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The Health Benefits of Water: Fact or Myth?

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I was at a friend's 30th birthday party recently when someone struck up a conversation about cholesterol, and how to go about lowering it. (A not-inappropriate venue for such a conversation; my peers seem to get more health- and age-obsessed as we approach the realm of birthdays starting with the number three.) I've got some family history of cholesterol myself, so my ears perked up as this person went on to claim that a friend of hers (this is called "hearsay") lowered her cholesterol 100 points in a year by drinking a whole gallon of water every day.
And indeed, a quick internet search seemed to verify the connection between drinking water and lowering one's cholesterol -- at least, according to random blogs and websites for companies that want to sell you powerful water filters. Then I ran across this on the Cleveland Clinic website: "The [director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic] says there is no correlation between water consumption and cutting cholesterol," though she goes on to recommend drinking eight glasses of it a day. But now that the cholesterol claim has been called into question, I'm skeptical ... what other water-based urban legends are floating around out there?

According to WebMD, the health benefits of drinking water have been taken on a kind of mythic status, and for years so-called experts have been claiming -- with few studies or hard evidence to back them up -- that drinking copious amounts of water can dramatically improve kidney function to flush toxins from your body, help your organ work better generally, helps you lose weight, improves skin tone and cures or wards off headaches, among other benefits. But researchers say evidence is lacking.

Which is not to say you shouldn't drink lots of water every day (many people recommend eight glasses), as there's no proof that it's bad for you. Better advice would simply be to replace other beverages in our diet, such as sugary sodas and giant lattes, with water; it's estimated that 20% of the calories in American diets now come from beverages. Chronic, often unwitting dehydration can also be a problem, and the negative effects of that have been well-documented. So there are plenty of reasons to drink water -- but good ol' H20 seems not to be quite the panacea we had hoped it was.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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