The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for the past year. Medical News Today have covered this fast-moving, complex story with live updates on the latest news, interviews with experts, and an ongoing investigation into the deep racial disparities that COVID-19 has helped unmask.

However, this has not stopped us from publishing hundreds of fascinating stories on a myriad of other topics.

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We begin this week’s Recovery Room with a survey of the latest multiple sclerosis (MS) research. There is currently no cure for this condition, but developments in immunotherapy, new drugs, and gut microbiome research give us hope.

We also hear from three women with endometriosis about their experience of living with the condition, often for many years before receiving a diagnosis. It’s a revealing and sometimes frustrating read — why is research into and the understanding of endometriosis so lacking?

There are also articles on caffeine’s effects during exercise, the link between consuming processed meat and dementia, why experiencing some stress may be beneficial, and why positive thinking may not always be the best strategy.

We highlight this research below, along with several other recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.

1. Multiple sclerosis research: Where are we now?

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Published as MS Awareness Month came to an end, this new Special Feature article looks at the latest research into the causes of and treatments for the condition.

MS affects around 2.8 million people worldwide. Its symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, and vertigo, as well as problems with vision and memory.

The article looks at the history of MS and what remains unknown about its causes. It also covers new drug treatments and the emerging prospect of stem cell therapy, immunotherapy, and therapies designed to reverse the damage that MS causes to nerve cells. The gut microbiome may also play a role in the development of the condition.

To learn more about the latest MS research, click below.

Learn more here.

2. Endometriosis experiences: The long, painful road to diagnosis

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March was also Endometriosis Awareness Month, and MNT spoke to three women living with this condition to hear about their experience of diagnosis and how the condition has since affected their lives.

Endometriosis can affect so many parts of the body that doctors may misdiagnose it as a different chronic condition. As a result, many women live for years without a diagnosis that would guide treatment and proper management of the condition.

Given how debilitating the symptoms can be, receiving a late diagnosis can have enormous consequences on one’s career, quality of life, and personal relationships.

Click below for some detailed insights into the day-to-day reality of living with endometriosis.

Learn more here.

3. Study suggests drinking coffee before exercise may help burn more fat

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According to the new research that MNT covered this week, drinking a cup of strong coffee 30 minutes before aerobic exercise may help a person burn more fat.

Existing research indicated that consuming caffeine improved performance during exercise, but the evidence for it promoting fat oxidation was scant. However, this new triple-blind, placebo-controlled study supports the theory that caffeine does help the body burn fat during exercise.

The article looks at the study’s limitations, including the small number of participants and lack of information about their ethnicity, and the risks and side effects associated with caffeine overconsumption.

With over 94,000 page views in just 2 days, it quickly emerged as this week’s most popular news article.

Learn more here.

4. Triglyceride and cholesterol levels: What to know

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Another highly popular article, with over 92,000 page views in its first day, is our detailed look at the difference between triglyceride and cholesterol levels.

Both are important markers for a person’s health, but they perform different roles in the body.

Triglycerides are the most abundant type of fat in the body and store excess energy, while cholesterol is a lipoprotein involved in hormone production, digestion, and vitamin D production. Cholesterol is produced in the liver but also occurs in many foods.

The article looks at the healthy ranges for triglyceride and cholesterol levels and provides advice on how to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, including some dietary and lifestyle changes to try.

Learn more here.

5. Dementia: 25 grams of processed meat per day may raise relative risk

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Eating one rasher of bacon per day may lead to a 44% higher risk of dementia and a 52% increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Eating unprocessed meat may be associated with reduced risks. These were two findings of a new observational study that MNT covered this week.

However, there are limitations to this kind of analysis, and one doctor who was not involved in the study says, “[T]he data wouldn’t persuade me to give up my breakfast bacon.”

Learn more here.

6. Stress may have some important cognitive benefits, new study suggests

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Stress may not be all bad, after all. A new study suggests that people who do not report experiencing any stress score worse on cognition tests. They are also less likely to experience positive events and to give and receive emotional support. This indicates that stress may simply be part of living one’s life.

Chronic stress can result in symptoms such as headaches, irritability, and insomnia, and it can also increase the risk of chronic health problems, such as depression and heart disease.

However, this finding in relation to cognitive health suggests that the relationship between stress and well-being may be more nuanced than most people tend to believe.

Learn more here.

7. Microplastic waste creates ‘hotspots’ of antibiotic resistant bacteria

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Microplastic pollution in wastewater plants contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to a new study that MNT covered this week.

The direct impact of ingesting microplastics on human health is of growing concern. Most seafood samples contain traces of microplastics, and the particles may also contaminate bottled water.

This new study suggests that the threat goes even deeper. Microplastics appear to provide a habitat in which bacteria are able to swap DNA and take up antibiotic resistance genes more readily. This has implications for wastewater treatment and highlights the importance of reducing microplastics in the environment.

Learn more here.

8. Immune-stimulating drug may boost memory in Alzheimer’s

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A preliminary clinical trial of a genetically engineered protein resulted in a significant improvement in standard memory test scores among people with Alzheimer’s disease.

This idea has its origins in an observation that people with rheumatoid arthritis are 40–50% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and that a protein called granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor appears to offer some protection.

The scientists designed the new trial as a safety test, so they did not assess other cognitive improvements. However, after this early success, the team has started a trial of longer duration involving more participants.

Learn more here.

9. Can food make you taller?

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In this article, our team looked at the evidence for various foods encouraging a person to reach their full potential height.

They assessed eggs, dairy, almonds, beans, fish, fruits, and sweet potatoes. However, once a person reaches the end of puberty, it is no longer possible for their bones to lengthen, and they will stop growing taller.

This highlights the importance of good nutrition throughout childhood and early adulthood. After that time, no food will bring on a further growth spurt. However, there are foods that can help maintain good bone health throughout a person’s life.

Learn more here.

10. What to know about toxic positivity

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Can positive thinking go too far? Is it always appropriate to tell someone that “everything happens for a reason”? Could demanding positivity, even in the most tragic circumstances, have negative consequences? These are some of the questions that this new article addresses.

To read more about why allowing oneself to feel negative emotions and to talk about them, without forced positivity, can often be constructive, click below.

Learn more here.

We hope that this week’s Recovery Room has provided a taste of the stories that we cover at MNT. We will be back with a new selection next week.

Coming soon: A sneak preview of what’s in our drafts folder

We publish hundreds of new stories and features every month. Here are some upcoming articles that may pique our readers’ interest:

  • Medical Myths: All about Parkinson’s disease
  • Screams of happiness are confusingly similar to screams of fear
  • Does cocoa protect the heart against stress?