5 of the Most Googled Health Questions, Answered
Illustration: Chris Sila Neal
According to data from the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Internet users say they turn to the Web for health information in a given year. I know it's tempting, especially late at night when the doctor's office is closed, but I'd urge you to step away from the keyboard. Some online resources can yield inaccurate, even dangerous, advice. I asked the analysts at Google to share some of the most commonly searched health questions. Here are answers you can trust—and some online advice you should disregard.
Is there any way to stop snoring?
Snoring happens when your airflow becomes partially blocked. Some easy fixes: Try sleeping on your side or stomach (research shows those positions may reduce snoring) and avoiding alcohol (liquor can relax throat muscles, making it more difficult for air to get through). If the racket is heavy and accompanied by gasping or pauses in your breathing, you might have sleep apnea; your doctor may suggest a mouthpiece or a breathing machine to ease your nighttime breathing.
Reality check: You may have read that throat sprays prevent snoring—not true. Snoring that arises in the throat happens because the muscles are too relaxed. There's no reason lubricating or numbing your throat would have any effect.
Is coffee bad for you?
Just the opposite. Numerous studies have shown that coffee is associated with impressive health perks. It's been linked to lower risk of heart disease, Parkinson's, and liver cancer—and it might even help you live longer. In fact, a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of death over the course of 11 years compared with those who skipped joe altogether.
Reality check: Some people believe that drinking coffee before working out will leave you dehydrated. In actuality, one study found that java's diuretic effects don't exist with exercise.
Photo: Scott Hortop/istockphoto
How many grams of sugar should I have per day?
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that less than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugars. That's under 200 calories, or 50 grams, in a 2,000-calorie diet.
Reality check: If you've been avoiding fruits that are high in sugar, you can stop. The guidelines are only for added sugars, not those naturally occurring in unprocessed food.
How can I get rid of love handles?
An amped-up workout can help. A review in the Journal of Obesity found that women who did high-intensity interval workouts burned more of the subcutaneous belly fat that causes love handles than women who exercised longer at a lower-intensity, steady pace.
Reality check: It's a myth—I repeat, a myth—that juice cleanses can whittle your waist for good. Exercise and eating nutritious foods in reasonable portions will shrink love handles long-term.
What's the secret to banishing cellulite?
Cellulite occurs when fat pushes against connective tissue, making the skin above it pucker. If you're considering liposuction, don't. (It can't break up the connective tissues that cause dimples.) The best things you can do are exercise (cardio plus resistance training) and eat high-fiber foods while avoiding processed sugar and fat, which can contribute to cellulite.
Reality check: Heard the one about coffee grounds treating cellulite? Don't believe it. No scientific studies have shown it works.
Good to Know
Online symptom trackers— including ones by WebMD, iTriage, and the Mayo Clinic—provided the correct diagnosis first in a list of possible outcomes in only 34 percent of cases, according to a 2015 report.
Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).