More health information is not necessarily a good thing, according to a new study which shows nearly half of American adults believe in some sort of "health conspiracy theory." The survey of over 1,300 adults conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago found that 49% believe in at least one of these theories that have been debunked or disproven by doctors. Among the findings: 37% believe the government is hiding natural cures to cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies; 20% believe cell phones cause cancer; and another 20% believe child vaccines cause autism or other sicknesses.
Dr. Christine Le at Houston's Kelsey-Seybold clinic has seen many of these theories firsthand. "The biggest misconception that we get is that vaccines can cause illness," she tells KTRH. But Dr. Le also hears some less-common theories. "We do see patients coming in asking if cinnamon is good to improve diabetes." But perhaps the strangest theory is one she has heard more recently. "I have some patients telling me that they want to stop their cholesterol medicines because they think it might be causing their memory problems." None of those things is true, according to Dr. Le.
The rise of celebrity doctors and the wealth of information on the Internet are the two biggest reasons for the spread of these theories. Dr. Le says many people have stopped relying on their own family doctor for health information. "Sometimes patients are much more likely to believe either a celebrity doctor or something like WebMD" than their own doc. That's why she recommends taking any questions or theories right to your doctor in person. "I think the role of having a family doctor is to be able to answer questions that may not be completely answered online," says Dr. Le.