It's Time For These 101 Ridiculous Science "Facts" To Die

Skye Gould/Tech Insider

Who hasn't shared an amazing science fact only to feel embarrassed later on, when you find out the information was wrong? No more!

It's time to put an end to the most alluring science myths, misconceptions, and inaccuracies passed down through the ages.

To help the cause we've rounded up and corrected dozens of the most shocking science "facts" that are bizarrely wrong about food, animals, the Earth, biology, space, alcohol, and health. 

FOOD MYTHS 

MYTH: There are bugs in your strawberry Frappuccino.

MYTH: There are bugs in your strawberry Frappuccino.

Ron Cogswell/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This one is no longer true.

Before April 2012, Starbucks' strawberry Frappucino contained a dye made from the ground-up bodies of thousands of tiny insects, called cochineal bugs (or Dactylopius coccus).

Farmers in South and Central America make a living harvesting — and smashing — the bugs that go into the dye. Their crushed bodies produce a deep red ink that is used as a natural food coloring, which was "called cochineal" red but is now called "carmine color."

Starbucks stopped using carmine color in their strawberry Frappucinos in 2012. But the dye is still used in thousands of other food products — from Nerds candies to grapefruit juice. Not to mention cosmetics, like lovely shades of red lipstick.

Sources: Business Insider, CHR Hansen, AmericanSweets.co.uk, FoodFacts.com, LA Times

MYTH: Eating food within 5 seconds of dropping it on the floor is safe.

MYTH: Eating food within 5 seconds of dropping it on the floor is safe.

Flickr / Rubbermaid Products

It's the worst when something you really wanted to eat falls on the floor. But if you grab it in five seconds, it's ok, right?

The five-second-rule isn't a real thing. Bacteria can contaminate a food within milliseconds.

Mythbusting tests show that moist foods attract more bacteria than dry foods, but there's no "safe duration." Instead, safety depends on how clean the surface you dropped the food on is.

Whether you eat it or not after that is up to you, but if the people that walk on that floor are also walking around New York City, for example, we wouldn't recommend it.

Sources: Business Insider, Discovery.com

MYTH: The chemical tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy.

MYTH: The chemical tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy.

Bev Currie/Flickr

Who doesn't love the post-Thanksgiving nap? After all, turkey contains tryptophan — an amino acid that is a component of some of the brain chemicals that help you relax.

But plenty of foods contain tryptophan. Cheddar cheese has even more than turkey, yet cheddar is never pointed out as a sleep inducing food.

Experts say that instead, the carbs, alcohol, and general size of the turkey-day feast are the cause of those delicious holiday siestas.

Sources: Business Insider, LiveScience

MYTH: There's beaver butt secretions in your vanilla ice cream.

MYTH: There's beaver butt secretions in your vanilla ice cream.

Via Flickr

You've probably heard that a secretion called castoreum, isolated from the anal gland of a beaver, is used in flavorings and perfumes.

But castoreum is so expensive, at up to $70 per pound of anal gland (the cost to humanely milk castoreum from a beaver is likely even higher), that it's unlikely to show up in anything you eat.

In 2011, the Vegetarian Resource Group wrote to five major companies that produce vanilla flavoring and asked if they use castoreum. The answer: According to the Federal Code of Regulations, they can't. (The FDA highly regulates what goes into vanilla flavoring and extracts.)

It's equally unlikely you'll find castoreum in mass-marketed goods, either.

Sources: Business Insider, Vegetarian Resource Group, FDA, NY Trappers Forum

MYTH: Eating chocolate gives you acne.

MYTH: Eating chocolate gives you acne.Flickr/lhongchou's photography

False.

For one month, scientists fed dozens of people candy bars containing 10 times the usual amount of chocolate, and dozens of others fake chocolate bars.

When they counted the zits before and after each diet, there was "no difference" between the two groups. Neither the chocolate nor the fat seemed to have any effect on acne.

Source: JAMA

MYTH: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

MYTH: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Imperfect

Apples are packed with vitamin C and fiber, both of which are important to long-term health, but they aren't all you need.

And if certain viruses or bacteria get into your system, an apple will unfortunately do nothing to protect you.

Go ahead and get that flu shot, even if you eat apples.

Source: Business Insider

MYTH: Organic food is pesticide-free and more nutritious.

MYTH: Organic food is pesticide-free and more nutritious.

naotakem via Flickr

Organic food isn't free of pesticides and it isn't necessarily better for you.
 
Farmers who grow organic produce are permitted to use chemicals that are naturally derived — and in some cases are actually worse for the environment than their synthetic counterparts. However, pesticide levels on both organic and non-organic foods are so low that they aren't of concern for consumption, according to the USDA.
 
Eating organic food also doesn't come with any nutritional benefits over non-organic food, according to a review of 98,727 potentially relevant studies.
 
 

MYTH: Natural sugar like honey is better for you than processed sugar.

A granola bar made with honey instead of high-fructose corn syrup is not better for you.

That's because sugar in natural products like fruit and synthetic products like candy is the same: "Scientists would be surprised to hear about the 'clear superiority' of honey, since there is a near unanimous consensus that the biological effect of high-fructose corn syrup are essentially the same as those of honey," professor Alan Levinovitz told Business Insider.

The problem is that candy and other related products typically contain more sugar per serving, which means more calories — a difference you should actually be watching out for.

Sources: Business Insider, SciShow, Dr. Joy Dubost/Huffington Post

MYTH: Milk does a body good!

MYTH: Milk does a body good!

liz west/flickr

This is an incredibly successful bit of advertising that has wormed its way into our brains and policies to make milk seem magical.

The US Department of Agriculture tells us that adults should drink three cups of milk a day, mostly for calcium and vitamin D.

However, multiple studies show that there isn't an association between drinking more milk (or taking calcium and vitamin D supplements) and having fewer bone fractures.

Some studies have even shown an association with higher overall mortality, and while that doesn't mean that milk consumption itself was responsible, it's certainly not an endorsement.

Sources: Business Insider, NYTimes, Journal of Bone Mineral Research, JAMA Pediatrics, The Lancet, British Medical Journal

MYTH: Coffee stunts your growth.

MYTH: Coffee stunts your growth.

Susanne Nilsson/Flickr

Most research finds no correlation between caffeine consumption and bone growth in kids.

In adults, researchers have seen that increased caffeine consumption can very slightly limit calcium absorption, but the impact is so small that a tablespoon of milk will more than adequately offset the effects of a cup of coffee.

Advertising seems to be largely responsible for this myth: Cereal manufacturer named C.W. Post was trying to market a morning beverage called "Postum" as an alternative to coffee, so he ran ads on the "evils" of Americans' favorite hot beverage, calling it a "nerve poison" that should never be served to children.

Sources: Business Insider (1, 2), Smithsonian Magazine

MYTH: Eating ice cream will make your cold worse.

MYTH: Eating ice cream will make your cold worse.

Álvaro Nistal/Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you're home sick with a cold, you can totally go ahead and comfort yourself with some ice cream.

The idea that dairy increases mucous production is very fortunately not true, according to researchers and a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, who says "in fact, frozen dairy products can soothe a sore throat and provide calories when you otherwise may not eat."

Bless him.

Sources: Business Insider, American Review of Respiratory Disease, Mayo Clinic

MYTH: Sugar is as addictive as heroin.

MYTH: Sugar is as addictive as heroin.

Jake Harris/flickr

In the 2009 book "Fat Chance," the author, Dr. Robert Lustig, claims that sugar stimulates the brain's reward system the same way that tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and even heroin does, and therefore must be equally addictive. Lustig even cites studies that show parts of our brain that light-up from a sugary reward are the same parts that get excited for many types of enjoyable activities, from drinking alcohol to having sex.

The problem, however, with these types of scientific studies of the brain is that "In neuroimaging, there is no clear-cut sign of addiction," Hisham Ziaudden, an eating behavioral specialist, told Levinovitz.

So, scientists don't know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.

Source: Business Insider (1, 2), "Fat Chance"

MYTH: Sugar and chocolates are aphrodisiacs.

In the mid 19th century — before sugar purportedly caused diabetes or hyperactivity — sugar was thought to ignite sexual desire in women, children, and, more controversially, the poor.

One vintage Kellogg advertisement even claimed "Candies, spices, cinnamon, cloves, peppermint, and all strong essences powerfully excited the genital organs and lead to the [solitary vice]."

So don't get worked up over sugar. There's little to no evidence to support the notion that it — or any food, including chocolates — stimulates sexual desire.

Sources: Business Insider, Mayo Clinic

MYTH: Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.

MYTH: Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.

Flickr user edith_soto

Numerous scientific studies have tried and failed to find any evidence that supports this off-the-wall notion.

The myth probably emerged in 1974, when Dr. William Crook wrote a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published it. "Only in the past three years have I become aware that sugar ... is a leading cause of hyperactivity," the letter stated.

A letter does not include the rigorous scientific research that a paper does, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health: "The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it."

Sources: University of Arkansas for Medial Sciences, Business Insider, NIH

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