Message, wide spread on Internet, claims that drinking cold water after a meal will solidify 'oily stuff' present in the food consumed and will lead to cancer. A new version recommends drinking warm water with meals and tacks on unrelated information about heart attacks.
Sample of the email you may get in your box:
Subject: Drinking Cold water after meal = Cancer!
For those who like to drink cold water, this article is applicable to you. It is nice to have a cup of cold drink after a meal. However, the cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed. It will slow down the digestion.
Once this "sludge" reacts with the acid, it will break down and be absorbed by the intestine faster than the solid food. It will line the intestine.
Very soon, this will turn into fats and lead to cancer. It is best to drink hot soup or warm water after a meal.
**PLEASE BE A "TRUE" FRIEND AND SEND THIS ARTICLE TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS YOU CARE ABOUT**
Why Cold Water Leads to Cancer?
Certain websites or emails claiming that drinking cold water may cause cancer state that the mechanism has to do with cold water solidifying oily foods that we eat. These sources state that solidified oily food reacts with stomach acid, turns into sludge, and is absorbed faster into the intestines than solid foods. People who support this claim then state that the solidified oily foods turn into fats which line the intestines, buildup, and lead to cancer.
You may even get the paper leaflets warning you in scientific matter on the devastating consequences of drinking cold water with the meal.
Debunking the Misconception that Links Cold Water to Cancer
Let's explore three reasons why this cancer misconception is not scientifically based.
1. When you drink cold or warm beverages, they don't remain hot or cold for long. The liquid quickly becomes the same temperature as your body temperature. So drinking something cold doesn't stay cool in the stomach.
2. You have to account for the highly acidic environment of stomach. Stomach acid breaks down mostly everything into a thick liquid consistency before it travels to the small intestine. So no solid food is really surviving stomach acid -- with the exception of foods that contain cellulose, like corn and lettuce.
3. The fact that "solidified oily foods turn into fats" makes no sense, as oils are already fats.
There is no mention of a connection between drinking cold water and cancer on the National Cancer Institute website, the most reputable cancer related source of information or in any other trustworthy cancer health resources. No scientific studies or even non-scientific news reports were published on the matter. If the information in the message were true, it would be well documented by both the medical establishment and the media. It is a very common practice to consume cold water or other cold beverages at mealtime. Therefore, any connections between cold water and cancer would have long since been extensively studied and reported.
As is common with such "warnings", the message contains no external references to back up its far-fetched claims.
Besides, the conclusions in the message are logically flawed. The stomach's natural heat will bring all contents to a uniform temperature soon after eating. Even ice-cold water would not stay cold long enough inside the stomach to actually "solidify the oily stuff". Moreover, according to BBC Science and Nature:
As soon as food enters your stomach, your stomach lining releases enzymes that start breaking down proteins in the food. Your stomach lining also secretes hydrochloric acid, which creates the ideal conditions for the protein-digesting enzymes to work.
This chemical break down, along with rhythmic muscular contractions, turns all of the stomach's contents into a thick semi-liquid mass called chyme and moves it into the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. Thus, even if cold water did solidify oily substances in the stomach contents (highly improbable), the resulting "sludge" would soon be converted into chyme and it would not enter the duodenum more rapidly than any other material.
Some alternative health sources do claim that cold water can slow digestion, although such claims are not supported by modern medical science. However, even if this slowing did occur, it would certainly not fundamentally disrupt digestion in the way described in the message nor would it lead to cancer.
A newer variant of the message tacks on information about identifying heart attacks. It notes that chest pain and pain in the left arm are not always present during a heart attack and describes other symptoms that people should be aware of. This information is perfectly correct. However, it is no way related to drinking cold or warm water with meals. The implication in the message is that drinking warm beverages with a meal can help prevent heart attacks, but as with the supposed cold water cancer link, this claim has no basis in fact whatsoever.
Thus, it is perfectly safe to drink cold water with or after your meals. It is also perfectly safe to drink warm beverages with or after your meal, although doing so will not prevent cancer nor will it help you avoid heart attacks. This nonsensical warning should not be forwarded, shared or reposted.
History of the Claim
The belief that fats (particularly animal fats) will "line the intestine" underpins a common scare story about alleged post-mortem discoveries that celebrities (such as John Wayne and Elvis Presley) who epitomized the "meat and potatoes" diet, gluttony, or other negative eating habits had some tremendous amount (40, 60, or even 80 pounds) of "impacted fecal matter" or "impacted feces" lodged in their bowels.
The e-mailed advisory against downing cold water after a meal advances a claim that the sludge supposedly formed by the reaction of stomach acids and ingested oils and now said to be adhering to the walls of the intestine will "turn into fats and lead to cancer." That oils (fats) would turn into fats is the least improbable claim made in the e-mail, but it would be better stated that oils (fats) remain fats, rather than change into them. As for such fats "lead[ing] to cancer," a look at the medical literature of the day does not support that allegation. (One genuinely-studied link between fats and cancer has to do with a higher incidence of lung cancer noted in Asian women who over the course of their lives have performed a great deal of wok cooking. The extreme high heat of that form of cookery causes the oils used to break down and give off chemicals capable of causing mutations in cells. Those intent upon doing large amounts of wok cooking should therefore lower their frying temperature from the 240°C to 280°C called for in Chinese cooking to 180°C.)
Over the years, decades, and even centuries, a variety of things have been pointed to as causing cancer. Once, when it was noted that there had been an increase in the consumption of tomatoes and an increase in the number of cancer patients, the erroneous conclusion was drawn from this correlation that tomatoes in some fashion caused or induced cancer. As to how old that belief was or how seriously it was taken at the time it was being bruited about, we note that in 1896 the Yorkshire Weekly Post printed an item by a physician who felt moved to publicly combat the rumor: "Let me say that the eating of tomatoes has nothing whatever to do with the production of the disease [cancer]."
If that now seems laughable, consider that to this day cancer continues to attract a number of misconceptions, and not just about its potential causes. In 2005 the American Cancer Society conducted a telephone survey of 957 adult Americans who had never had cancer, asking each of them about five common fallacies about the disease. Of the participants, nearly 41 percent believed surgeries to remove cancer actually caused the disease to spread, and another 13 percent weren't sure whether that was true or not. 27 percent of those surveyed believed the medical industry was withholding from the public a cure for cancer just to increase profits, and another 14 percent weren't sure but thought they might be. 19 percent believed pain medications were ineffective against cancer pain (with a further 13 percent unsure), and 7 percent thought the disease was an illness that could not be effectively treated. Finally, 5 percent of those taking part in the survey believed that all that was needed to beat the Big C was a positive attitude.
As for the act of drinking water immediately after eating something being bad for you, those claims have also been kicking about for a bit, as evidenced by this entry from a book of common misconceptions published in 1923:
That it is Bad to Drink Water Directly after Eating Fruit
This idea used to be extremely popular at the Cape when the author was there nearly 40 years ago. He has inquired of a Wimpole Street physician (who was also formerly at the Cape), and cannot find that there is any truth in the belief, except the general one that it is not good to dilute the gastric juices too much after eating anything, and especially, of course if the food be indigestible.
Far more recently, the Internet was spreading another advice to "drink water at room temperature if possible, as ice-cold water can harm the delicate lining of your stomach." If the lining of the human stomach were that delicate, our tummies would not long survive their being constantly bathed in strong digestive acids.
Separating Cancer Fact from Fiction
Every day, it seems like a new article says something causes cancer, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. That being said, it's important to not take what a person, email, blog, or website says for granted.
Misconceptions, rumors, and myths can be rapidly spread, creating unnecessary worry among people. Instead, be sure to confirm the findings with your doctor -- if it sounds out there, it likely is, and without scientific evidence to back it up, it's simply a misconception.
And the Truth is…
There are indeed several studies covering the cold water consumption during and after the meal.
1. Cold Water and Digestion
Purposely avoiding drinking cold water with meals is an Ayurvedic practice. The ancient Indian medical practice believes that drinking cold water puts out your digestive fire, leading to indigestion of the food in your stomach. There's not much evidence to support Ayurvedic practices, however, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, or that drinking cold water after meals harms your body in any way. In fact, drinking water, whether warm or cold, benefits digestion by helping to prevent constipation.
2. Cold Water and Calorie Burning
Drinking a glass of cold water burns slightly more calories than a glass of warm water, according to the University of Arkansas for Medical Science. But it's only an extra 8 calories. If you're drinking cold water after you eat to help you lose weight or burn more calories, those 8 calories aren't going to make enough of a difference to help. Exercise, not drinking cold water, helps you burn more calories.
3. Cold Might Be Better
When it comes to water temperature, cold water might be better than warmer water. Columbia Health reports that cold water leaves the stomach faster than room-temperature water, which makes it a better choice when you're trying to rehydrate. It's also cooling, which is helpful when it's hot outside. You might drink more if it's cold, too. People prefer the taste of cold water, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
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