Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Don't Swallow Your Gum!" by Aaron Carroll M.D. and Rachel Vreeman M.D.

Wonders never cease! I received my alumi newsletter from IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis, for those not already in the know) and almost threw it out without looking at it, since they typically just want me to send in money. For some reason, I started leafing thru the thing, and here's this cute little book, written by two grads. Hmmm.... the book looked like it could be interesting - I'm always up for something debunking medical/diet/whatever myths. I checked our catalog (not really believing I'd see it) and OMG, there it is! A few mouse clicks later and it would be on its way to me right before I took my week of vacation, a little light (and hopefully fun) reading for my break.

This book covers a lot of medical myths about our bodies and our health, things that you've probably heard your mother say in your lifetime (or possibly even your doctor). Now, the authors are quick to point out that they did not do any experiments themselves. Instead, they dug through all the information that is now readily available for proof, or the lack thereof, regarding these myths. They were looking for hard scientific data that would back up such motherly claims as "Don't swallow your gum, cause it'll stay in your stomach for 7 years!" In case you're wondering, no, gum doesn't stick around in your tummy that long. True, it's made up of several indigestible substances (which makes sense, when you think about it!) but as the authors point out, the gut has a way of moving things along no matter what.

I won't bore you with all the little stories, but I will tell you which one I found to be the most fascinating. I'm sure everyone has heard about the razor blades in the Halloween candy, right? Well, it never happened. There is no definitive proof that any child has ever found a razor blade in his Snickers or Three Musketeers bite-size bars. Definitely urban legend time, probably passed down thru the infamous "Friend of a Friend". There have been a few deaths around Halloween, and they have been blamed on candy - at first. Turns out in every case there was a parent using the candy to hide the real cause, which was typically their drug stash. Sad, right? OK, here's the real kicker: there was a woman who gave kids poison! Her name was Helen Pfeil, and in 1964 she was arrested for giving out "joke" treats, packages of dog biscuits, steel wool pads, and yes, poison buttons. Before you say "aha - told ya!", she labeled each package with a list of contents, and she told the kids exactly what she was giving them. She only gave these "special packages" out to kids that she thought were too old to be out trick-or-treating, trying to show them the error of their ways. Yeah, maybe she shouldn't have given out this exact "treat", but I have to agree with her point - I've had teenagers show up pretty much demanding candy at Halloween. Anyway, now you know why this rumor/urban legend has been around for so long!

Overall, this was a good little book. Not necessarily a lot of new information, but still some interesting stuff. Plus, you can read it, then have the "real" scoop when your Mom tries to tell you that you'll go blind trying to read in the dark!

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