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Fact-check: Fake WHO post on ‘7 biggest brain damaging habits’ resurfaces on social media 

Published on Tue 14 Feb 2023 at 10:09

When the claim went viral in Nigeria in 2020, WHO had clarified that it had not issued any such message. 

By Naveed Ahmad Najar

A post titled ‘7 biggest brain damaging habits’ attributed to the World Health Organization (WHO) has been circulating on social media platforms. When the same claim went viral in Nigeria in 2020, WHO had clarified that it had not issued any such message.

In the current post, the grammatical errors, improper spacing between words, and use of abbreviations suggest a lack of credibility. Here’s a quick look at the seven claims through a scientific lens: 

Claim 1: Missing breakfast

While an observational study did find a correlation between missing breakfast and an increased risk of stroke, there is not enough evidence to support the claim. However, eating a healthy breakfast is considered to be beneficial for long-term health. 

Claim 2: Sleeping late

Poor quality sleep has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, depression, accidents, and stroke. However, it’s important to note that more research is needed to establish a causal relationship.

Claim 3: High sugar consumption

The effects of high sugar intake – higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease – are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, according to Harvard Medical School. Excessive sugar consumption can also negatively impact brain function. It is prudent to limit daily sugar intake to about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams for women and about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams for men. 

Claim 4: More sleeping specially at morning

There is no scientific basis to the claim that sleeping in the morning causes brain damage. The ‘right’ duration of sleep can vary from individual to individual, and is also influenced by factors such as age, personal habits, and physical well-being. It is important to pay attention to one’s physiological needs and rest accordingly. Incidentally, a study finds that short daytime naps may actually be beneficial. 

Claim 5: Eating meals while watching TV or computer

While there are no studies yet on the correlation between cognitive function and distracted eating, experts do warn about the perils of multitasking while consuming meals. It could lead to overeating. 

Claim 6: Wearing a cap/scarf or socks while sleeping

Keeping the body warm, particularly in cold climates, can enhance sleep quality. The increased blood circulation and warmth can signal the brain to relax and fall asleep, leading to a more restful sleep experience. There is no evidence to prove that it can lead to brain damage. 

Claim 7: Habit of blocking/stopping urine

Blocking or stopping the flow of urine can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and in severe cases, kidney damage. However, there’s no research to show that it can impair one’s cognitive functions. It is recommended to listen to one’s body and prioritise trips to the bathroom for maintaining bladder and urinary health.