The coronavirus pandemic dominated the headlines and our daily lives for most of 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.
This week’s Recovery Room begins with the latest installment in our Medical Myths series, this time taking a close look at some misconceptions about heart disease. It also features on our newly launched cardiovascular health hub.
Other articles look at the risk of taking your coffee unfiltered, the drug used to treat diabetes that may also help people with obesity lose a significant amount of weight, and a new understanding of how to treat a devastating disease that causes blindness in children.
We also look at what makes “adrenaline junkies” chase thrills, how researchers are using luminous molecules to explore the human gut, and why lockdown may be having a positive effect on the mental and physical well-being of some people, at least.
We highlight this research below, along with other recent stories that you may have missed amid all the COVID-19 fervor.
1. Medical myths: All about heart disease
February is American Heart Month, and MNT has launched a new hub that presents the best of our science-backed cardiovascular health content in one place. This new article that tackles some persistent myths and misconceptions about heart health is one of the highlights.
Should young people worry about heart disease? Is it best to avoid exercise if you have the condition? Does heart disease run in families? Can coughing during a heart attack save your life? These are just some of the 10 myths MNT Senior Editor Tim Newman deals with in his latest Medical Myths feature.
2. Dr. Marie Maynard Daly: The first Black woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry
MNT is also marking Black History Month in February, with a series of Special Features celebrating the achievements and legacy of Black pioneers in the medical sciences.
This week, we looked back at the life of Dr. Marie Maynard Daly. She was among the first researchers to help identify cardiovascular disease risk factors, particularly those relating to high blood pressure. Her other contributions to science included the role of DNA in cells and the link between smoking and heart and lung health.
Dr. Maynard Daly was born 100 years ago in Queens, New York City, and graduated from Columbia University in 1947, becoming the first Black female in the U.S. to hold a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Click below to learn more about Dr. Daly’s career and impressive accomplishments and how she has become a role model for women and people from historically marginalized groups who dream of excelling in scientific research.
3. Coffee and cholesterol: Risks, benefits, and more
One of our most popular new articles this week, with nearly 48,000 page views since Tuesday, is our investigation into the effect of coffee on cholesterol levels.
Our editors look at the evidence that coffee raises cholesterol and how different brewing methods may influence its effect. The higher levels of diterpenes in unfiltered coffee appear to exert the most significant effect on cholesterol levels.
The article considers other possible adverse health effects of coffee, as well as the potential benefits. Finally, there are heart-healthy tips on how to lower cholesterol through diet and lifestyle changes.
4. Noninvasive probe monitors health of ‘friendly’ gut bacteria
This week, we reported on ingenious research that has found a way to directly measure the activity level of enzyme bile salt hydrolase (BSH) in the gut. High BSH activity has links to decreased inflammation, reduced blood cholesterol levels, and protection against some cancers and infections.
Before this discovery, researchers relied on indirect methods to measure BSH levels, such as fecal analysis and bacteria cultures in the lab. The new method uses a chemical probe to detect BSH levels along the entire length of the human gut. It relies on a natural compound called luciferin, which emits light in the presence of oxygen, and the enzyme luciferase, which originates in fireflies.
Using this method in mice, the researchers also found that consuming prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides (FOSs) boosted the production of BSH without the need for combining it with more expensive probiotics.
This technique may help scientists disentangle the complex interactions between diet, gut microbiota, and BSH activity.
5. Mouse study looks at how sounds influence early brain development
A new study reported in MNT this week suggests that sound may influence fetal development earlier than previously thought. These findings in mice could help uncover new ways to identify and treat hearing disorders and other sensory conditions in humans.
The article explains how a team of researchers investigated the effect of sound on neurons that develop in fetal brains by using quiet enclosures, a regular beeping sound, and genetically engineered deaf mice. Researchers are planning further research into the effect of sound on neural development in later life.
6. Research sheds light on vision loss in Batten disease
Batten disease is the name for a collection of rare, inherited, fatal conditions. One form, called CLN3 disease, is characterized by progressive loss of vision in childhood, followed by learning and behavior problems, cognitive decline, and seizures.
This week, we reported on new research that has revealed the mechanism that may be responsible for damage to the retina in CLN3 disease. The researchers were able to correct the problem by using a virus to restore the ability to repair damage in the retina by inserting a functional version of the CLN3 gene.
It’s hoped this discovery could lead to effective therapies for this type of Batten disease.
7. Diabetes drug significantly cuts body weight in adults with obesity
Obesity is a major global health concern, with severe obesity affecting over 9% of people in the United States. This week, MNT reported on a new study that saw participants lose 14.9% of their body weight after treatment with injectable diabetes medication, semaglutide, in addition to lifestyle interventions.
As well as significant reductions in body weight, there were also decreases in the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. However, the phase 3 trial that produced these results did have some limitations, and it is not yet clear how the drug compares to other forms of treatment for obesity.
8. What is an adrenaline junkie?
People who feel compelled to take part in exciting, dangerous, or intense activities are often called adrenaline junkies. This week, our editors investigated what the term means, the biochemistry of the adrenaline rush, and whether or not it’s possible to become dependent on a release of epinephrine.
For example, there is some evidence to support the idea that rock climbers experience withdrawal symptoms after a period without climbing. However, the study only had eight participants.
9. Weight loss: Is a vegan diet better than the Mediterranean diet?
The 62 participants in this study, all of whom had overweight, ate a vegan diet for 16 weeks and a Mediterranean diet for 16 weeks, with 4 weeks eating their regular diet in between.
Within 16 weeks, the low-fat vegan diet consistently produced greater average weight loss, fat loss, and lower cholesterol levels, as well as reduced insulin resistance. Click below to read more about the study’s findings, how researchers conducted it, and its limitations.
10. Lockdown may have boosted well-being for some
Finally, we present some good news about the effect lockdown has had on our lives over the past year of pandemic. Many of us may come out of this stronger, with some people experiencing profound benefits.
When asked, “Do you think there are any positives to come out of this pandemic and the social distancing restrictions?” 88.6% of people responded “yes.”
Our article explores what these positives were, which people were most likely to respond in this way, and how we might all use these insights to rebuild our lives on stronger foundations in 2021.
We hope that this weeks’ Recovery Room offers a taste of the stories that we cover at MNT. We’ll 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:
- Probiotics for weight loss: What is the evidence?
- What are human challenge studies?
- The latest Medical Myths and Curiosities of Science