Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Warning. Beware of misleading medical information on the Internet

While doing some research for another blog post, I came across a website for a company that makes private-label bottled water. One section of the site described the different kinds of bacteria such as aerobes which need oxygen to survive, strict anaerobes which are killed in the presence of oxygen, and facultative anaerobes which usually prefer oxygen but can survive without it if necessary.

So far so good. However, the next paragraph reads as follows:

The most virulent and destructive pathogens that affect mankind generally fall into the “strict anaerobe” category. They include bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Clostridium botulinum and Escherichia coli.

This is wrong. Except for Clostridium botulinum, the organism that causes botulism, the other bacteria are aerobic. Staphylococcus aureus can be nasty, particularly if it's methicillin-resistant (MRSA), but Streptococcus pneumoniae is not particularly virulent, and Escherichia coli, while a common cause of wound infections after bowel surgery, is part of the normal flora of the large intestine.

As wrong as that bacteriology lesson was, it pales in comparison to a more than 700 word essay on why you should drink warm water instead of cold.

If you have a few minutes, you should read it because nearly every sentence contains misinformation. Let me share a few of the highlights with you.

The consumption of warm water increases the tightening of the intestines, which optimizes elimination. Utter nonsense. By the time the warm water reaches the intestine, especially the colon, it would be at body temperature.

A very warm cup of water in the morning can help cleanse your body by flushing out toxins. The toxins — it’s always the toxins.

Adding ice to processed cold water will strip it of natural-containing minerals … as these minerals are essential to keeping the digestive tract healthy. If ice strips the water of “natural-containing minerals,” wouldn’t those minerals still be dispersed in the water?

Warm water, considered [by whom?] to be nature’s most powerful home remedy, can help alleviate pain from menstruation to headaches. What would be the mechanism for relieving pain in those two rather divergent areas?

Warm water increases body temperature, which therefore increases the metabolic rate. An increase in metabolic rate allows the body to burn more calories. A single glass of warm water is unlikely to have any effect on the body's temperature or metabolic rate. If you drank enough cold water to make you shiver, that would have a more profound effect on the metabolic rate. Want proof? Read this.

Drinking a glass of warm water and a lemon will help break down the adipose tissue, or body fat, in your body. Ich don’t think so.

Premature aging is a woman’s worst nightmare, but luckily, this can be prevented by drinking warm water. No evidence is provided.

A clinical nutritionist and media health expert says have warm water, as drinking straight hot water can potentially be damaging to tissue in the mouth and esophagus. This is about the only piece of sound advice in the entire article.

If you want to drink warm water, I suppose it will not hurt you, but don't be disappointed if your intestines don’t tighten and you don't lose weight.


Les said...

The "cold water is bad for you" argument has been going around since at least the '80s. I'd never heard of it until I was in grad school and the Italian and French students and postdocs wouldn't drink the cold water offered in restaurants because cold water was bad for the stomach. I could never get them to tell me exactly why it was bad, other than it would somehow "shock" the stomach. I thought drinking warm water would be bad for my stomach since we were in Galveston, TX when it was 95 degrees with 70-80% humidity outside.

My very health conscious friends, who would probably take the articles you linked to very seriously, tell me that it's bad to drink liquids with meals since liquids will dilute stomach acid leading to incomplete digestion and malabsorption of nutrients. These are the same folk who claim canola oil is a poison and that everyone should probably be on a gluten free diet since all of the wheat grown today is genetically modified. Sometimes it's best to smile, nod my head and say NOTHING.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Les, thanks. The Internet is a fountain of misinformation. The warm water thing just was over the top even for the Internet.

frankbill said...

Many of the sites that give misinformation are trying to sell you something. One of the biggest one is Adrenal fatigue.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Adrenal fatigue? I'll have to investigate.

Anonymous said...

Adrenal fatigue. There is a surgeons' office that just "diagnosed this". Scary ...

frankbill said...

If adrenal fatigue was a real then I would think it would be common among surgeons.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

And race car drivers and fighter pilots.

PGYx said...

Agree with your comments, but I drink room temp water (or warm water during the Midwest's impossibly frigid winters) because cold water makes me feel uncomfortably cold. It may increase my metabolism by making me shiver but I don't care because I'm slim enough and frankly would live year-round wrapped in an electric heating blanket and submerged in a vat of 110 degree F water if society and the laws of physics would allow it.

I love to guzzle 16 oz of room temp water at once, but it takes me forever to finish a glass of cold water. In traditional Chinese medicine room temp or slightly warmed water is recommended, but I don't know why.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

PGYx, thanks for commenting. I have no problem with people like you who simply prefer room temperature water. My issue was with the outrageous and unsupported claims of health benefits from drinking warm water.

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