Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye Opening I was aware of most examples given since I love Biology and have taken many courses over the years. But it's alway nice to have positive reinforcement to your own suspicions.
Date published: 2019-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative, but Authoritative I was curious what would be presented when I purchased this course. Professor (and Doctor) Novella covers quite a few myths still going strong today in 2019 which is 9 years later than the course date. I thoroughly enjoyed his medical expertise when explaining certain facets of the body. Dr. Novella stresses that one does to need to question ambiguous findings in the internet age, and that his presentation should not be seen as a definitive answer. Dr. Novella does come across as authoritative in his dismissal of the myths, and believes that only a consensus of 'acceptable' institutions should be used. This usually should mean that appropriate testing and research has been done. Unfortunately, in one of the earliest lectures, Dr. Novella refers to the professional medical reception back in the 1840s regarding a Doctor Semmelweiss who aggressively advocated the washing of hands for doctors in hospitals. Doctor Semmelweiss's idea was roundly rejected by the 'learned, acceptable' medical profession at the time. At least, until it could be researched. Therefore, by this story, Dr. Novella did not see the irony of asking me to only use 'acceptable' sources for my information. It was interesting that he cited a percentage of pediatricians belief in some myths. One lecture I found very interesting involved comas and myths surrounding them. This was a worthwhile course.
Date published: 2019-05-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not enough information I thought this entire course could have been written in one long magazine article. Just not enough material.
Date published: 2019-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting to learn about medical myths. I am in the medical field but I have learned a lot from these lectures.
Date published: 2019-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Course for Everyone I have over 200 courses and this is the most practical of any. This course should be listened to by all as it applies to all. He mentions factors that are good for your health as well as false remedies, signs and symptoms. As a retired Infectious Diseases Specialist I was very pleased with his handling of Infectious problems; especially his two lectures on the pros and cons of vaccines.
Date published: 2018-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed course I found the course interesting and informative. It needs to be updated.
Date published: 2018-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Criticality Thinking in Action Nice to hear a voice of reason in a world of sloppy and wishful thinking
Date published: 2018-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from everyone should take this course Steve Novella is an excellent communication. He is able, in very few words, to be clear, concise, and express complex concepts.
Date published: 2018-02-14
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Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us
Course Trailer
Medical Knowledge versus Misinformation
1: Medical Knowledge versus Misinformation

In Dr. Novella's introductory lecture, discover the importance of debunking medical myths and learn tips on where to seek out solid, medically backed information. Then, get a taste of the lectures to come by unpacking common myths about hiccups, sneezing, swallowing gum, curing a hangover, and swimming after eating....

32 min
Myths about Water and Hydration
2: Myths about Water and Hydration

Water is the most basic element of life. And yet there are many misconceptions about keeping your body hydrated. How exactly do our bodies regulate water? How much water should you really drink every day? Are expensive bottles of water and water purifiers worth the cost?...

32 min
Vitamin and Nutrition Myths
3: Vitamin and Nutrition Myths

You cannot overdose on vitamins. Organically grown food is more nutritious than traditionally grown food. Everyone should take vitamin supplements-and the more the better. These are some of the many myths and half-truths you investigate in this lecture on vitamin use and nutritional health....

30 min
Dieting-Separating Myths from Facts
4: Dieting-Separating Myths from Facts

More than any other component of health, dieting is the area most prone to myths and misinformation. Here, evaluate the veracity of everything from the benefits of low-carb and low-fat diets to the use of weight-loss supplements and intense workouts to the nature of "good" and "bad" fats....

28 min
The Fallacy That Natural Is Always Better
5: The Fallacy That Natural Is Always Better

Natural isn't always better for you, as Dr. Novella demonstrates by guiding you through some common fallacies about the "natural foods" you can find in almost any grocery store around the world. These include how such foods are cultivated, how they're labeled and sold, and how they're prepared and consumed....

32 min
Probiotics and Our Bacterial Friends
6: Probiotics and Our Bacterial Friends

There are billions of bacteria around and inside your body-and some of them are actually beneficial to your health. Explore the truths behind probiotics: what they are, whether they help with issues like tooth decay and irritable bowel syndrome, and the future possibilities of genetically engineered bacteria....

28 min
Sugar and Hyperactivity
7: Sugar and Hyperactivity

It's commonly believed that large amounts of sugar lead to hyperactivity in children. But is that really the case? Debunk common misconceptions about the effects of sugar, food additives, and food allergies on children's behavior, and learn more about what may sometimes be the true culprit: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder....

29 min
Antioxidants-Hype versus Reality
8: Antioxidants-Hype versus Reality

Another popular medical subject is antioxidants: substances in "superfoods" such as green tea that stabilize oxygen-free radicals. Discover what scientists have found about the potential for antioxidants to treat diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, to prevent cancer and heart disease, and to promote longevity and lifelong health....

30 min
The Common Cold
9: The Common Cold

Finally put to bed the popular myths about one of the most common illnesses: a cold. You've heard the stories about not going out in cold weather, eating chicken soup, washing your hands, and taking over-the-counter medicine. Now, discover what science says about what works and what doesn't....

30 min
Vaccination Benefits-How Well Vaccines Work
10: Vaccination Benefits-How Well Vaccines Work

Vaccines are perhaps the single safest and most effective preventive health measure ever devised. In the first of two lectures on this subject, learn the history of vaccination, what types of vaccines doctors use to stave off specific diseases, and why some people still question whether this technique works....

33 min
Vaccination Risks-Real and Imagined
11: Vaccination Risks-Real and Imagined

Focus now on myths surrounding the safety of vaccines-including the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine and its false link to autism in children. Because of the unwarranted fear and confusion among parents, this particular myth has led to decreased vaccination rates and the reemergence of serious infectious diseases....

32 min
Antibiotics, Germs, and Hygiene
12: Antibiotics, Germs, and Hygiene

Infection remains a serious problem for our species, despite our well-developed immune systems. After learning about different bacteria and other invasive organisms, delve into some half-truths about antibiotic resistance and good hygiene. End the lecture with the answer to an intriguing question: Can you be too clean?...

32 min
Vague Symptoms and Fuzzy Diagnoses
13: Vague Symptoms and Fuzzy Diagnoses

Diagnoses are the labels we attach to the signs and symptoms of particular diseases or illnesses. But not all diagnoses are equally valid. Here, learn how doctors make informed diagnoses and investigate several diseases that illustrate the controversy behind them, including chronic Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia....

32 min
Herbalism and Herbal Medicines
14: Herbalism and Herbal Medicines

Herbalism is perhaps the oldest form of medicine. So how much does it really differ from modern pharmacology? Find out as Dr. Novella explores the complicated process of drug development and testing, and then scientifically debunks popular herbal remedies such as echinacea, Gingko biloba, and St. John's wort....

30 min
Homeopathy-One Giant Myth
15: Homeopathy-One Giant Myth

Devised before the advent of science-based medicine, homeopathy is a controversial belief system that should not be substituted for effective treatment. So how is it supposed to work? Why has the science community rejected its prescriptions? How are homeopathic products prepared-and what is actually in them?...

32 min
Facts about Toxins and Myths about Detox
16: Facts about Toxins and Myths about Detox

Find out where toxins come from, how our bodies work to effectively handle toxins, and what toxins you should worry about. Then, discover the scientific reasons why detoxifying treatments like colon cleansing, over-the-counter herbal agents, and skin products do nothing more than leech money out of your wallet....

33 min
Myths about Acupuncture's Past and Benefits
17: Myths about Acupuncture's Past and Benefits

Acupuncture has recently received a great deal of attention but has yet to be convincingly proven to be medically effective beyond nonspecific placebo effects. In this lecture, take a closer look at the practice's Eastern and Western origins, its medical claims, its false potential as a form of anesthesia, and more....

30 min
Myths about Magnets, Microwaves, Cell Phones
18: Myths about Magnets, Microwaves, Cell Phones

The idea of using electromagnetism to heal has been around for centuries. Investigate how magnetic fields in objects like microwaves and cell phones work on our bodies, how healing is attempted through devices such as bracelets and pads, and how research shows that this curious form of medicine is scientifically unsound....

32 min
All about Hypnosis
19: All about Hypnosis

When you hear the word "hypnosis," odds are you're thinking about the trance-like states you see on stage and TV. But does it have actual medical benefits? Here, delve into the neuroscience of hypnosis and examine truths about its clinical uses in dealing with memory loss, sleep disorders, chronic pain, and more....

28 min
Myths about Coma and Consciousness
20: Myths about Coma and Consciousness

What are the different levels of consciousness one can have in a coma? Is it truly possible to just wake up from a coma? Can people know that others are present while comatose? Movies and stories in the media perpetuate our confusion about comas and consciousness. Separate myth from reality here....

32 min
What Placebos Can and Cannot Do
21: What Placebos Can and Cannot Do

Myths about placebos are "gateway myths"-meaning they often lead to many other medical misconceptions and half-truths. By understanding how placebos are defined, how they are administered, and what their different effects can be, you can better grasp whether they really make for an effective form of medicine....

31 min
Myths about Pregnancy
22: Myths about Pregnancy

Carrying a baby low while pregnant means it's a boy. Never eat fish or drink caffeine while pregnant. Intercourse every 48 hours will increase your chances of conception. A whirlwind of misinformation surrounds the subject of pregnancy. Unpack many of the most common-and popular-myths in this lecture....

32 min
Medical Myths from around the World
23: Medical Myths from around the World

Get a broader perspective on medical misinformation with this tour of myths from around the world, including South Korea (where sleeping with an electric fan on is thought to be deadly), parts of Africa (where it's believed that intercourse with a virgin can cure HIV infection), and Japan (where some believe personality is tied to blood type)....

33 min
Roundup-Decluttering Our Mental Closet
24: Roundup-Decluttering Our Mental Closet

Finish the course with a brief survey of "mini-myths," including that body heat is mostly lost through your head, that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, and that eating turkey makes you sleepy. Afterward, take a moment to ponder the benefits of knowing how to sort through misconceptions and hype....

35 min
Steven Novella

All of our beliefs are open to revision: When new data comes in, or maybe just a better way of interpreting data or looking at the way things work, we have to be open to revising what we thought we knew.


Georgetown University


Yale School of Medicine

About Steven Novella

Dr. Steven Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his M.D. from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals. An expert in neuroscience, Dr. Novella focuses his practice on neuromuscular disorders. His personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, is considered one of the top neuroscience blogs and covers issues in neuroscience as well as the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella is also the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a medical blog dedicated to promoting the highest standards of basic and clinical science in medical practice. Dr. Novella is president and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society, a nonprofit educational organization designed to further public understanding of science. As the host and producer of the organization's award-winning science show, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Dr. Novella explores the latest scientific discoveries, the presentation of science in the mainstream media, and public understanding and attitudes toward science.

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