Really Just an Old Wives' Tale?

July 28, 2011
With the view of my mom's Toyota Camry abruptly coming in stow, I picked up the textbooks that rested along where I sat on the sidewalk, worn and disheartened from finals week. Just as I had asked this morning, she had brought my cup of coffee, fresh from Micky D's and with two cream and two sugar. Now, all I had to do was sip as I held the smooth, relaxing Styrofoam cup up to my lips and...

"You're not gonna have babies, hun."

Wait, what? Of all the things to say to a caffeine-craving girl who'd been running through chemistry and calculus finals all day with only three hours of sleep, you have to tell her that she's not going to have children? Of course, being the curious, bright girl that I was, I asked her what she meant, ignoring the fact that it totally sounded like I had a sock in my mouth -- and possibly a pair of sweatpants in there, too.

And just like any average teenager seeking to gain more of life's wisdom, I went to the best source of information there was: the library. Well, their Internet.

Being 5' flat, I've been teased a good amount of times in my life. Sure, it's hard to be taken seriously sometimes and even with those occasional bouts of getting in the buffets for reduced prices, it's difficult to go outside and drink coffee in public when everyone's always telling you the same thing:

"Coffee makes you short."

After a scouring session of mid-day Googling, coffee is not the direct cause of someone's lack of stature. Caffeine and poor diet, however, is a totally different story.

A lack of nutrients, combined with the overwhelming side effects of too much caffeine, can amount to horrible health dotted with nutrient deficiencies and other complications.

Most of this myth's origins come from the long-stemming belief that caffeine sucks calcium from your bones, throwing it out when you urinate. While caffeine has so far seems to have an effect on bone mass, the difference is so slight that really, it's only noticeable if you're on an all-soda, all-coffee diet.

Dr. Robert P. Heaney, who is an expert in calcium at the Creighton University, took a leap into research and conducted a study on the correlation between caffeine intake and reduced bone mass. Ultimately, the subjects were on the elderly and primarily those who had low-calcium diets paired with high consumption of caffeine had lower bone mass.

In an unrelated study, 81 adolescents were observed for a total of six years, and found that even the kids who had the highest caffeine intake had no difference of bone mass with the kids that had the lower caffeine intake, so long as they had a sufficient amount of calcium.

Genetics also play a strong role in your height. On average, the growing children of the family end up to be taller than their mom and shorter than their dad. There are definitely exceptions and in fact, genetics go farther than just your mom and your dad -- you have to look at your grandparents and beyond that. A 4'11" woman may have inherited her grandma's petite figure over her mom's staggering 5'7" and a 6' man may have passed over his dad's 5'8" height.

Height is determined by both a number of determined factors (genetics) and those that can go unplanned (unexpected health deficiencies and even things like spinal surgery).

The first time I arrived to the airport in Australia for a family visit, my cousins greeted me expecting to see an over-sized and obese "All-American" girl when they actually found themselves face-to-face with a tiny shrimp. It's all good though, because I expected to see kangaroos greeting me out of my airplane, but you can't always have what you want.

Outside of class, I'm often on a glasses-boycott and when it comes to trivial things, like ordering the number 2 at Burger King, I have to ask a friend to look at the menu for me. After a while though, it can get annoying and that's when they give me a little piece of advice:

"Eating carrots improve your eyesight."

Don't listen to anyone who ever forgets the verb "eating" in front of "carrots" because trying to use those orange vegetables as a pair of binoculars will do nothing. Trust me, I know.

In fact, this rumor was spread when people heard that the reason for the British's sudden skyrocketing efficiency in night vision during World War II was due to carrot consumption.

Take in the fact that information tended to travel quite well, even back in those days. At the time, the Germans and the British were engaged in a rabid fight for victory and a slip of sacred truth could prove deadly. While the British's vision was indeed improved, they owed it to the use of the newly-developed Airborne Interception radar and to hide this fact, the rumor was created.

Funnily enough, the rumor was so well-played in British media that the British themselves readily believed it.

For those who've noticed Ellen Page's suddenly orange hands, carotenemia is brought on by an overpowering amount of beta-carotene intake, causing the skin to turn a yellow or orange color; in a few rare but possible cases, overdose of beta-carotene can even result in death.

All in all, carrots do vitalize your intake of Vitamin A, but it's no miracle, unfortunately for people like me.

So if it's only once in a while, it's okay to sneak that ugly piece of carrot in your dinner salad to your dog when your mom's not looking.

On that fateful day in 2nd grade, when my crush took my hand in his and brought his face closer to me and my heart was practically jumping out from my chest, it turned out that he just wanted to teach me how to crack my knuckles. Nonetheless, I will never forget that day.

After a while, it became a habit of mine to crack my knuckles every ten minutes, especially before a really long exam. Of course, there's always that girl, with hearing that can beat even Superman's, who turns around and looks you dead in the eye with the dirtiest glare you've ever seen:

"Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis."

While that horrifying sound of bones bent in ways that they shouldn't be is enough to scare any concerned parent, it's actually nitrogen gas being let out due to the pressure, creating bubbles of synovial fluid that make the cracking sound.

Dr. Donald Unger, winner of the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize, must have had one too many scolding as he later delved into years of self-research on the vivacious sport of knuckle-popping, cracking his own knuckles for twice a day for practically half a century. When he managed to prove that doing so did not contribute to arthritis in any way whatsoever, he was awarded the Medicine Prize (Ig Nobel Prize).

On the other hand, if you manage to push too hard or too off to the side, you can dislocate a joint or cause ligament damage so be wary of that.

If anything, this rumor was probably also meant to stop kids from making these annoying sounds every minute of the day.

All things considered, though it's not the healthiest habit to take up, it more than likely won't hurt you too much -- that is, as long as you don't make a contest out of knuckle-cracking.

At the end of the day, in addition to discovering that coffee really does nothing to reduce a woman's fertility, I unearthed an even greater treasure: more ways to prove parents wrong.





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