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Can echinacea cure the flu?

But… high strength and quality are both needed for the herb to work. These are found in clinics or nutrition centres that stock practitionergrade supplements. In fact, this herb can work against any immune system problem. “Echinacea boosts the immune system and stimulates the lymphatic system. It clears up mucus, phlegm and other toxins,” says Sheeba Majmudar, nutritionist from wellness centre Verita Advanced Wellness. Avoid it if you have auto-immune diseases, like Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, as the herb could worsen the condition. Also stay away if you are on immunosuppressant pills.

Do deodorants and antiperspirants really cause breast cancer?
Jury is out.

Scientists acknowledge that further investigations need to be done. Parabens and aluminium-based compounds found in these products have been shown to get into breast tissue and are said to have oestrogen-like eff ects. Abnormally high levels of oestrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer. Plus, at least one type of paraben (which is present in both products) has shown up in 99 per cent of breast tissue samples taken from women with breast cancer. You shouldn’t need to change your current product but if you are concerned, you can get paraben-free deodorants and antiperspirants.

Is soya bad for me?

There are different camps out there debating the safety of soya but they all agree that organic soya in its wild or fermented form is okay. In fact, it’s said to lower cancer rates! Sheeba says miso and tempeh are safe, as well as traditional tofu. But avoid soya or soyabased foods made from genetically modified (GMO) soya. These have been said to cause breast cancer, infertility and even heart diseases due to toxic chemicals, called xenoestrogens, that are produced during manufacturing. Food labels will not disclose if a product is derived from GMO soya, so stick with those that indicate they are from non- GMO sources.

Is organic food better for you?

Yong Pay Wen, dietitian from the Department of Dietetics at Singapore General Hospital, says there is still no conclusive research evidence that compares organic food to food grown conventionally. While there’s no harm in eating pesticide-free produce, Karen Wright, lead dietitian at nutrition centre The Food Clinic, advises that organic foods are just as high in fat, sugar and salt as ordinary foods.

Should you avoid drinking water until after your meal? 

It’s a misconception that drinking water during a meal dilutes the digestive juices and affects digestion. Bibi Chia, head dietitian of nutrition centre Live Wise, says it doesn’t matter if you drink water before, during or after meals. Sipping water while eating can actually help you digest your food better.

Will you catch a cold after getting caught in the rain? 

There is no scientific proof for this. A cold is an infection commonly caused by viruses. So why is this belief so prevalent? Vasomotor rhinitis (runny nose) is a common, non-allergic reaction brought about possibly by temperature changes. If you have this, your nose may start to run when you forget your umbrella, but most people will be fine.

Will eating after 10pm make you gain weight?

This misconception is that if you sleep immediately after you eat, your body “stores” the calories. But the real cause of weight gain is eating more calories than you burn. You should be looking at the total number of calories consumed in a day rather than what time you eat. “If you eat a healthy snack at 10pm, it shouldn’t cause you to pile on extra kilos,” says Bibi.

Must you take your vitamins after you eat?

Pay Wen says it’s not necessary to take your vitamins only after you eat but to follow the food label if it has special instructions. This is because vitamins are directly absorbed into our blood. Such supplements differ from medication as medicines react diff erently in our body. Some of them can alter the absorption, metabolism and excretion of nutrients in food and even the other way around.

Will drinking cold drinks during your period give you cramps and a heavier flow?
It depends.

There is no scientific evidence that cold drinks will give you abdominal cramps, says Dr Tony Tan, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Raffles Women’s Centre, Raffles Hospital. But he accepts that there are different triggers that worsen menstrual cramps in different people (which can vary from exercising to drinking alcohol, for example). If you find that cold drinks are your trigger, avoid them.

Do muscles turn into fat if you stop working out?

Syazwani Masodi, gym supervisor from Amore Fitness, says muscle cells grow in size when we do resistance training, while fat cells shrink as we use up their stored calories. So if we stop working out and continue eating high-calorie foods, our muscle cells shrink while fat cells balloon, but muscles don’t convert into fat.

Are plastic bottles with Bisphenol A (BPA) poisonous?

BPA, a compound used to make a type of plastic, has been said to increase obesity, have negative effects on foetal and infant brain development and behaviour, and increase your risk of cancer. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore warns about the usage of baby bottles (which often contain BPA) on its website. However, if you don’t pour boiling water into them or put them in the microwave, you’ll be safe, even with long-term use.

This story was first published in HerWorld Fit & Fab Issue #1, 2012.

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