Ok, that one’s true, especially if the grandkids are reading this over your shoulder.
But other common holiday health myths are urban lore. You may already know that it wasn’t the turkey that made you sleepy over Thanksgiving, according to National Public Radio. Now it’s time to explode a few myths about Christmas and New Year’s. Just to make it interesting, we’ve included a few “myths” that are actually true.
1. Poinsettias are Toxic
“You’ve heard you have to be really careful, especially around children and pets, but the truth is poinsettias aren’t linked to any significant problems,” says Rachel Vreeman, MD, MS, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half Truths, and Downright Lies About Your Body and Health.
“Reportedly, the leaves don’t taste good, so that would limit consumption anyway,” says Dr. Vreeman. Similarly, mistletoe berries, while not really edible, aren’t particularly toxic to people, according to the New York Times. Both plants also have low toxicity for cats and dogs.
However, cautions Dr. Vreeman, “any time a parent or grandparent or pet owner is concerned about something that a child or pet has eaten, it’s always a good to call the Poison Control Center.” (The number: 800-222-1222.)
So it makes sense to watch what you eat over the holidays, but don’t fret too much about late-night eating, says Dr. Vreeman. While a recent study did find that people who ate a big meal at midday lost more weight than those who ate a big meal later at night, “in larger studies, eating at night is not associated with weight gain,“ says Dr. Vreeman.
“Eating more than three times a day is, though, as is skipping breakfast.” To keep total calories in check, try to stay on your normal eating schedule as much as you can.
It’s true around the world, too. “We don’t see suicide peaks in the cold, dark winter months—in fact, the rates peak in the warmer months.” Perhaps T.S. Eliot was right about April being the cruelest month…
“Sugar has been studied better than many drugs. There are at least 12 randomized controlled studies, and in study after study, whether they look at juice or natural sugar or candy or chocolate, there is no effect on kids’ behavior.”
However, research does show that if parents think their kids have had sugar, they’ll rate their children’s behavior as worse. They did so even with kids who were given sugar-free beverages. Meanwhile, when strangers were shown videotapes of the kids, they didn’t notice any behavioral changes in the sugar eaters.
So why do kids eat sweets and act crazy? “It’s a party, there are other kids around, the rules have changed, there may be different bedtimes—and these happen to be the occasions at which kids eat sugary foods,” says Dr. Vreeman.
Fires from candles also spike—December is the peak time of the year for home fires caused by candles. Make sure you keep candles at least a foot from anything that could catch fire—and make sure you blow them all out well before bedtime.
But there’s something about Christmas week that’s especially dangerous. Even in mild Los Angeles, heart attack deaths start rising after Thanksgiving, climb through Christmas, and peak around New Year’s Day—and then fall again in January and February.
Actually, the most dangerous day of the year for fatal car crashes used to be July 4th, although in some years Thanksgiving has surpassed it. Memorial Day and Labor Day are also more dangerous than Christmas and New Year’s Eve or Day.
Still, it’s riskier to drive on New Year’s than on other days of the year, so it’s a good day to stay home if you can. And there are plenty of car crashes in the days leading up to Christmas, so be prudent at the malls.
There is a smidgeon of evidence that the cysteine in eggs – an amino acid — might help the body clear out toxic alcohol metabolites, though. “An egg sandwich might be a good way to go when you have a hangover, but it’s still a stretch,” she says.
As for dropping a raw egg yolk into that mysterious tonic your brother recommends for the day after, skip it: Raw eggs can carry salmonella. And getting food poisoning is the last thing you want right now.
Happy holidays and be sure to leave cookies and milk for the big guy.
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