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Science Talkies - Science Myths and Health Misconceptions

Science myths and health misconceptions

This documentary was screened as a part of the “Science Talkies” initiative in our Education Resource Centres. The following article is a briefing of the content of the documentary

We are all gullible when it comes to science. Any news that is published with the prefix ‘scientific’ makes us believe that it may be true without further questioning. This in turn leads to creation and propagation of new myths.

Myths are false stories that are prevalent in our societies. They exist because we lack any real understanding about the phenomenon.  Now the question is, can science destroy the existing myths in the society? In addition, how do we prevent the new ones that are being created in the name of science…? This documentary takes us on a trip to unravel the truth behind some of the belief systems and myths that have dominated our societies.

Detox therapies

Detoxification is the process of removal of toxic substances from our body. The liver is the organ responsible for this function. However, many places offer detox therapies with health drinks and massages. But how do drinks or massage processes replace the functions of the liver?

Christine Muller, a general practitioner believes that detoxification treatment can really help the body to get rid of the toxins from food and environment. While there is no specific research conducted to measure detox levels, happiness quotient of patients after the therapy is used as an indicator of the effectiveness of the therapy. While Christine thinks about it this way, Lillian Christ, a doctor claims that detoxing is superfluous. She believes what we need is a healthy liver and kidney for the body to detox itself.  She also feels that detoxification treatments could be dangerous as it includes more intake of water leading to over dilution of salts in the body.

Now, having heard two views, what do you think? How do detoxification treatments work?

Is spinach rich in iron?

The Spinach project by Katrin Sama, a professor of chemistry didactics, was to test and dispel the myth that there is a lot of iron in spinach. What was that error which led to this widespread myth that spinach is a miracle vegetable?

She found out that this notion arose because of a transcription error in a lab. A scientist made a calculation error leading to a shift in the decimal point. The result read as 35mg instead of the actual 3.5mg. In reality, pumpkin seeds contain far more iron than spinach.

Eat chocolate to lose weight quickly, wow!

‘Eat chocolate to lose weight easily’ This had been the trending headlines in many newspapers until few years ago and people started following the chocolate diet to lose weight. But is this true? Has it been scientifically proven?

Deanna Noble, a filmmaker with her team had deliberately engaged in some pseudoscience and invented the chocolate diet. She wanted to experiment on how people get misguided by tactfully using certain methods and terminologies. For instance, she found out that people do not actually read a news to analyse if the study conducted is authentic as long as some data is collected and correlated. Watch this documentary to find out how they conducted this study and then decide – can chocolates help us lose weight?

Myths will always have a place in our society. There are different kinds of myths around us. Some old, some new, some traditional, some modern, some that were practiced by our ancestors and some that we have created. For instance, when we want something to happen in our favour we believe in lucky numbers, dresses, objects etc.  And most often, such things do have a rationale. However, not all practices are myths - like in the case of turmeric. Turmeric was applied as medicine to cure a bleeding wound. After gaining patency, the myth about turmeric has now become a fact. Today, we know that turmeric has antiseptic properties. So, how do we apply our judgments and distinguish between facts and myths?

We should remember that we cannot claim a research study as scientific unless it is systematically tried out in the scientific method.  In this world of information explosion, it is important to teach our children to think critically before they accept something as truth. A few quick tips are to check the authenticity of the source that provides the information. Random websites, WhatsApp videos or other inauthentic sources must not be the truth-providers of our society.

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