15 Disproven Myths That Some Americans Still Believe To Be True

You have to wait 30 minutes to swim after eating or you’ll get stomach cramps. If you don’t put on a hat in cold weather, you’ll lose most of your body heat through your head. Oh, and don’t forget to stretch before exercising.

These types of proverbs have existed for many years, but are they true? Turns out, many Americans continue to believe some long-held myths that have proven to be false.

These 15 myths have existed in popular culture for years, and it may surprise you to learn they have no basis in fact. They’ve all been debunked by researchers, scientists, and other experts.

1: Chewing Gum Digestion

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Oops, you accidentally swallowed some gum. Will it really take seven years to digest? 

While your body can’t digest gum, it won’t stay in your stomach for seven years, as some Americans believe. According to the Mayo Clinic, gum moves through the digestive system normally, though it doesn’t break down like other foods.

2: 10% Brainpower

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You might have days when you believe you’re only using 10% of your brainpower potential. But it’s simply not true.

The false belief that people only use 10% of their brains may date to the early 20th century when American psychologist William James wrote that people use “only a small part” of their available mental and physical resources. The McGovern Institute says science shows humans use their entire brains every day.

3: Right vs Left Brain

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There’s another common brain myth that people are either right-brained or left-brained. According to popular belief, right-brained people are more artistic and creative, while left-brained people are logical and analytical.

Science suggests different sides of the brain may control separate functions, such as language and motor skills. However, there’s very little evidence to show either side of the brain determines personality traits or characteristics.

4: Swallowing Spiders

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If you’re scared of spiders, you may be terrified at the thought of swallowing one. There are many versions of the myth that you swallow a certain number of spiders in your sleep each year.

Rest easy, arachnophobics. It’s highly unlikely that you’re swallowing any spiders in your sleep. Spiders usually avoid humans if they can, and even if one attempts to approach you, it’s physically difficult to swallow a spider while sleeping.

5: Wet Hair

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Have you heard that if you go outside with wet hair on a chilly day, you’ll catch a cold? It’s not true, according to scientists.

Wet hair can make you feel colder, but it won’t actually cause you to catch a cold. The cold virus typically spreads through airborne droplets and high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs.

6: Heat Loss Through Head

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Maybe you won’t catch a cold with wet hair, but surely you should wear a hat. After all, people lose up to 80% of their heat through their heads.

Well, not necessarily. The size of your head in proportion to the rest of your body makes it almost impossible to lose 80% of your heat this way. You will lose heat through your head when you’re not wearing a hat, but only because it’s exposed to the cold.

7: Swimming After Eating

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As a child, your mom may have made you wait 30 minutes (or longer) to go swimming after you eat. Many Americans continue to believe the myth that swimming right after eating will result in stomach cramps.

This misconception may have originated from a 1911 Boy Scouts of America manual. There’s no scientific evidence to support this theory, though, and most people will be fine if they get into the pool after a meal.

8: Importance of Breakfast

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You can’t skip breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. Or is it?

Eating breakfast can provide your body with essential nutrients and help you build healthy habits. However, research is mixed on whether it’s actually the most important meal of the day.

9: Coffee Stunts Growth

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For many Americans, coffee is a central part of their morning routines, providing them with a caffeine boost to start their days. At some point, though, you may have heard that coffee stunts your growth or causes height loss.

Early studies linked coffee drinking to osteoporosis, a condition that can cause height loss. But an analysis of those studies showed that heavy coffee drinkers typically consumed less milk and other forms of calcium, which may have led to a higher risk of osteoporosis. 

10: Wet Phone in Rice

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It happens: Your phone gets wet and now it won’t turn on. Can rice be the answer to your problem?

Turns out, putting your wet phone in rice may do more harm than good. Apple says rice can damage your iPhone. Instead, it’s better to leave your phone in a ventilated area and allow it to dry completely.

11: Goldfish Memory

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If you’ve ever owned a goldfish, you might wonder if it remembers you at feeding time. After all, don’t goldfish have a memory of just a few seconds? 

Several studies have found that goldfish have much better memories than people believe. In one study, goldfish could consistently navigate a maze with obstacles to find food.

12: Jellyfish Stings

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Here’s a gross myth: If you get a jellyfish sting, you should pee on it. Fortunately, this one isn’t true.

Applying urine or other substances, like vinegar, won’t do anything for the sting, according to medical experts. If you’re stung by a jellyfish, the best approach is to wash the sting with salt water.

13: Short Lifespan of Flies

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Houseflies can be annoying pests when they get into your home, but luckily they only live for 24 hours. Right?

Wrong. The average housefly can live for around one month. Fruit flies live anywhere from 40 to 50 days.

14: Stretching Before Exercise

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It’s hard enough to make yourself go to the gym some days. Do you really need to stretch before you start exercising?

Not necessarily. You won’t prevent injury if you’re stretching a healthy muscle before your workout, according to Harvard Medical School. That said, there are benefits of doing an active warm-up before you begin more intense exercise.

15: Cracking Your Knuckles

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Cracking your knuckles may annoy some people around you, but it won’t cause health problems down the road. The myth that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis isn’t true.

A rheumatologist at Northwestern Medicine says cracking your knuckles can release endorphins, which may be why some people continue the habit. But there’s no science to suggest it leads to arthritis.

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