Feature Archive

Medical Myths Debunked

Can you tell the difference between medical fact and fiction?

By Jean Lawrence
WebMD Feature

ReviewedBy Michael Smith

You don't want to be an April fool -- or any kind of fool -- when it comes to your health. Yes, those old wives knew a thing or two, but they never went to medical school or conducted a scientific study. Are you sure you know the answers to the following?

1: Chewing gum takes seven years to pass through your digestive system.

____ True ____ False _____ Only Juicy Fruit

ANSWER: False. The gum component itself is pretty indigestible, but will "pass" in a mass and will not stick your insides together, either. This one probably got going when exasperated parents tired of buying more gum after half an hour because their kids had chomped, then swallowed, their allotment. Also, swallowing gum was seen as ignorant and lower class.

"My husband's mother told him he would grow a gum tree in his stomach!" Loraine Stern, MD, clinical pediatrics professor at UCLA, tells WebMD.

Incidentally, the desire to chew for chewing's sake is quite ancient. Our ancestors used to chap away at tree resin. Did you know that Santa Anna of Alamo fame first turned gum manufacturers onto the gum resin. He thought it would be a good substitute for rubber. It's OK to swallow the occasional watermelon seed, too, unless you suffer from intestinal inflammation. Doctors are pretty sure watermelon seeds do not grow into full-fledged watermelons.