Updated: Friday, 10th July 2020 @ 2:49pm

Does cheese give you weird dreams? Does the cold give you a cold? MM investigates the facts behind old wives tales

Does cheese give you weird dreams? Does the cold give you a cold? MM investigates the facts behind old wives tales

| By Matthew Reeve

Like most of us, I welcomed 2019 in fairly standard New Year’s tradition.

A two-day hangover, a strong motivation to stop drinking alcohol for the rest of the month and of course a rotten cold.

The hangover passed, the dry January didn’t last long, but the cold persisted.

Cue advice from Grandparents everywhere.

Eyebrow-raising explanations for your poor health. Recommendations to eat more of this, eat less of that, all logic and rationality seemingly going out the window.

Since I was young, I can remember my Nan saying to us “feed a cold, starve a fever”.

But I’m not really in the business of skipping meals, unless it’s in preparation for eating a really really big meal.

I also didn’t believe it and Google confirmed my suspicions.

So, this got me thinking... what other ‘old wives tales’ are total nonsense?

Are there any that are actually based on truth?

We created a list of what we thought were the ‘10 worst offenders’ and headed down to the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival to find out what people thought.

“Feed a cold, starve a fever”

The MM panel says: 

This particular saying seems to have stood the test of time. However, the original quote was something more akin to “feed a cold to stave a fever”, stave here meaning to prevent.

So, on the contrary to what many grandparents will have you believe, this particular saying is certainly not accurate, and we don’t recommend starving yourself if you’ve got a fever.

When your body is suffering from a cold or fever your energy levels are low and eating any food is going to help your recovery. 

The evidence says: False.


“Carrots help improve eyesight"

The MM panel says: 

Unfortunately, they don’t help you see in the dark. However, carrots are high in vitamin A, and vitamin A is good for your vision.

I guess this is a win for the old wives then, right? Well actually lots of other foods are high in vitamin A, from dairy products, fish and other fruit and veg.

So, it’s a hollow victory really. 

The evidence says: True.

“The cold gives you a cold”

The MM panel says: 

I’ll be the first to admit my scepticism surrounding this one. But this is in fact untrue. Many experts have cited the cold weather cannot simply ‘give you a cold’.

Getting a cold in winter months is common due to a number of different factors such as spending more time indoors surrounded by other people where a virus will spread more easily. 

The evidence says: False.


“Hair of the dog (drinking on a hangover to feel better)”

The MM panel says: 

This phase comes from the old saying about curing rabies by drinking a concoction with the ‘hair of the dog that bit you’.

Unfortunately, in terms of a cure to your killer hangover this is only going to work in the short term.

You might feel better at first, but you’re basically just prolonging the inevitable. You’ll still have to face that same hangover eventually, and you’ll probably feel even worse. 

The evidence says: False.


“Baby boys mean a longer labour”

The MM panel says:

There seems to be endless old wives tales surrounding pregnancy.

My nan once told my mum when she was pregnant with me that if she climbed a ladder (they were redecorating at the time) the baby would turn.

Now that is complete nonsense. However, a study by the Maternity Hospital in Dublin found boys were linked to longer, more difficult pregnancies. 

The evidence says: True.


“Sitting to close to the TV is bad for your eyes”

The MM panel says: 

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Who remembers their parents yelling at them about this? “You’ll get square eyes!”.

No actually we won’t! There’s no science to back this up. It’s rubbish.

The evidence says: False.


“Peanut butter helps remove gum from hair”

The MM panel says: 

Before you reach for the scissors, you should probably know there’s some truth to this one.

Stick a spoonful of peanut butter to the matted clump of hair and gum and it will dissolve the gum and make it easier to remove.

Both chewing gum and peanut butter are hydrophobic substances, and when combined they will break each other down.

The evidence says: True.


“It takes 7 years to digest chewing gum”

The MM panel says: 

I remember being told this at school after accidentally swallowing my chewing gum playing football.

However, we can confirm this particular old wives tale is complete nonsense. The body can’t digest gum, so like other foods it struggles with, it simply disposes of it.

No need for further explanation here. So although it’s nothing to worry about, we wouldn’t recommend swallowing loads of gum. That’s a bit weird. And it can also lead to... blockages.

The evidence says: False

“Knuckle cracking causes arthritis”

The MM panel says: 

With old wives tales such as these, statements which have been proven to be completely scientifically incorrect, you wonder how they ever came about in the first place.

Do you think hundreds of years ago somebody didn’t like the sound of cracking knuckles and decided to start a campaign of fear? Well if so, bravo. Because it caught on.

But we’re here to tell you it’s not true, so crack on (pun intended). 

The evidence says: False.


“Cheese gives you weird dreams”

The MM panel says: 

In 2005, The British Cheese Board (I know, where do I sign up) did a study on sleep and eating cheese before bed.

Apparently, the participants shared similar dreams depending on what type of cheese they ate. Fan of cheddar? Expect to dream about celebrities. Red Leicester? Nostalgic dreams about your childhood. Stilton? Strange vivid dreams with talking animals.

So, the juries out on this one... however I’d have to question if The British Cheese Board is impartial on an important cheese related debate such as this.

The evidence says: Possibly.

There you have it. The answers to some of life’s strangest sayings. There’s so many we could’ve included in this list but if you have an ‘old wives tale’ you think we missed, let us know via Twitter!