Five old wives’ tales which turned out to be true, according to science

Rob Waugh
Red sky (Rex)

Most old wives tales don’t stand up to scientific tests – for instance, an Oxford study found that counting sheep actually makes it harder to sleep.

But do any of the myths and weird sayings we were told as children actually have a grain of truth to them?

Surprisingly, yes – here’s a few which have a solid basis in scientific fact, according to experts.

Eating an apple a day DOES keep the doctor away

Never mind keeping the doctor away, eating a regular dose of apples keeps the undertaker away – as an apple a day slashes the risk of dying young by 35%.

Women who ate 100g of apple a day – equivalent to one fruit – lived longer than those who didn’t in a University of Western Australia study.

The researchers studied the diet of 1,456 pensioners aged 70 to 85.

Dr Jonathan Hodgson, of the University of Western Australia said that it was due to high concentrations of flavonoids found in apples.

‘Apples are amongst the top contributors to total flavonoid intake,’ he said.

Shepherds are right about a red sky at night

Most of us have heard the saying, ‘Red sky at night… shepherd’s delight.’

But the surprising part is that the shepherds are actually right (on this, at least).

A red sky at night is often a sign of incoming good weather as high pressure, which leads to good weather, traps dust in the air which scatters blue light, leaving only red light remaining.

Met Office meteorologist Charlie Powell said: ‘Some of these weather sayings are backed up by science and can help to give a sense of what sort of weather may be on its way.

Chicken soup cures colds

Chicken soup Rex

Chicken soup has been described as ‘Jewish penicillin’ – and families often serve it up to people suffering with a cold.

Surprisingly, multiple scientific studies have shown that it actually works.

A 2014 study in American Journal of Therapeutics found that a compound in chicken soup – carnosine – helped the body’s immune system in the early stages of flu.

Researchers from Miami looked at how the soup helped people suffering from the early stages of flu – and concluded that it helped increase the movement of nasal mucus.

That could mean that the soup clears the airways and eases congestion.

People can feel bad weather ‘in their bones’

Multiple studies have shown that people with arthritis tend to feel pain when the weather is changing – particularly when it’s getting colder.

One 2007 Tufts University study found a link, and a survey in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found that 67% of osteoarthritis patients said the weather influenced their pain.

It’s controversial, though, as an Australian study this year found no link between reported weather events and people’s joint pain.

The Arthritis Foundation says, ‘Changes in barometric pressure – a measure that refers to the weight of the air – seem to be more important for pain levels than the actual barometric pressure. Meaning that either a cold front or warm front coming in can ramp up the ache in your fingers. But once the weather has settled in, your pain will even out.

‘If rain begins at early morning light, ’twill end ere day at noon is bright’

This old country saying is still widely believed, according to the Met Office, with 32% of Brits believing that rain at 7am suggests the weather will be fine later.

But there’s a grain of truth to it, the Met Office says.

This is because weather systems often come from the Atlantic and sweep across the UK very quickly, with four hours being enough time for the rain to pass.