Busting Three Health Myths

Most folks think the greatest risks to their health are the things they don't know...

Like whether something is healthy or not... or if there is a killer chemical lurking in their kitchen cabinets that they haven't ever heard about.

But the bigger dangers are what you think you know... but aren't true.

We constantly dig through common myths and misconceptions to get to the facts.

In the past, we've told you why the "common knowledge" about eggs is nonsense... why hospitals are some of the most dangerous places in America... and how doing nothing can be the best move for your retirement funds.

Today, we're digging deeper into the cholesterol myth, telling you about a drink you should avoid, and explaining when you shouldn't eat grapefruit.

What myth do you want us to debunk next? Let us know at [email protected].

Q: I'm wondering about effects of long-term statin use. What's the real story on statin side effects and the causes of "bad" cholesterol? – P.R.

A: Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) and their many issues are one of the topics we will be covering in a future issue of Retirement Millionaire Daily. But I can tell you that over the years I've written about dozens of studies highlighting the dangers of statin use. Statins cause muscle weakness, tendon problems, rises in blood sugar, increased cataract risk, and memory loss.

But remember, the real culprit of heart disease is inflammation, as we discussed in "The Cholesterol Myth." Changes in your diet and exercise will help fight inflammation.

Eating foods like fish and broccoli lowers your cholesterol and reduces inflammation. Get rid of inflammation-causing foods like white bread and refined sugar, too.

Do what I do and get moving. Losing just a few pounds lowers your cholesterol while avoiding the risks and expense from costly or dangerous pills.

And always remember – some folks might try diet and exercise and it still won't be enough. Talk to your doctor about your statin concerns and see if a non-statin drug would work for you. For example, there's promising (although still new and scant) research on a non-statin called Ezetimibe. You can read more on different non-statin treatments right here.

Q: Are there any issues with drinking "energy drinks"? – B.E.

A: We've slogged through a ton of research papers and the answer is... yes.

First of all, the main problem with energy drinks is consumption. Most teenagers (the biggest market for these drinks) consume more than the recommended amount...

Since we can't safely test these high levels on human participants in a lab, much of the research comes from individual patient case studies. Those studies pointed out problems with heart attacks, liver failure, and even hallucinations. The difficulty is that some of these patients had multiple drinks, some combined it with alcohol, and some only had a single serving. We simply don't have any thorough, long-term health studies on the dangers from these drinks and how differently people process them.

Now, I say dangers for a reason. Although these drinks often contain about the same amount of caffeine as a cup or two of brewed coffee, they also contain "boosters" – chemical additives that supposedly increase your energy along with the caffeine. That can make for dangerous combinations.

For example, one paper we found revealed that the combination of caffeine, taurine, and guarana (all popular ingredients found in energy drinks) actually speeds up cell death in human nerve cells. (You can read more on this research and other papers in this excellent review.)

Make sure you discuss energy-drink use with your teenagers and young adults – teach them about proper "sleep hygiene," and make sure they aren't relying on these cans of chemicals and sugar. If I need a boost, I brew up some regular coffee or take a nap. I also enjoy getting out in the sunshine for an easy pick-me-up.

Q: For several years, I have known that the potency of some patented drugs (perhaps others) is lessened, or eliminated, by the presence of grapefruit when consumed during the use of these drugs.

If you have access to such a list, publishing it would benefit the readers. – D.B.

A: Thanks for writing in. Many drugs interact with grapefruit... so many that finding a full list is difficult.

As we mentioned in our issue on drug interactions, we prefer a few different websites. Medscape has the most complete list we could find for all drugs that interact with grapefruit. You can access it right here.

But the best way to be sure is to check your drug information. The FDA has this education sheet advising consumers on what to look for on drug labels to check interactions. Know your risks and discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist... Take control of your health today.

What We're Reading...

  • Tomorrow is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Across the country, you can safely dispose of extra prescription medications. Find your nearest location right here.