The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for more than a year. Medical News Today has 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 hugely popular article on the risks and benefits of fermented tea. It’s mostly good news, but there are certain things to look out for when sourcing your kombucha.

We then share some of the latest research on autism and consider the impact of water poverty on public health. You may be surprised to learn that it’s a major problem in high income countries, such as the United States, as well as in lower income ones.

The remainder of this week’s picks includes articles on the ideal quantity of fruit to consume and a new approach to treating a common skin cancer with an existing drug. We also look at “exergaming” and how it may help people with dementia, as well as explaining what you need to know about eating well if you’re an athlete.

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

1. The potential side effects of kombucha and how to drink it safely

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This week, leading the pack with more than 156,000 page views, is our article on this popular fermented tea drink.

Kombucha contains probiotic bacteria and antioxidants that may have some health benefits. However, it is possible to experience side effects after drinking too much kombucha or sampling a contaminated batch. It can also be high in caffeine and added sugars. Consequently, some people should avoid consuming any kombucha at all.

To learn more about the possible benefits of kombucha and the risks to consider, read the full article at the link below.

Learn more here.

2. What is the latest research on autism?

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In a new Special Feature, we looked at some of the most recent research on autism. The article covers studies investigating what factors may contribute to the development of autism, the role of gene variants, links with the gut microbiome, and new approaches to diagnosis and testing.

With more than 62,000 page views this week, it quickly emerged as one of our most popular recent articles.

Learn more here.

3. How water poverty impacts public health in the US

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We published this Special Feature to coincide with Earth Day on April 22. In it, we investigate how water poverty impacts public health in the U.S.

The United Nations has recognized access to clean water and sanitation as a fundamental human right since 2010. However, progress toward realizing this is far from complete, with about 1 in 10 people worldwide still lacking access to clean and safe drinking water facilities.

The problem is not limited to the lowest income nations. For example, a study in 2020 found that up to 65,000 people in New York City did not have access to piped water. Click below to learn more about the hidden water crisis in the U.S.

Learn more here.

4. How much fruit in the diet is too much?

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What is the perfect amount of fruit to eat for good health, and what are the possible side effects of eating too much? This article weighs the evidence. It provides a detailed comparison of the health benefits of fruit and fruit juice and lists some factors that people living with diabetes should consider.

As for how much fruit to eat, the optimal amount depends on an individual’s age, weight, and level of physical activity, as well as whether they have any health conditions. Click below to digest the whole article.

Learn more here.

5. Could a drug help prevent a common skin cancer?

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This week, we reported on new research that points to a common drug as a potential treatment for the second most common skin cancer in the U.S.

In the study, researchers treated a group of mice with quinpirole, a selective D2 receptor agonist drug that doctors typically use to treat people with Parkinson’s disease. They noted a significantly lower number of squamous cell carcinoma tumors in the mice that received this treatment.

The drug is inexpensive, and doctors already use it in clinical settings, so the researchers call this discovery “especially exciting.”

Learn more here.

6. ‘Good’ cholesterol may help combat inflammation in cardiovascular health

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One of the most important functions of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol is its role in reducing inflammation. New research suggests that it may be this function that protects some people with adequate levels of HDL against stroke or heart attack.

The researchers divided 680 participants into “case-control pairs” for this study, matching them based on age, sex, smoking status, and HDL levels.

Their analysis revealed that the participants with a high HDL anti-inflammatory capacity experienced fewer cardiovascular events than those with a lower capacity, despite the individuals having similar levels of HDL circulating in their blood. They also found that the protective effect of increased HDL anti-inflammatory capacity was more powerful in women than in men.

Learn more here.

7. Work and social strain increase women’s risk of coronary heart disease

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We stay on the topic of cardiovascular events in women with our next article — a report on the impact of the workplace and social stress. A recent study found that the combined effect of these stresses increases women’s risk of developing coronary heart disease by 21%.

This finding serves as more evidence of the harmful effects of stress on human health and indicates that the link may be stronger in women than in men.

Learn more here.

8. Parkinson’s disease: Does neuroticism increase risk?

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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and MNT has launched a new collection of resources for people living with the disease. This week, we also reported on new research that links neuroticism with an increased risk of developing the disease.

Neuroticism is one of the Big Five personality traits. Its hallmarks include being more susceptible to the effects of stress and more prone to negative emotional states, such as worrying, mood swings, and irritability.

The study authors report that the risk increases by more than 80% for people who score highly for neuroticism on personality tests. Click the link below to learn why the researchers argue that neuroticism precedes Parkinson’s rather than being an effect of the disease.

Learn more here.

9. Pilot study finds ‘exergaming’ may improve dementia symptoms

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Combining exercise and video gaming to train a group of older adults with dementia appeared to improve mobility, cognition, and symptoms of depression. This is the conclusion of the authors of a pilot study involving a group of people living in long-term care facilities.

The researchers recruited 45 participants with an average age of 85 years. They divided these older adults into two groups, with one group performing regular exercise sessions over 8 weeks on an interactive exercise machine. Compared with the control group, this exergaming group had enhanced cognitive function, mobility, balance, and step reaction time.

Learn more here.

10. Why is diet so important for athletes?

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Finally, we’d like to share this detailed article about how an athlete’s nutritional needs are different than most other people’s. As well as requiring more calories and macronutrients to sustain their performance through training and competition, athletes may also benefit from taking certain supplements.

This article explains the importance of each class of nutrient, how to approach meal timing, and which supplements to avoid. It also includes examples of suitable meals and detailed information about the calorie intakes that different athletes might require to excel in their chosen sport.

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:

  • Once-a-week insulin treatment may be a novel way to treat diabetes
  • Probiotic strain shows promise for treating IBD
  • Leaky blood-brain barrier may contribute to schizophrenia