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At first glance, Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll look like just what they are: polished, talented, up-and-coming IU School of Medicine faculty members, eager to impart knowledge to both students and fellow faculty across the IUPUI campus.

But then you notice a twinkle in Carroll's eye, and maybe the hint of a smile on Vreeman's face. And you realize why the two pediatrics faculty members — co-authors of the popular 2009 book Don't Swallow Your Gum! — have enjoyed such public success for their myth-busting efforts undercutting Grandma's old medical bromides.

After all, you don't wind up on Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, USA Today, Newsweek or The New York Times without shaking up the status quo a bit.

Their book was meant to debunk a lot of what they found to be "medical misinformation" — concepts so common in 21st century folklore that they've "just been accepted as true," according to Vreeman.

While the tone of the book is light-hearted, Carroll and Vreeman actually teamed up on some heavy-duty research to identify common misconceptions.

"A lot of doctors believe in some of these myths," they say. In fact, they freely admit that they "were surprised by what our research showed" in busting some of the myths.

"The one that surprised me most was that sugar doesn't make kids hyper," he adds with a grin. "Even after we show people the research, a lot of parents and even doctors aren't buying it!"

Some of the other maxims they tackle:

  • You only use 10 percent of your brain;
  • Men think about sex every seven seconds;
  • Eating turkey can make you sleepy;
  • You can chew gum instead of brushing your teeth; and
  • Every mom's favorite: you should wait an hour after eating before going swimming.

"The first thing that surprised us was that people have done some amazing studies," Vreeman says. And Carroll quickly adds with a laugh "the second is you wonder why anybody would volunteer for these studies."

Both were surprised at the universality of some of the myths.

Carroll and Vreeman at a campus book signing

"It's amazing how little the stories change from country to country, continent to continent," Vreeman says with a shake of her head. "No wonder it takes forever to beat these things to death!"

It might also explain why they've been interviewed by media on six continents, and why their book has been published in several languages — though the "myths" in one country's edition might not make it into another country's version, Carroll points out.

The book has been such a success that — in true Hollywood style — a sequel is a real possibility.

"We keep finding new things to tackle," Carroll laughs.

There has been one downside, at least for him: the t-shirt he wore for the back cover of the book has led to some merciless teasing by colleagues.

"Never wearing that for another photo," he says firmly.

But for both, there has been one big upside: it's bridged a gap with their "toughest" critics: family.

"It's really nice that our families say they now have some of our research they can understand," Carroll laughs.