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From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

6 Old Wives' Tales About Food that Are Absolutely Not True

Does swallowed gum really stay in your stomach for 7 years, and does the tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey really make you tired? Our experts have scoured the available science to bring you the answers to these questions and more.

6 Old Wives' Tales About Food that Are Absolutely Not True

Old wives' tales are superstitions still oftentimes believed regardless if unscientific or inaccurate. Does spicy food actually cause stomach ulcers? Does that Thanksgiving turkey really make you reach for a pillow and blanket? Turn those food myths into facts with these six deciphered old wives' tales.

1. Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

Some research does suggest eating may influence short-term immune function. However, the research is inconclusive on whether or not eating effects the course of a cold. Although food does not seem too appealing when feeling ill, starving yourself is not ideal. With a fever, the body is already burning calories at a much higher rate. Not replenishing the body with calories and energy can ultimately make the body feel depleted and weaker and contribute to muscle loss. Soft, bland foods can be most desirable with a cold or fever and should be consumed as tolerated.

2. Spicy Food Causes Ulcers

Yes, spicy foods can be uncomfortable and irritating when dealing with a stomach ulcer. But unlike popular belief, spicy foods do not actually cause them. Stomach ulcers are typically developed by the overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen or a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Stress is also looked to as a stomach ulcer culprit the way spicy foods are. Although they can make ulcers worse, they do not increase the risk of developing one the way an H. pylori infection and NSAID use could. So Sriracha lovers, rejoice!

3. Turkey Makes You Tired

This notion stems from tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that acts as a building block for protein. When consumed, tryptophan converts into niacin that plays important roles in regards to energy production and tryptophan, a chemical in the brain associated with relaxation and sleep. Chowing down on the Thanksgiving, tryptophan-containing turkey has been assumed to lead to tiredness and an afternoon nap. Although an educated assumption, turkey contains no more (if not less) tryptophan than other poultry products such as chicken. In reality, turkey PLUS all of the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pies lead to sleepiness. When large meals are consumed, the body goes into "rest and digest" mode. The gut is given the most attention during this time, as it takes a high amount of energy to digest that holiday meal and second or third helpings. Other organs, like the brain, slow down and move into a resting state, resulting in the want or need for a nap.

4. Chocolate Causes Acne

We cannot play the blame game on this one because no, chocolate does not cause acne. Although breakouts are oftentimes contributed to a chocolate bar, research has concluded they are not correlated with one another. In reality, acne is caused by sebum, an oily substance that prevents the skin from drying out. Overactive glands responsible for sebum's production can ultimately become clogged, thus leading to acne. Risk factors that can worsen acne are changing hormone levels often occurring in puberty, oily skin products and make-up, stress, and irritating the skin by squeezing previous spots or scrubbing the face... Not by chocolate.

5. Swallowed Gum Will Stay in the Stomach for 7 Years

Although gum is not technically a food to be 'de-mythed', it is chewed and occasionally swallowed. It is true that gum cannot be digested the way food is in the stomach. Gum is composed of synthetic or natural materials (the gum resin or bulk) and other flavorings and sweeteners to enhance its appeal. Although the body can absorb the sweeteners and sugars, the resin remains undigested. Peristaltic movements, or wave-like muscle movements, do a good job on pushing the gum resin through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although swallowing large amounts of gum can create constipation and GI distress, the gum's lifespan in the gut will not last seven years and will end its quick journey during a trip to the bathroom.

6. Diet detoxes will remove toxins from the body.

Individuals detox the body through fasting, pricey herbs and supplements, expensive juices, raw fruits and vegetables, and colon cleanses to remove toxins from the body. Although they claim to enhance mental alertness and physical energy, there is little supportive evidence. In the absence of specific disease states, the kidneys and liver do a wonderful job in filtering and eliminating harmful waste and byproducts. The result of detoxes, especially long-term, can be damaging. Excluding healthful foods from the diet such as whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can result in muscle loss and nutrient deficiencies. Detoxes can ultimately make the body and wallet feel a little empty.


All About Acne. AcneAcademy. Available at:

Section of Gastroenterology. Temple University School of Medicine. Available at:

Sarah Asay's Photo
Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on January 29, 2016. Updated on May 16, 2019.


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