We all know that you should eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, exercise regularly and cut down on saturated fat. But in recent years scientists have discovered a host of new…and rather more surprising…health tips and remedies.
Here, we reveal some of the more unusual advice for your well-being, including the virtues of chocolate milk and why high heels are good for you…
Ditch the whiskers to beat the sneezes – If you’re prone to allergies, you might want to reconsider that moustache.
One study suggests that men who washed their moustaches twice a day with liquid soap used fewer antihistamines and decongestants. The reason?
Cleaning got rid of stuck pollen grains.
Dr Rob Hicks, GP and author of Beat Your Allergy, says, ‘Like clothing, skin and hair, a moustache will trap pollen throughout the day.
‘A man with hay fever might consider shaving off his moustache to see whether it makes a difference.
‘That would probably be easier and more effective than remembering to wash it twice a day.’
Sniff an apple to stop a migraine – An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it turns out they may have health benefits beyond that.
A recent study of 50 people by The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation of Chicago found that the odour of green apple helped to reduce the severity of their migraines.
‘This may have something to do with the ability of pleasant fragrances to relax us and reduce tension,’ says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Somerville College, Oxford. ‘The odour may also help to distract people from thinking about the pain of the migraine.’
Another study found that apple aroma could help to relieve claustrophobia, by making a room seem bigger.
Apples, in particular, are thought to help because people associate them with being outside.
Wear high heels to save your knees – It’s advice that will have women across the country rejoicing — high heels can be good for you.
Researchers at Warwick and Oxford Brookes universities discovered that wearing high heels may make women less likely to develop arthritic changes in the knee joint in later life.
At the very least, they were no worse off than women opting for low footwear.
The study, published earlier this year, comprised 111 women aged 50 to 70.
It’s thought that by exercising the muscles of the leg, heel-wearers may build up better support for their knees as they age.
Professor Margaret Thorogood, from the Medical School at Warwick University, says, ‘Women who wear stiletto heels will be reassured to learn that their choice of fashion-before-comfort footwear will not lead to joint problems and may even prevent them.’
A separate study suggests that wearing heels can do wonders for a woman’s sex life. Italian urologist Dr Maria Cerruto discovered that a pair of ‘moderately high-heeled shoes’ had beneficial effects, toning the legs and strengthening the pelvic muscles.
‘They directly work the pleasure muscles which are linked to an orgasm,’ she says.
Keep tablets in the linen closet – The worst place you can store your medication is the bathroom. If medication is constantly exposed to light, heat or humidity…exactly the climate in a steamy bathroom…it could degrade faster than it should, reducing its potency and efficacy.
Instead, choose a dry, dark spot and you could help to preserve the potency of your pills.
Neal Patel, pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says: ‘A cool dry, dark area such as the linen closet is ideal.’
Retune the radio to lose weight – Perhaps it’s about time you skipped talk radio. Doing something different every day…even just switching radio stations…shakes us out of our daily routine and can help us kick bad habits, according to Professor Ben Fletcher, a psychologist at Hertfordshire University.
‘Deeply engrained habits of thinking and behaviour keep us doing things that are bad for us, like smoking, eating and drinking too much or becoming stuck in negative thought patterns, all of which impacts on our health,’ he says. ‘We can make our lives so much better by making very small changes.’
Wash your hands after getting cash – Next time you take money out of a hole-in-the-wall, you may want to have a good scrub afterwards.
Cleanliness tests have revealed that cash machines are as dirty and carry the same germs as public lavatories.
Experts took swabs from city centre cashpoints around England. The swabs showed the machines were heavily contaminated with bacteria, including those known to cause sickness and diarrhoea.
Dr Mark Fielder, medical microbiologist, says, ‘If people don’t wash their hands properly, all sorts of organisms will be transferred to the buttons on an ATM.
‘Just as it’s important to wash your hands after using the toilet, it would be sensible to clean them after getting money out.’
Flush with the lid down to save teeth – Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona, warns that you should always flush the lavatory with the seat lid down.
If you don’t, a polluted plume of bacteria and water vapour erupts out of the loo. The polluted water particles float for a few hours around your bathroom before they all land, some on your toothbrush.
Dr Gerba says, ‘Droplets containing bacteria or viruses are ejected from the bowl when flushed and settle throughout the bathroom.
‘It doesn’t happen all the time, but E.coli and other faecal based bacteria really can make you ill, so unless you want to brush your teeth with what was in the toilet, it’s a good idea to close the lid.’
Microbiologist Dr Anthony Hilton, the head of biology and biomedical science at Aston University in Birmingham, says: ‘I’ve been involved with studies where we’ve put ultra-violet dye down the toilet.
‘After flushing, it’s possible to detect it all over the bathroom. And if you do keep the lid up, common sense would suggest it’s probably not the best idea to keep toothbrushes next to the toilet.’
Drink chocolate milk to stay fit – Forget water…two new studies have suggested that a chocolate milkshake is the ideal post-workout recovery drink.
Researchers from the University of Texas in Austin found that athletes had significantly more power when they consumed low-fat chocolate milk, rather than a carbohydrate sports drink or a calorie-free drink.
Ron Maughan, a professor of sport and exercise nutrition at Loughborough University, says, ‘The science behind this is sound. There are two key things you are trying to do after exercise — recover and encourage the muscles you have worked to respond to how they have worked and become stronger.
‘A bit of protein provides the most effective way of doing this.
‘If you drink milk, you are getting a reliable, consistent source of protein, along with water and electrolytes. The chocolate component provides some added carbohydrate, which is useful.
‘Even the relatively high sugar content is acceptable in the context, as a means of restoring lost energy.
‘After all, why drink a foul-tasting protein shake when you could have something enjoyable with exactly the same benefits?’
Use soap, not special handwash – They have become ubiquitous in our homes, but scientists have warned that expensive anti- bacterial washes are no better at cleaning hands than ordinary soap…and may even encourage superbugs.
American research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that triclosan, the main active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps, can cause some bacteria to become resistant to commonly used antibiotics such as amoxicillin.
That’s because it targets bacteria in much the same way as such antibiotics do, by destroying crucial components of their cells.
However, bacteria are highly adaptable and more common ones such as E.coli and salmonella…major culprits in food poisoning and which can cause kidney damage or even death…may develop resistance to the threat.
Dr Hilton says, ‘These products pander to people’s insecurities, which can mean they are used inappropriately…for example, very briefly or with cold water.
‘You should actually wash your hands thoroughly for several minutes in warm, clean water. The action of washing and the temperature help to remove bacteria more effectively than a fancy product.
‘It’s about technique…there is no evidence that expensive antibacterial products are any better than soap in a domestic setting.’
Dr Hilton also warns against over-reliance on antibacterial ‘dry soap’ gel hand sterilizers.
‘They are brilliant when you don’t have access to water, but still no substitute for proper hand washing,’ he says. ‘And if the hands are visibly dirty…for example, with mud…they are deactivated by being bound up with the organic matter.
‘So in many situations where they might be used…for example, at a music festival…they won’t actually do much good.’
by Susan Floyd