Photo: Leann Mueller
Whether you rely on the evening news, the morning paper, or Twitter, it's hard to miss grabby health stories about all the things that are going to lead to your untimely demise—a daily diet soda, vitamins, your dishwasher...the list goes on. But take heart: The truth is often less scary than the headlines would have you believe. Here's the real story behind some of 2013's most buzz-worthy health scoops.
Headline: There are bugs in your yogurt!
Reality check: Actual bugs? No. Some rosy-hued foods and drinks (think strawberry yogurt or red grapefruit juice) do get their color from carmine, a bright red substance extracted from insects, says Luke LaBorde, PhD, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. But while a small number of people may be allergic to carmine, it's generally safe, and the FDA doesn't consider it a major allergen like peanuts or shellfish. If you can't get over the yuck factor, the ingredient is easy to avoid: It's listed right on the label.
Headline: Air pollution is giving you heart disease!
Reality check: Pollution can increase your risk for cardiovascular problems, though not by much. In a 2013 study in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers estimated the levels of particles from smoke, dust, cars, and, in some cases, power plants in six U.S. communities over more than two years. Those living in the most polluted areas had the most arterial thickening, equal to a 2 percent higher stroke risk than those living in places with the best air quality. "The particles are small enough to reach your lungs, which may trigger inflammation that may then lead to hardening of blood vessels," says study coauthor Sara Adar, assistant professor of public health at the University of Michigan.
Next: Will there be enough doctors next year?
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