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The Danger of WHATSAPP and Social Media Health Alerts and Tips: Focus on Prostate claims.

While the well informed may just delete or disregard it, the not so informed may take it literarily, and this may have an adverse side effect on people’s health, increase people’s anxiety or provide false assurances as the case may be.


These days, everyone probably belongs to at least one WhatsApp group. Often time, a member of the group share health alerts or tips, the majority of the times, these alerts or tips are not written by the person who shares them and so, the WhatsApp group members are often well intentioned.

The trouble is, sharing this information based on being well intentioned is not good enough.

Public health information is very important and should be treated as such, there is a very wide spectrum of the population ranging from well informed to not so informed consuming these pieces of information.

While the well informed may just delete or disregard it, the not so informed may take it literarily, and this may have an adverse side effect on people’s health, increase people’s anxiety or provide false assurances as the case may be.

These tips are often accompanied by no sources or name of the author at all or may have bogus sources like “scientists in China” or “American Doctors” or “The U.S Embassy” and the claims therein almost always lack scientific or medical evidence.

In this age of intellectual property protection, any scientist or medical researcher who has done a piece of work worthy of viral share would want it to be referenced, if anything, penning their name to a piece of work gives the work an authority and other researchers may be able to use this “wonderful” piece of work in their own research.

Any author who has written a piece of work particularly the one meant for public consumption requiring people to take a specific action or precaution and making adaptation to their way of life need to first, identify themselves, second declare what qualifies them to be issuing such dramatic life-changing or alarming health advice.

To put this in perspective: NICE; the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK is a body responsible for issuing guidelines on medical procedures, this includes the use of technology in health, diagnostic methods, and treatments. Similarly, the FDA  in the USA is the body saddled with these responsibilities. These organizations comprise of doctors, researchers, and members of the public and different interest groups.

These are well-funded organizations whose whole existence are meant for research and data collection and reviews of previous data for evolving or changing conditions for the purpose of designing and improving public health.

A lot of work goes into public health advice issued by these bodies and so are de-facto authorities in their jurisdiction.

So, here is the thing, as big and authoritative these organizations are, every one of their guidelines is accompanied by numerous studies used to design any specific guideline.

The guideline will not simply end with the name NICE or FDA, the guideline will list names of studies drawn upon, this is for several reasons, one of which is to inform the public of the limit and scope of the guideline. for example, from which population samples were drawn from, and whether the conclusion is generalizable.

While NICE and FDA information is primarily utilized by doctors treating patients, it is also available to the public, there is a rise in trend of patients arriving at their doctor’s already well informed about their symptoms.

Can anyone else provide public health guideline, advice and information:


Anyone who is an authority in a specific area can give an opinion, this is the main reason this information should be accompanied by a named person, institution and whether they are referring to primary research or secondary data, this is so the recipient, members of the public and consumers can make up their mind on the validity and usefulness of the information.


So, the following are some claims contained in a “shared as received” message sent to a Whatsapp group. The claims do not have a named author, hence referred to here as “anonymous author”


The size of the bladder is 40 – 60 cl. A bottle of coke is 50cl. As the bladder stores more urine it can enlarge up to 300cl. An overfilled bladder may leak and this leads to wetting /urinary incontinence. Also the volume may put pressure on the kidney and may lead to kidney damage.


Bladder size is not measured in cl, bladder capacity is measured in an ounce or cl. The typical bladder can reach its capacity between 16-24 ounces (45.44 to 68.16 cl). Urge to urinate starts when the bladder is 25% full.


There is a mucous membrane of transitional epithelium that is continuous with the inner lining of ureters which convey fluid from kidney to the bladder. The contraction of the mucous membrane results in a fold called rugae in an empty bladder which expands to accommodate the fluid.

During Urination, the bladder muscles contract to allow the flow of fluid through the urethra with the help of two sphincters or valve.

According to National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the mechanism of “wetting” described by the anonymous author due to overfilled bladder is not supported by the literature.


An Overactive bladder due to damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing its muscles to squeeze without warning. This can cause urinary frequency—defined as urination eight or more times a day or two or more times at night, urinary urgency—the sudden, strong need to urinate immediately and urge incontinence—leakage of urine that follows a sudden, strong urge to urinate.

A damaged nerve can also affect the muscle around the sphincters to become loose and allow leakage or stay tight when you are trying to release urine known as Urine retention.

The author is correct in that full bladder can cause kidney damage, this is because, for some people, nerve damage means their bladder muscles do not get the message that it is time to release urine or are too weak to completely empty the bladder. If the bladder becomes too full, urine may back up and the increasing pressure may damage the kidneys. Or urine that stays too long may lead to an infection in the kidneys or bladder. Urine retention may also lead to overflow incontinence.

The author is, however, wrong by not mentioning nerve damage as a cause, rather just overfilled bladder.

The author talked about BPH as a context for urinary incontinence, this is correct, so let’s look at the claims.


Red meat everyday triples your chances of prostate disease. Milk everyday doubles your risk. Not taking fruits / vegetables daily quadruples your risk


According to Prostate Cancer UK, Until very recently, experts thought that eating certain foods such as foods containing lycopene – including tomatoes and some other red fruits and vegetables and foods containing selenium – including Brazil nuts, fish, seafood, liver, and kidney. probably lowered the risk of prostate cancer, these have now been challenged by more recent findings.

Dr Stephanie Smith-Warner, at Harvard School of Public Health, USA, examined associations between several dietary factors and risk of prostate cancer and found that intakes of unprocessed red meat, processed meat, seafood (fish and shellfish combined), poultry, and eggs were not associated with a substantially increased or decreased risk of total, localised, low-grade, or high-grade PC.

This study also revealed Calcium and fruit and vegetable intakes were not associated with risk of advanced PC. Higher unprocessed red meat, processed meat, and egg consumption were associated with marginally significant modestly higher risks of advanced PC, while higher poultry consumption was associated with a modest reduction in risk of advanced PC.

So the claim of red meat triple, milk double and NOT taking fruit quadruple are either wrong, exaggerated or outdated by more recent large studies.


Tomatoes are very good for men. If that is the only thing your wife can present in the evening, eat it with joy. It has loads of lycopene. Lycopene is the most potent natural antioxidant.

Foods that are rich in zinc are also good for men. We recommend pumpkin seeds (ugbogulu).

Zinc is about the most essential element for male sexuality and fertility.

Men need more zinc than women. Every time a man ejaculates he loses 15mg of zinc. Zinc is also important for alcohol metabolism. Your liver needs zinc to metabolize alcohol.


The relationship between development or prevention of prostate cancer or BPH by consumption of food containing Lycopene have been disputed by more recent studies, yes, it used to be widely believed that was the case.

It is a matter of fact that there is a relationship between Zinc and the prostate gland, the key element in this relationship according to Franz et al, 2013, is the uniquely high zinc level of normal prostate epithelial cells. Zinc is transported by the SLC30 and SLC39 families of zinc transporters. However, in prostate cancer, the intracellular zinc content is remarkably reduced and expression levels of certain zinc transporters are altered.

From this study, it showed that healthy prostate contained high level of Zinc and it is reduced in cells of prostate cancer, thus, While it is within reason to suggest high intake of Zinc will prevent or reduce prostate cancer from the conclusion of work done by Franz and colleagues, there are no studies however that specifically looked at that relationship, furthermore, significant dietary influence on prevention or development of prostate cancer was disputed by the Dr. Stephanie Smith-warner study.

There are also no studies that demonstrate that men need more Zinc than women, this theory is believed to be the case because of the relationship of the prostate gland and Zinc and the fact that women do not possess prostate gland.



As men begin to have urinary symptoms associated with prostate enlargement, it is important they look at alcohol consumption. More fluid in means more fluid out.


Study of modifiable risk factors showed that obesity and diabetes contribute more strongly to the development of BPH, however, heavy alcohol consumption is also a factor but moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk.

Alcohol inhibits the pituitary secretion of Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH), which acts on the kidney to reabsorb water. Alcohol acts on the hypothalamus/pituitary to reduce the circulating levels of ADH. When ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water; consequently, the kidneys produce more urine.

Thus, for someone that has already developed BPH, alcohol reduction could help to limit the frequent production of urine, which they will struggle to pass out due to possible ureteric obstruction.



Avoid smoking. It affects blood vessels and impact circulation around the groin



There is an increased risk of prostate cancer with smoking, in fact, smoking increases the risk of many cancers, the heavier the use of tobacco, the higher the chances.

Smoking reduces circulation generally as it thickens the blood and simultaneously narrowing blood vessels.

Any vascular territories may be affected, this including the pelvic vessels. It is not clear whether the author is referring to the groin (pelvic vessels) in this context which is correct or implying that smoking target groin (pelvic vessels) specifically which will be wrong.



Celibates are more prone to prostate illness. While celibacy is a moral decision, it is not a biological adaptation. Your prostate gland is designed to empty its contents regularly.



According to a study published in the journal of UROLOGY, men who reported ejaculating at least once a week were less likely to have moderate to severe urinary symptoms, once researchers took the men’s age into account, this association was no longer significant. In other words, age was a more significant factor affecting the risk of prostate enlargement than ejaculation frequency.

Another study, more recent also published in The Journal of UROLOGY, found a relationship that suggests that higher frequency of ejaculation correlate strongly to a higher degree of BPH.

This refutes the claim by the author that suggests frequent sex prevent BPH or Prostate cancer if anything the opposite is the case.


Africans, Caribbeans, and African-Americans have 1 in 4 chances of developing BPH and prostate cancer. They are twices likely to develop the conditions and are more likely to develop them earlier in life compared to Caucasian race. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these groups of people are more sexually active than Caucasian. This relationship support available evidence that higher sexual activity, in fact, pre-disposes people to developing BPH.

Another pointer is the fact that there is no study that suggests higher chances of developing BPH and Prostate Cancer among MONKS and Priests who are not officially allowed sex.

So the claim of celibates are more prone to prostate illness is wrong


There is another point in caps by the author that says sex must be within the context of marriage; This is comical, to say the least, a supposed medical tips to preventing prostate conditions injected with a moral advice on sex for public consumption is missing the point.

There is a space for moral pontifications and medical advice and tips, the two are separate and should be treated as such.

Opinion by Oluwakemi Olushola, A Snr Medical Radiographer (MRI) with interest in vascular MRI and a Writer in the United Kingdom.




1 Comment on The Danger of WHATSAPP and Social Media Health Alerts and Tips: Focus on Prostate claims.

  1. Yusuf Adebayo // August 20, 2017 at 6:34 pm // Reply

    Nice one.At last somebody coming out to address the issue of irresponsible medical advice.Thumbs up


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