It seems like every week, some seemingly good-for-you item, used by millions of people every day, turns out to be harmful or at least not what it's cracked up to be. Most recently a certain kind of toothpaste and artificial sweeteners have joined the list. So we decided to check out some everyday practices and see how they can help or hurt.
First Up: Toothpaste (With Microbeads)
A few years ago, Phoenix-area dental hygienist Trish Walraven started noticing that many of her patients who used a type of Crest toothpaste had blue flecks of what appeared to be plastic in their gum lines, reported the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
After removing them, their origin was discovered: decorative microbeads used to make toothpaste more appealing.
The small bits are made of polyethylene, which is also used in grocery bags and bullet-proof vests. You can actually find polyethylene in the ingredient list of your toothpaste if it contains microbeads. Proctor & Gamble, who make the brand Crest, have announced that they'll stop using the ingredient.
Many consumers are looking to cut back calories, and for decades artificial sweeteners seemed like a solid alternative to sugar. But new studies are finding that the sweeteners may boost blood sugar, in mice and some people.
That doesn't mean that sugar is a safer alternative, the study's author's say. But in some people, the sweeteners maybe be harmful, changing the bacteria in the gut, which may actually contribute to obesity.
Antibacterial soap is superior to old-fashioned bar soap, right? Well, not so fast... The FDA now says it's unclear whether anti-bacterial soap is better than regular soap at halting the spread of illness. An FDA proposal calls for the makers of these products to prove that their products are safe and effective, or they need to be relabeled.
The FDA still wants people to wash their hands to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. But for now, regular soap will do the trick.
Speaking of hand washing, you can lay off the hot water. Some of us wash with water that's just hot enough to stand. But cold water appears to remove bacteria just as well as warm water, if you rinse, scrub and dry, say researchers at Vanderbilt University.
If you're not trying to actually drink the water (after boiling it to kill pathogens) then cold water should do just fine. Which is great, because we were sort of worried researchers would recommend boiling your hands, which wastes a LOT of energy and is most unpleasant.
Everybody knows you should get your eight glasses of water a day, right? There's just one small problem: Nobody can point to a clinical study that recommends drinking 64 ounces of water on the regular.
Drinking water can help you lose weight, however. Two glasses of water before meals led people to eat less and provided a 44 percent boost in weight loss, in one study. And of course, you need to replace the fluids you expel every day.
So, how much do you need? Basically, your pee should be free-flowing and clear, not yellow.
Recent studies have led doctors to recommend that people stop taking multivitamins.
The studies involved thousands of participants and suggest multivitamins won't help you fight off disease or extend your life. In fact, some supplements -- including Vitamin E, beta-carotene and high doses of vitamin A -- may actually cause harm.
Doctors now say if you're eating a balanced diet, and you don't suffer from a nutritional deficiency, it's time to toss the supplements.
For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten is critical. But if you’re not sensitive to gluten, banning it may actually make you less healthy.
There are some nutritional challenges in a gluten-free diet: People can find themselves deficient in iron, calcium, B-vitamins and vitamin D. It can be difficult to get enough fiber in a gluten-free diet -- and it's expensive.
“Whether it be Paleo or low-carb or low-fat or vegan, when people restrict certain foods they sometimes go nuts because they like bread with wheat flour," said Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State. "So for some people restricting gluten may help limit their caloric intake, but I don’t know how sustainable it is if they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”