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4 Health Claims Debunked By Science

photo by United Nations Photo via Flickr 

When it comes to your health and well-being there may (unfortunately) be quite a lot to fret about, from additives in food products, to the mounting concern over GMOs. But not all health claims are created equally.

Below are four health claims, both past and present, that turned out not to be so scary.

Vaccines cause autism

Claim

Fervor of vaccination naysayers has been carried out on a national stage (most notably through the involvement of celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Donald trump).

High profile endorsements aside, how do the anti-vaxxers claims hold up to peer-reviewed science?

Science

In 1998, after the publication of a paper in a British health journal called The Lancet, which purported a possible link between vaccines and autism, the seed for the anti-vax debate was planted.

Though this study (which involved a sample size of only 12 children) has since been retracted and widely discredited by the scientific community, the emotion behind the debate has carried it onward, fueled in part by sensationalist media coverage and the encouragement of some celebrities.

With 33 percent of Americans believing that some vaccines cause autism, and another 30 percent undecided, the anti-vax movement itself may prove to be even more dangerous than not being vaccinated.

Metals in makeup are poisoning consumers

Claim

Nothing more benign than a little lipstick, right? Some may argue otherwise. Concern over levels of heavy metals found in certain brands of lipsticks have prompted an FDA evaluation not once, but twice throughout recent history.

Science

Stemming from a 2013 study by UC Berkeley, the scrutiny of trace amounts of heavy metals–which are used as color additives–found in lipstick has been reinvigorated. Through analyzing 32 different kinds of commercial lipstick the study found traces of cadmium, chromium, and aluminum, at what a report summary states could “raise potential health concerns.

While the presence of these substances is undeniable, the FDA has addressed at least one of such metals (lead) in the 1990s as well as 2007, and concluded that it posed no immediate cause for concern, since levels were below the FDA-stipulated guidelines.

While such research is not to be dismissed outright, it might not be time to purge your lipstick collection quite yet. Co-author of the study S. Katharine Hammond believes her research should stand as a stepping stone for further inquiry, stating, “I don’t think people should panic… if you use it several times every day, you may want to think about it…Use it less.”

Power lines cause increased risk of leukemia in children

Claim

Time heals all–except concern over the safety of power lines. The idea that power lines may double the risk of cancer in children–as major research in the 1980s purported–has survived for over 30 years.

Science

A study, covered extensively by mainstream media in the 1980s and early 90s, claimed that electromagnetic fields produced by high voltage power lines were responsible for doubling the rate of cancer in some children.

Since then, the research and the conclusions derived from it have been widely debunked, not just by the scientific community, but by the original authors of the report themselves.

In this New York Times presented documentary, the authors of the speak candidly about about how their study has become inextricable from the public consciousness.

Coffee causes certain types of cancer

Claim

This is the moment coffee-drinkers–which account for 83 percent of U.S. adults–have been dreading. Health concerns over America’s morning beverage of choice have centered around a purported increased risk of developing certain types cancer.

Science

While the origins of such claims are somewhat unclear, the fear that coffee is a carcinogen emanates most directly from its designation by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a possible carcinogen in 2011.

Since then, however, extensive peer-reviewed research has either indicated no relationship between coffee and cancer, or even a favorable one (coffee decreases the risk). However, increased risk of lung cancer was observed amongst heavy coffee drinkers–a correlation researchers believe is probably caused by an increased likelihood that coffee drinkers are also smokers.

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James Pero