WHO Didn’t Issue “7 Brain Damaging” Habits, Here’s a Fact-Check

The attribution to WHO is wrong and several claims made in the story were also found to be false. 

4 min read

An image has been doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook with a claim that the World Health Organization (WHO) has laid down seven habits as “the biggest brain damaging habits”. The image has been shared on Facebook, Twitter and over WhatsApp.

An archive can be found <a href="https://archive.is/JUYCM">here</a>.&nbsp;
An archive can be found here
(Source: Twitter/Screenshot)


The image lists out seven common habits and claims that they can damage one’s brain. Another image with the same list has also been doing the rounds which is not attributed to the WHO.

The image has been shared on multiple platforms including pages with thousands of followers.

An archive can be found <a href="https://archive.is/6qjZ3">here</a>.&nbsp;
An archive can be found here
(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)
An archive can be found <a href="https://archive.is/qYO9z">here</a>.&nbsp;
An archive can be found here
(Source: Twitter/Screenshot)


At first glance, one can see several typographical and grammatical errors in the list. The list ends with a line that says “Don’t just ReadForward to whom you careAs I care for U”. The use of a shortened “you” and lack of spacing makes it look unprofessional.

The Quint contacted WHO India, but hasn’t heard back from them. The copy will be updated with their response. However, Charity Warigon, Head of Communications, WHO Nigeria, told an international fact-checking organisation, “Certainly, it doesn’t sound WHO at all.”

Upon conducting a reverse image search, we found out that the image has been around since 2017 and keeps resurfacing.

An archive can be found <a href="https://archive.is/kAnhM">here</a>.&nbsp;
An archive can be found here
(Source: Twitter/Screenshot)

The Quint also contacted Dr Manjari Tripathi, a neurologist from AIIMS, who helped us study the authenticity of the claims made in the image.

Claim 1: Missing breakfast

According to Dr Tripathi,

Generally, this is said as breakfast is the most valuable meal of the day as it breaks the fast after dinner. Ideally, dinner should be early by 7 pm and so the breakfast will be after 12 or more hrs of fasting the next day that’s why it should not be missed.

While some studies have linked increased cognitive functions because of taking breakfast, there has been no evidence to link skipping breakfast with brain damage, as pointed out in this study.

Claim 2: Sleeping late

An adult human needs 7-9 hours of daily sleep every night to have proper cognitive functions. Too much sleep or too little sleep can lead to memory and thinking problems. Lack of sleep has also been linked to depression, heart disease and stroke, and type 2 diabetes, as mentioned in this Harvard study.

Sleep for 7 to 8 hours is necessary. It doesn’t matter if you sleep late and get up late, duration should be 7 to 8 hours which gives healing in all spheres to the brain.
Dr Tripathi

Claim 3: High sugar consumption

We already know that taking high amounts of sugar in our diet can lead to obesity and diabetes. But sugar also has a detrimental effect on our brain. “Yes, sugar is bad for the brain and the body. It can lead to cognitive decline in elderly and ADHD hyperactivity in children,” says Dr Tripathi.

WHO also recommends reducing our sugar intake by 5%. “We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, in a report from 2015.

Claim 4: Sleep in the morning

There is no direct relation between sleeping in the morning and brain damage. However, Dr Tripathi points out that since our daily activity of school and work start at scheduled times in the morning, one should not make a habit of sleeping in the morning. We must meet our daily requirement of 7 hours by sleeping and getting up early to get to work.

Claim 5: Eating a meal while watching TV

Dr Tripathi notes that one must be mindful while eating. We should make sure not to speak too much while eating. Similarly, eating while watching TV will lead to more consumption, ultimately leading to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. A Harvard report also advises that we should pay attention to what we are eating, take small bites and chew well. No relation was found between cognitive function and distracted eating.

Claim 6: Wearing a cap or socks while sleeping

There is no research to link sleeping with socks to cognitive decay. However, studies have shown that sleeping with socks on leads to faster relaxation and hence, quicker sleep. People in colder climates prefer wearing socks while sleeping to keep their body temperature normal. It is not recommended in tropical climates like that of India.

Claim 7: Habit of blocking urine

Making a habit of holding/blocking urine can weaken the bladder muscles. It can also cause problems such as incontinence, urinary tract infections and kidney stones, as advised by doctors.

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