Uncovering the Biggest Health Myths!

5-Minute Health Fixes

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Health Investigation

The Doctors are joined by Health Investigator Liz Vaccariello to separate fact from fiction in commonly believed health myths.

Does Crossing Your Legs Cause Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins that appear close to the surface of the skin and are most prevalent in the foot, ankle and legs. Approximately 50 percent of women over the age of 50 will develop them.

Find out the true cause of the condition.

“If you have a genetic predisposition for varicose veins, exercise can help,” Liz says. “Daily exercise can help boost circulation and keep your veins and your circulatory system healthy.”

Do We Use Only 10 Percent of Our Brain?
The idea that people only use 10 percent of their brains is a widely held belief. However, the brain is an organ, just like our heart and stomach, and we do use all parts of it. MRI, PET and other imaging scans show no dormant or unused areas of the brain.

Fun fact: The brain represents 3 percent of the body’s weight, but it consumes 20 percent of the body’s energy. To stay sharp, feed your brain!

How to Boost Brainpower

• Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise
• Eat foods high in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables
• Eat fish
• Undertake new tasks, activities or hobbies to stimulate and engage different parts of your brain

Fun fact: When you perform cardiovascular exercise, you increase the mass, or size, of your brain!

Is It OK to Eat Expired Food?
The Doctors and Liz explain the difference between food labels and when it’s safe to eat food past its expiration date

Deciphering Food Labels:

a) Sell By Date
“Sell By” indicates how long a store should display the product for sale. The product can still be used after the “sell by” date if it is safe, wholesome and of good quality. However, consumers should buy the product before the date expires. A common example of such a product is milk, which can be used for as many as seven days after its sell by date.

b) Expires On
“Expires On” indicates the latest date that the food should be eaten or used. The one exception is eggs that are federally graded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which mandates eggs be stamped with A, AA, etc. If these eggs are purchased before the expiration date, it is safe to use them for the next three to five weeks after the date.

c) Best If Used By
“Best If Used By” indicates the recommended date of consumption for the best flavor and quality of a product. It is neither a purchase nor a safety date, and it does not mean the food is unsafe to eat after that date.

Recommended Length of Storage after Purchase:
Poultry: 1 to 2 days
Beef, veal, pork or lamb: 3 to 5 days
Ground meat or poultry: 1 to 2 days
Fresh variety meats: 1 to 2 days
Cured ham: 5 to 7 days
Pork or beef sausage: 1 to 2 days
Eggs: 3 to 5 Weeks

What’s the Best Way to Better Abs?
Abdominal exercise devices are a $250 million-a-year industry. Liz heads up a Health Investigation into which device, if any, can give you better abs than the traditional -- and free -- crunch exercise. She enlists the help of Dr. Eric Sternlicht, nutrition and exercise consultant in the Department of Kinesiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.


Dr. Sternlight hooks electrodes to Liz’s abdomen to measure her muscle activity in the three abdominal muscle groups; upper rectus abdominus, lower abdominus and external obliques. Liz tries the Ab-Roller Plus, Ab Coaster, Torso Track 2, a stability ball and a traditional crunch.

After compiling the correlating muscle activity data for each device that Liz tested, Dr. Sternlicht concludes, “For every exercise, we found that none of the activities were higher [for the device] than it was for the crunch exercise.”

“The crunch is the winner!” Liz says.

Flat Belly Diet Tips
Extra weight in your midsection increases your risk of many diseases. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, endangers vital organs by wrapping around them and becoming metabolically active, which stimulates hormones, can increase blood pressure, decrease sensitivity to insulin and cause other adverse effects.

Liz is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Flat Belly Diet that promises to banish belly fat for good.

“If you’re going to strengthen your abs, in order for those muscles to then show, you have to burn off the fat that’s over the ab [muscles], and that takes cardio,” Liz explains. “You have to move, you have to create a calorie deficit.”

Twitter Tuesday

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears answers a tweet from Makayla, who asks whether it's true that cake, pancake and brownie mixes can develop toxic mold.

Do you have a question for Dr. Sears? Tweet it to him at @DrJimSears on Twitter, or ask it at @TheDoctors!

Foods that Help Target Belly Fat
• Olive oil
• Nuts and seeds
• Avocado
• Dark chocolate

Try the 28-Day Flat Belly Plan!

Ask Dr. Lisa
Kiki emails The Doctors to see whether her grandmother’s instructions to not swim or take a bath when on her period are fact or fiction. OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson picks up the phone to answer Kiki directly!

Do you have a question for Dr. Lisa? Ask it here!

Laugh It Up!
A new study reveals that people officially become grumpy after the age of 52. Infants laugh nearly 300 times per day; teenagers, six times per day; and after age 52, people laugh a meager two times per day. Laughter can alleviate pain, lower blood pressure and improve your quality of life. To maximize your chance of giggling, surround yourself with people, and laugh it up!

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OAD 11/23/10