Cold season is arriving, and many people are stocking up on vitamin C, a widely used cure for the common cold. However, the Cochrane Review found that routine vitamin C supplementation failed to reduce the incidence of colds in the general population. What other supplements and foods are we taking with the assumption that they prevent or cure ailments? Many people aim to drink eight glasses of water each day, and eat carrots to help improve vision. These are two of many medical myths that continue to pervade public belief.
Last week the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study that debunked a commonly held assumptionthat cranberry pills prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). The study, a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of scientific studies), found that cranberry pills given over one year did not result in significantly different bacteriuria plus pyuria, compared to placebo. It may surprise you to know that there have never been strong studies showing cranberry pills to be effective in preventing UTIs. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Lindsay Nicolle states that clinicians should not be promoting cranberry use by suggesting that there is proven, or even possible, benefit. Clinicians who encourage such use are doing their patients a disservice.
This study is a reminder to review the evidence for supplement and food cures, and to move on from previously held beliefs that have been discredited.
What other medical myths can you think of that may not necessarily be true? Tweet at Elle Alexander @ElleGHAP or Vitality @VitalityUSA.