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4 Myths about diet, exercise, and sleep

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4 Myths about diet, exercise, and sleep

Beliefs developed when young about what is or isn’t healthy can follow us for a lifetime, experts say. But what if those beliefs don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny?

Here are four assumptions about diet, exercise and sleep that fail to meet the sniff test.

Myth No. 1: Popular diets are everywhere so they must work

Lose weight fast. It’s enticing, but the typical fad diet – even the more established ones, such as keto – emphasize limiting nutritional intake, often by banning entire food groups. Keto, for example, outlaws grains, legumes and fruits except for a handful of berries. Lopping off important micronutrients isn’t healthy, and restrictive diets “tend to fail in the long run,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That type of restriction in the long term leads to weight gain, not weight loss, and it often leads to weight cycling,” said Nina Taylor, education manager at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.

Going on and off a diet is called weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting, and studies have linked that eating pattern to higher body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol, all of which raises the risk of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death in women.

Eating a plant-based diet, watching sugar intake and limiting mindless eating are great ways to add years to your life, research has shown.


Myth No. 2: It’s OK to take your smartphone to bed

Who doesn’t want to check their social feeds one last time before lights out? But research has linked nighttime overuse of smartphones to trouble falling asleep, reduced sleep duration, daytime tiredness and even mood disorders.

When you use your phone, you’re flooding your eyes with blue light, which cuts off production of melatonin – that’s the hormone that regulates your body clock. Experts suggest banning any LED spectrum light for a full hour before sleep.

Bottom line: Don’t bring your cell phone and its harmful blue light to bed. Use an old-fashioned alarm clock to help you wake up.


Myth No. 3: You can lose belly fat with crunches

In reality, exercise burns fat all over the body, not just the body part your workout targets.

“You can do an exercise to increase the strength of a muscle, but you can’t spot reduce to remove fat,” said Dr. Angela Smith, a former president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Experts suggest increasing cardio to burn fat. Strive for a balanced fitness routine by varying workout intensity to include high- and low-intensity training.


Myth No. 4: Bodybuilding supplements advertised on social media really work

High school and college-age youth may feel they need weight training supplements after seeing products advertised on social media, said Dr. John Xerogeanes, chief of sports medicine at the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center and professor of orthopaedics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“The biggest issue I have with my patients is supplements,” Xerogeanes said. “Some influencer is marketing something that’s complete garbage, and suddenly the kid says, ‘Hey, I can take this supplement, and it’s gonna give me abs.’”

That’s a problem, he said, because the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the supplement industry.

“It may say one thing on the label, but you really don’t know what’s in it,” Xerogeanes said. “The manufacturers can put other minerals or even stimulants in their mix, which is why some of the high school and college athletes pop a positive on drug tests.”

When he works with college teams, he said, “I tell them, if you’re going to do any supplement, we need to see that supplement, and we need to have it independently tested.”

Research shows that if you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you are not likely to need supplements unless you are pregnant, elderly or have a specific dietary limitation.


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