Myth vs Fact

Myth vs Fact

We asked leading Chicago doctors to weigh in on these common health conceptions

Myth or Fact? Soy is harmful to the reproductive system.

Myth/Inconclusive. Soy is not harmful for male reproductive systems, says Matthew Meadows, MD, a urologist with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “Consumption of soy protein does not adversely affect men’s testosterone, nor their semen analyses, nor their fertility,” he adds.

But for the female reproductive system, it’s a bit iffier. “Human studies looking at adult soy consumption and long-term reproductive health have either been inconclusive or have shown minimal risk,” says Melissa Dennis, MD, an obstetrician with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “Studies on the biological and reproductive effects of soy isoflavone consumption in infants are equally as inconclusive.” Keep soy consumption moderate, she adds, but don’t feel like you have to cut it out completely.

Myth or Fact? you need to drink eight glasses of water a day.

Myth. We’ve all heard this advice, but Kirsten Hefele, MD, a family medicine physician with Presence Health, says there’s no scientific basis to back up the claim. Nevertheless, hydration is important for your body, brain and energy, she adds. While eight glasses a day isn’t mandatory, you still need to drink enough. “And make sure to drink extra during hot weather or when exercising to compensate for fluid loss,” she adds.

Myth or Fact? In a public restroom, it’s more sanitary to dry your hands with paper towels than an air dryer.

Fact, with some caveats. The blowing air from air dryers has a risk of dispersing bacteria and viruses, although if you washed well there shouldn’t be much there, says Susan Bleasdale, MD, medical director of infection control at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. Paper towels are more sanitary for hand hygiene as they reduce that risk, but only if you use paper towels to their full potential — not only to dry your hands, but also to turn off the faucet and open the door, she adds.

Regardless of your options, either is better than doing nothing. “I would not deter anyone from washing hands if only an air dryer is available,” Bleasdale says. “Washed hands are better than unwashed hands. The risk with an air dryer is speculative and, if true, very low.” 

Originally Published in the Fall 2017/Winter 2018 issue