August 21 — The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the headlines and our daily lives for most of this 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.

This week, we revealed MNT‘s exclusive analysis of how climate change may have driven the rapid spread of West Nile virus across the United States. We also looked at how cannabinoid products interact with scores of prescription drugs, and why people in ‘blue states’ may live longer than those in ‘red states.’

If you’ve ever considered going without food for 2 days, we reveal the risks, benefits, and how you might stay the course. We also looked at what could cause hallucinations, and how they appear to be more common than we think.

Finally, ‘inflammaging’ may explain why our immune systems decline with age. We look at ways you might reduce it and retain your youthful vigor longer.

Here are 10 recent stories that people may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.

1. West Nile virus in the US: A case study on climate change and health

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Climate change, triggered by the negative impact of human action, has become a crisis that could adversely affect all aspects of life on Earth.

To coincide with World Mosquito Day on August 20, Medical News Today took a deep dive into the rapid spread of the West Nile virus, and its connection with climate change.

In this exclusive analysis, MNT mined several data sources and looked at them in a new way. We also talked to experts in climate change and infectious diseases about the evidence and prospects for human health as the climate crisis intensifies.

Learn more here.

2. Cannabinoids, including CBD, may interact with prescribed drugs

A woman drinks tea with CBD; cannabinoids, including CBD, may interact with prescribed medication.Share on Pinterest
Research indicates cannabinoid products, including cannabis and CBD oil, may interact with some prescribed medications.

Our most popular new article this week highlights fresh evidence that suggests cannabinoid products, including cannabidiol (CBD), may interact with prescribed drugs.

CBD sales have increased by more than eight times in the U.S. over the past 5 years, driven by purported benefits, including the management of anxiety, sleep disorders, and pain. However, this new study identifies 57 prescription drugs that concurrent cannabinoid use might affect. The researchers also list a further 139 drugs that may have lower risk interactions.

Learn more here.

3. What to know about 48-hour fasting

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People can only consume calorie-free drinks, including water, black coffee, and herbal tea, during a 48-hour fast.

What happens if you go without eating for two days? That was the subject of this popular new article. Millions of people practice intermittent fasting, but going 48 hours without food was something that piqued the curiosity of thousands of readers.

We looked at how to do it, the risks, and the possible benefits, including the intriguing phenomenon of autophagy, where the body’s cells remove or recycle unwanted molecules and faulty parts.

Learn more here.

4. People in blue states live longer, new study suggests

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Research indicates state laws and approaches have a bearing on average life expectancy.
Image credit: BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images.

This week, MNT reported on a study highlighting differences in life expectancy between Connecticut, a Democrat-leaning ‘blue state’, and Oklahoma, a ‘red state,’ where voters predominantly choose the Republican Party. In Connecticut, life expectancy rose by 5.8 years between 1980 and 2017, but only by 2.2 years in Oklahoma.

The researchers claim this is due to differences in policy that focuses on tobacco use, immigration, civil rights, the environment, and labor issues, such as right-to-work laws and the minimum wage.

Changing such policies to reflect more liberal attitudes may positively impact life expectancy, the researchers conclude.

Learn more here.

5. Aging and the immune system: Can it be reversed?

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Exercise can help people maintain healthy immunity into older age.
Image credit: Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

“Inflammaging” is the term researchers call the persistent, low-level inflammation implicated in almost all symptoms linked to old age. The anti-inflammatory immune response appears to become less effective as people grow older.

In this Special Feature, we explore how the immune system changes as we age. We also ask if lifestyle factors can slow or reverse these changes. The article, published on Tuesday, is already emerging as one of this week’s most popular.

Learn more here.

6. Hallucinations: What explains these tricks of the mind?

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Not all hallucinations occur due to psychotic disorders or psychedelic drugs.

Hallucinations are more common than many of us think. They may manifest as phantom smells and sounds or voices, as well as visual disturbances. One Norwegian study found 7.3% of the 2,533 people sampled had experienced an “auditory verbal hallucination,” or hearing voices in their head.

In this Special Feature, we investigate how common hallucinations are, and what the science says about the mechanisms behind these phenomena.

Learn more here.

7. Baby boomers face greater cognitive decline than previous generations

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Conditions during adulthood may contribute to greater cognitive decline among baby boomers.

For decades, cognitive test scores in older adults have improved from generation to generation. This week, we reported on a new study that indicates this is not the case in early (born 1948–1953) and middle (born 1954–1959) baby boomers in the U.S. These groups are experiencing more rapid cognitive decline than previous generations.

The researchers found several modern life traits that may be associated with this decline, and warn that there will likely be an increase in the number of people with dementia in this, and future generations, as a result.

Learn more here.

8. Oxytocin could prevent osteoporosis in females

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Females experience hip fractures, often as a result of osteoporosis, at a higher rate than males.

A few weeks ago, MNT reported on how the so-called ‘love hormone’ oxytocin shows potential as a treatment in Alzheimer’s disease. Now, new research in female rats suggests this hormone can also prevent bone density and strength loss.

Further studies are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of oxytocin treatment in humans, but these early results are encouraging. The hormone may provide another means of preventing osteoporosis in some people.

Learn more here.

9. Daily aspirin may exacerbate cancer in older adults

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A recent study shows that older adults may be more at risk of advanced cancers if they take aspirin daily.

Earlier this year, we reported on the lack of evidence to support the idea that low-dose aspirin prevents dementia. There’s more bad news for those self-medicating with this drug, in that it may increase the risk of dying from cancer in older adults.

The Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial was a large study involving 19,114 individuals living in Australia and the United States between 2010 and 2018. Researchers found that participants taking aspirin were at significantly greater risk of receiving a diagnosis of advanced cancer, and dying from the disease, than those taking placebo.

The researchers looked at why this might be the case, including the possibility that aspirin inhibits immune responses that would otherwise control the development of cancer.

Learn more here.

10. What are the benefits of meditation for kids?

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Meditation may help reduce anxiety in children.

This week, we also looked at whether meditation may be beneficial for kids. We listed the possible benefits, different forms of meditation, and several apps specifically designed for children, to help them focus, find calm, and control their breathing.

This is one of the articles our readers spent the most time with this week, an average of over 10 minutes each.

Learn more here.

We hope that this has provided a taste of the range of 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 articles every month. Here are some upcoming articles that may pique our readers’ interests:

  • How your smartphone can tell when you’re drunk
  • Knowing you’ve taken a placebo doesn’t stop it working
  • More myths about sleep debunked