Seven Things You Don't Need to Fear, No Matter What the Internet Says

Seven Things You Don't Need to Fear, No Matter What the Internet Says
Gyorgy Varga/MTI via AP
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Fear is the most successful marketing ploy there is. Trapped in a pit of trepidation, people will often grasp for whatever will get them out. This means that saviors offering "solutions" have a nefarious interest in pushing people down the pit in the first place.

But prepare yourself with science and skepticism, and you'll stay grounded amidst the cacophonous whirlwind of charlatans crying wolf. Here are seven supposedly "scary" things that science says you shouldn't actually fear.

1. Gluten. It doesn't take much searching to uncover claims that gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, can cause up to 55 diseases and inflame the whole body. While it's true that gluten triggers a damaging autoimmune response in the 0.7% of the population that has Celiac disease, for everyone else, it's almost certainly harmless. If you want to go gluten-free, feel free. But know that gluten is no dietary bogeyman.

2. MSG. Fear of monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, has subsided of late, but it wasn't too long ago that Chinese restaurants in the U.S. prominently displayed signs announcing that they had cast aside the common food additive. Why? Because people in Western societies were afraid that MSG, an amino acid which occurs naturally in tomatoes and cheese, causes headaches and other health malaises. Rest assured, there's never been any convincing research to back this up. Moreover, the claim is roundly debunked by a massive, ongoing real-world experiment. MSG is ubiquitous in Asian cooking, so as one wise food writer wondered, why doesn't everyone in China have a headache?

3. Fluoride. In 1945, cities across the United States began adding fluoride to tap water at a level of roughly one part per million. This paltry step reduced cavities in children and adults by as much as 25 percent! As such, the CDC has called water fluoridation one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. Despite, fluoride's salubrious track record, some people worry that water fluoridation is dangerous. There is little to no evidence that this is true. Fluoride is naturally present in the environment, and the amount in tap water is minuscule. With the wide adoption of toothpaste and brushing, community water fluoridation may not be as advantageous as it used to be. However, its presence in water is not something one needs to worry about.

4. Vaccines. It's truly flabbergasting how one of the greatest public health measures of all time is now so vilified. But rest assured, despite all of the disconcerting drama, vaccines are not associated with autism. While they do trigger some side effects (just like all medications), serious complications are infinitesimally rare. You stand a far better chance of being shot or killed in a car crash than being seriously hurt by a vaccine! So don't fear vaccines. Instead, think of them as little shots of superpowers, rendering you invulnerable to dangerous diseases.

5. Chemtrails. When airplanes cruise through the atmosphere, their jet engines often leave wispy trails of exhaust, called contrails. These contrails aren't much different from clouds, which is why they are sometimes called cirrus aviaticus clouds. Somehow, somebody got it into their heads that these trails are actually composed of mind control chemicals. And so, abetted by the Internet, a conspiracy theory was born. No legitimate scientist actually believes this theory, and it's difficult to conceive how it could be carried out on such a wide scale without solid evidence being uncovered or a whistleblower coming forward. The most logical conclusion is that chemtrails exist only within conspiracists' latent anxieties.

6. Aluminum Pans. In 1965, scientists injected rabbits' brains with lots of aluminum and watched as the poor bunnies developed signs of Alzheimer's Disease. Since then, a fear has formed: could aluminum exposure trigger Alzheimer's in humans? Researchers extensively studied the matter, and results were mixed. If lifetime aluminum exposure – via aluminum pans or soda cans, for example – is a risk factor, it is a very small one. Not something to worry about. At any rate, regular exercise, social interaction, and challenging your mind will offset any tiny danger from aluminum.

7. Pesticide Residues. It's true. They're everywhere. Pesticides are used in both conventional and organic agriculture, and they remain on your fruits and vegetables all the way to your pantry. These residues, however, come in such small amounts that risks from consuming them are neglibile. In fact, roughly 99.99% of the pesticides you consume are produced by plants, themselves, and they are no less carcinogenic than synthetic pesticides. To avoid pesticides, you'll need to avoid life itself! So don't waste your valuable time worrying and enjoy your salad!

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