CSI answers swimming proverb

Old wives’ tales are truisms or legends that guide us in how to live life. It is old wives’ tales that advocate milk before bed, an apple a day to keep medical professionals at a distance, and avoiding hot baths if you are a man and want to keep your swimmers in tip top condition. On the topic of swimming there is the old wives’ tale handed down through the generations that you should not eat an hour before going swimming. Now a new study has investigated whether that may be true.

The basis for this piece of motherly advice dispensed with depressing regularity to eager children, keen to immerse themselves in the nearest waters has been that eating too close to swimming will result in cramp. That has been disagreed with by official bodies but now researchers from Tokyo Women’s University have found evidence to support the mothers of the world.

To test the idea the researchers gathered data on hundreds of autopsies that took place between 2000 and 2007. They evaluated the autopsy files and police reports to determine how each person died. Some of the deaths were classified as undetermined. The researchers documented blood alcohol levels and whether there were solid food residues in the stomach that were visible to the naked eye which would indicate that the deceased had been eating recently.

In the cases where stomach contents were identified on 79 per cent of the occasions the person had died from accidental drowning. That was compared to only 43 per cent who had committed suicide by drowning having visible stomach contents.

The researchers interpret this to mean that there is significant link between food intake and drowning risk. However, they say further research is needed to establish how long you should fast before going swimming.

The theory is that eating prior to swimming raises death risk in two ways. First, you could asphyxiate on aspirated stomach contents. Secondly, blood is diverted to the stomach during digestion which reduces blood flow to muscles and also to the brain and that could lead to loss of consciousness.

Sorry kids but there you go, some of those old wives were pretty sharp!

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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