Fact or Cap: 9 Common Malaysian Medical Myths and Misconceptions

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Emeritus Prof. Dr. P.T. Thomas, provides answers to these medical myths.

Have you ever heard someone telling you that carrots can help with eyesight? Perhaps you were advised to not play in the rain or risk getting a cold. Let’s face it, we’ve been bombarded with medical superstitions and statements that it’s hard to tell what’s right from wrong! 

Taylor’s Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Emeritus Prof. Dr. P.T. Thomas shares his expertise on the questions asked by our Instagram followers.

Medical Myths Regarding Food and Dietary Habits

Q: Since coming to Malaysia, I’ve been told 100PLUS is the answer to healthcare. Fever? Drink 100PLUS. Headache? Drink 100PLUS! Is this true?

A: 100PLUS is an isotonic drink. Isotonic drinks have no additional benefit and do nothing in conditions such as fever and headache. Drinks like these contain electrolytes and a lot of sugar. They’re usually taken to replace fluids and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium lost due to severe diarhoea and after excessive perspiration from strenuous exercises.

The high sugar content is a cause for concern because it’ll reinstate the calories lost during exercise and excessive sugar intake is, of course, not healthy. The rehydration function that isotonic drinks claim to achieve can, honestly, be achieved by drinking plain water.

Does drinking isotonic drinks after exercising help hydrate oneself?

Q: As someone who has worn glasses since young, I’ve been told eating carrots will improve my vision! I tried eating as much as possible but it hasn’t improved my vision. I can’t help but think, is this why rabbits don’t need spectacles?

A: Eating carrots won’t improve your eyesight but they do have nutrients that can protect your eyes. Carrots have a high content of nutrients such as lutein and beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A, which can protect the eyes. If the poor vision is caused by a deficiency of vitamin A, then carrots, or rather beta-carotene in the carrots, may be able to reverse the poor vision. 

However, in cases of severe deficiency, carrots alone wouldn’t help and, instead, you’d require a high dose of vitamin A in capsules.That said, vitamin A alone isn’t effective in treating loss of vision due to other causes.

For those who are adequately nourished and don’t have a deficiency in vitamin A, an additional amount will not confer additional benefits. Though, it may have some use in the early stages of eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration.

Yes, we don’t see rabbits with spectacles. But if we could get them to see an optometrist, you may just find that many rabbits may very well need glasses!

Do rabbits have perfect vision because they eat carrots?

Q: Will mixing coke and durian result in death?

A: There’s evidence that mixing coke and durian, or rather drinking coke and eating durian, at the same time can result in death. It may cause indigestion, bloating, or even stomach discomfort because of excessive consumption of both… but not death.  

With that said, consuming large amounts of coke and durian together or by themselves will definitely increase your intake of calories because of the high sugar content of both foods which isn’t good for health.

Would you eat durian with coke if you had the option?

Q: My parents often tell me to not drink water right away after a meal. Is this bad?

A: Quite the contrary. Drinking water after or during a meal is actually good for digestion.

It helps to break down the food, helps in the absorption of nutrients, softens stools, and prevents constipation. Water also has no effect on the speed of digestion of solid food. Drinking water during or after meals doesn’t dilute the digestive secretions which contain enzymes and acid.

However, these instructions from parents may be directed to young children who have small stomach volumes, and drinking plenty of water during meals may mean less space for solids.

Does drinking a glass of water after a meal cause a bloating feeling?
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Medical Myths Regarding Exercise and Other Habits

Q: Weightlifting stunts your growth. Is that true?

A: Weightlifting doesn’t stunt growth. This myth probably arose because of the concerns that weight training and other high-impact sports can injure the growth plates, which are areas of the bone that grow. 

However, there’s no evidence to show that weightlifting will stunt growth. Notwithstanding that, it’s important to get proper advice on how to lift weights so that you don’t injure yourself. This also applies to other high-impact sports like wrestling, rugby, and football.

Would heavy weightlifting stunt ones growth?

Q: Is fasting an effective weight loss strategy?

A: In general, weight loss can be achieved when your intake of calories is less than the calories used up for body function and daily activities.

Fasting is one way to achieve this as fasting for short periods of time results in a lower intake of calories. The body uses stored fat and glycogen for its energy needs and consequently, you lose weight. 

However, studies have shown that these effects don’t last long. A better approach to reducing weight will be to gradually reduce the quantity of intake of food and beverages, especially those with high sugar content, and increase activities and exercise that’ll use up calories. However, this may mean a lifetime of moderate consumption of food and regular exercise. That’s the better strategy.

What's the most effective way to shed some weight?

Q: Can chocolate cause acne?

A: Chocolate itself doesn’t cause acne. A high-quality review of clinical studies has shown that chocolate has no clear effects on all forms of skin conditions including acne. 

However, in some ways, the jury is out on this myth. There are some studies that say this is fact and others that say it’s cap. Some even think it’s not the chocolate itself but the high sugar content present in these chocolate goodies that may be associated with acne. 

Additionally, acne is caused by many factors. Some people may also be more acne-prone than others as acne is also caused by hormonal changes, especially in young adults.

How much is too much chocolate to cause acne breakout?

Q: Will the cold weather or playing in the rain cause you to fall sick?

A: Cold weather or playing in the rain doesn’t cause someone to fall sick. Cold weather is often associated with the common cold and influenza (the flu), but it isn’t causative. 

Playing in the rain may cause shivering and a runny nose but you don’t fall sick from it. Shivering is the body’s reaction to keep warm when it’s cold, caused by either a wet body or the cold weather.

Additionally, during the cold weather people stay indoors for long periods of time and viruses, like the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, spread more easily at low temperatures.

Does playing in the rain cause one to fall sick?

Q: Is 10,000 (steps) the magic health number?

A: There isn’t any magic in 10,000 steps. The idea of 10,000 steps actually came from a Japanese manufacturer of a pedometer who created pedometers and called them, Manpo-kei, which means 10,000 in Japanese. It was, to put simply, a marketing tool.

A study has found that walking up to 7500 steps a day reduces mortality but more than that doesn’t make much difference. A Malaysian study also found that walking more was good for blood pressure control. The important message isn’t about the number but to walk or exercise regularly. A good guide is 150 minutes of moderate exercise in a week or about 30 minutes of brisk walking a day.

Is it really important to reach the 10k steps goal every day?
Intrigued by how you too can bust these medical myths? Perhaps you’d like to find the solutions to the problems that created the myths? Find out how a Degree in Medicine, Pharmacy, or even Biosciences could be your stepping stone. Enquire about them here.