• Weird History

Dumb Things That People Think About The Human Body

List RulesVote up the body myths that have been believably busted.

One of the first things we become aware of as children is our bodies. Usually, once we become aware of our bodies, we begin to ask questions about how they work, why they are the way they are, and what happens to them as they grow. Kids are often given answers to these questions, but they're not always true. And even what we think is true when we're kids may change over time, as scientists learn more about human anatomy and how it really works.

In the meantime, we're left believing myths about the human body - things "everyone knows" are true but have no basis in fact. How these myths came to be is more interesting and, in some cases, stranger than the fiction. These are the dumb things we believe about our bodies, why we think them, and the truth.

  • 1

    Myth: You Can Sweat Out Toxins

    Sweat is our body's air conditioning system: When we get hot, we sweat water onto our skin that can evaporate and cool us off. Sweat is about 99% water with a small amount of salt, proteins, carbohydrates and urea.

    What our sweat does not contain is toxins.

    Our skin is not an excretory organ. Toxins such as mercury and alcohol are processed and eliminated by our liver and kidneys. Increased activity like exercise can help the body rid itself of toxins by increasing the circulation of lymph fluid and blood, which are filtered by the lymph nodes and kidneys - but it's not our sweat that's eliminating the toxins.

    Myth busted?
  • Photo: Daniel Chodowiecki / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 4.0

    Myth: You Shouldn't Wake A Sleepwalker

    Someone getting out of bed and walking around while not fully conscious can be a little scary. But sleepwalking is much more common that people think: Up to 15% of the United States population sleepwalks.

    According to Dr. Mark Mahowald, a sleep specialist at Stanford University, the legend that one should never wake a sleepwalking person originated from an ancient belief that a person’s soul left the body during sleep. Waking them would doom that person to wander soullessly forever.  

    Sleepwalking is a mixture of wakefulness and non-REM sleep. The best thing to do is guide a sleepwalker back to bed. It can be difficult to wake them in that state, but it is not harmful.

    Myth busted?
  • 3

    Myth: You Have Only Five Senses

    Many people are taught at an early age that the human body has five senses. Indeed our sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste are all very important, but we actually have many important senses in addition to those. 

    Our sense of balance is maintained through our inner-ear and helps us stay steady as we move. Proprioception is how we sense where our limbs are in space and how we can control them without looking at them. Our sense of hunger tells us when we need to refuel our bodies. Our inner carbon dioxide detectors tell us how much oxygen we need to take in at any given time and how much carbon dioxide we must expel.

    All of our senses, both major and lesser-known, work together so that we can function.

    Myth busted?
  • Photo: GerryShaw / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Myth: Adults Can't Grow New Brain Cells

    If you were worried that we couldn't grow new brain cells as adults, your fears can be put to rest. A 2019 article in Nature Medicine confirmed that it is possible for adults to form new neurons in the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and mood regulation - a process called neurogenesis

    The question is still hotly debated in the scientific community and, as we develop new technologies that can locate cells in the living brain and measure the cells’ individual activity, we will be sure to learn more.

    Myth busted?