Debunking Holiday Medical Myths

From the AMA morning rounds (12/19/08)…

Researchers debunk popular holiday myths.

The CBS Evening News (12/18, story 12, 2:15, Couric) reported, “For generations, mothers…have doled out” their “own brand of medical advice,” such as keeping children “bundled under hats in the winter, and away from sugar.”

But, the Canadian Press (12/18) reported that many “commonly held beliefs are untrue,” according to research published in the Christmas issue of the BMJ by “myth busters extraordinaire Rachel Vreeman, M.D., and Aaron Carroll, M.D.,” of the Indiana University School of Medicine. For instance, the authors analyzed “data from 22,793 calls about poinsettia ingestion made to US poison control centers,” and “found no deaths, and no one who really even needed medical care.” Thus, they dispelled the myth that poinsettias are poisonous.

CNN (12/18, MacMillan) reported that, according to the authors, “a 35-year study on Minnesota residents found that suicides did not increase on or around Christmas, or any other major holidays, including birthdays, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July.” In fact, “research from all over the world…shows that suicides are actually more prevalent in warm, summer months — a pattern that scientists can’t quite explain.” Therefore, “while suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously at any time of year, there’s no reason to think that this month is especially dangerous,” they concluded.

The researchers also sought to determine if eating at night makes people fat, MSNBC (12/19, Runevitch) adds. The investigators found “nothing worse about a nighttime snack than a morning snack.”

Drs. Vreeman and Carroll also showed that “there is nothing special about heat loss from the head — any uncovered part of the body would lose heat,” BBC News (12/18) noted on its website.

Finally, HealthDay (12/18, Gordon) pointed out that the authors discussed “at least 12” studies which “have looked at the effect of sugar on children, and none found evidence for the sugar-equals-hyperactivity myth.” US News and World Report (12/18) also covered the story, as did CBS News (12/18) on its website.