily Skin? Dry it out.
It makes sense in theory: If your skin is super oily, you’d want to do something that will dry it out, right? It’s true that you shouldn’t be adding products that contain oil to already oily skin, but using products that will actively dry your skin out isn’t the way to go, either.
When your skin is dry, your body thinks it needs to produce more oil to hydrate your skin. Yes, drying out your oily skin will only make it even more oily. Stop skipping the moisturizer and find one that has an oil-free formula instead.