Thirteen ‘bad’ habits that might actually be good for you

We’re told on a daily basis about all the things that can harm our health.

So how about a bit of good news on all those things that are ‘bad’ for us…

Having a daily tipple

People who drink a daily glass of wine or beer have a 53% lower chance of developing diabetes compared with abstainers, according to a Greek study published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolism.

After monitoring more than 3,000 people for 10 years, researchers believe that moderate alcohol consumption could boost cells’ sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

Meanwhile, a Danish study suggested that drinking two small glasses of wine daily may reduce the risk of death for Alzheimer’s patients.

Peanut butter

It might have a lot of calories, but peanut butter is one of the richest sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, says Elizabeth Wall, nutritionist at Holland & Barrett.

The nuts are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body and boost the health of blood vessels around the heart. In fact, Harvard Medical School researchers reported that snacking on peanut butter five days a week can nearly halve the risk of a heart attack.

Reading in dim light

If there’s enough light to read, then there’s enough light, says Specsavers clinical spokesperson: “While it will make the task more difficult, which could result in eyestrain or headaches, reading in poor light will have no long-term implications for your sight.”


The sleepiness you feel when you drift off into a daydream can actually boost your brain power, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Brain scans have revealed that when our mind wanders, the brain’s ‘executive network’ – the part associated with problem-solving – becomes extremely active.

Crash diets

“The belief that the body quickly switches to ‘starvation mode’ is an utter myth,” says Dr Michael Mosley, author of the Fast Diet and Fast Exercise books (

And University of Pennsylvania researchers found no difference in weight gain between those on crash diets and those who followed so-called healthy diets, adds Dr Mosley.

But, he warns, it’s vital to eat protein: “The body can store fat and carbs but not protein. If you go without it, the body starts to extract it from the muscles.”


Italian researchers have found that eating spaghetti can reduce body mass index and lower waist circumference. This is partly because those who regularly consumed pasta tended to do so as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet.

But after analysing the diets of more than 23,000 people, the study suggested the beneficial effect on the waistline of eating pasta existed regardless of how faithfully the diet was followed.

Running (for your knees)

Contrary to popular belief, running isn’t bad for your knees. In fact, data from Brigham Young University in America suggests running could even reduce joint inflammation.

The researchers measured levels of cytokines – markers of inflammation – in the knee joint fluid of people aged 18-35 before and after running.

After 30 minutes, the concentration decreased, so running had created an anti-inflammatory effect. Scientists even suggest running could delay the onset of osteoarthritis.

Going to the pub

Visiting your local makes you healthier, happier – and boosts community spirit, say psychologists at Oxford University.

They found it “can directly affect people’s social network size and how engaged they are with the community.

Our networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness”.


Children who are thumb-suckers or nail-biters are a third less likely to have allergies as adults – because they build up an immune response that makes them less
susceptible to allergens.

Prof Malcolm Sears, of McMaster University in Canada, who led the study, says: “While we don’t recommend these habits be encouraged, there does appear to be a positive side.”

Ice cream

Eating ice cream is the ideal way to de-stress, say scientists at the University of California.

Apparently the milk and cream mixture contains large amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect on the brain, improving your mood and sleep.


Obviously it depends on the time and place, but swearing can be a good way to let off steam and boost wellbeing, say boffins from the University of East Anglia. They found a few expletives help employees cope with stress and it can raise team spirits.

A separate study from Keele University found swearing can actually help us cope with pain, with volunteers able to withstand having their hands in ice-filled water for around 40 seconds longer than those who didn’t swear.

Not flossing

A number of studies have dismissed the effectiveness of flossing in removing plaque and it can also occasionally cause harm, with a poor technique leading to damaged gums and teeth.

According to the British Dental Association: “Small inter-dental brushes are best for cleaning the area in between your teeth, where there is space to do so. Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.”

A cooked breakfast

The old saying ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ may be the key to a healthy body and mind.

American researchers say a full English breakfast of bacon, egg, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes is better for the heart, waistline and blood pressure than carbohydrate-rich cereals, breads and pastries.

Apparently such a breakfast sets up the metabolism for the rest of the day, making it easier to burn off other meals and snacks.

Just go easy at lunch and dinner.

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