An apple a day and five more fact-checked proverbs
- 18 December 2013
The phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" may be true for the over-50s, a report suggests. What is the validity of other well-known proverbs?
If everyone over the age of 50 ate an apple a day, 8,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes could be avoided every year in the UK, University of Oxford researchers say in the British Medical Journal. How do some other common idioms stack up?
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. According to the Met Office, the phrase is "most reliable" when weather systems, as in the UK, predominantly come from the west. A red sky appears when high pressure traps dust and small particles in the atmosphere. A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving from the west, and the next day is more likely be dry and clement. A red sky in the morning means the high pressure weather system has already moved east, meaning a greater chance of wet weather.
Beer and wine and you'll feel fine. Wine and beer and you'll feel queer. It's a common piece of advice, but the order in which you consume alcoholic drinks makes no difference to levels of intoxication, says dietician Dr Sarah Schenker. "There isn't any science behind it," she says. The thing that makes you feel worst is the excess alcohol, not whether it come from fermented grapes or malt, she adds.
The early bird catches the worm. Researchers from the University of Oxford tracked the winter foraging movements of five species of songbirds. All did indeed search for food in the morning, but only returned to eat it in the late afternoon.
Rain on St Swithin's day. Weather lore holds that should it rain on 15 July - Swithin's feast day - it will carry on raining for 40 days. If it is dry, so too will be the following 40 days. In a 2009 Magazine article, forecaster Philip Eden pointed out that no-one should take Swithin's law literally. Since records began in 1861, there have neither been 40 dry nor 40 wet days following the corresponding weather on 15 July, according to the Met Office.
A rolling stone gathers no moss. An experiment for the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters saw three rocks rolled within a moss-lined half-barrel for six months. Three more rocks were left in an equivalent, but stationary barrel. All the stationary rocks gathered moss. None of the rolling ones did.